Board Moves Closer To Ponderosa Ranch Deal

Lake Tahoe
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A local board has approved a letter of intent to purchase the Ponderosa Ranch property in Incline Village, but stressed a final deal faces many hurdles.

In taking the action last week, the Incline Village General Improvement District board signaled its intent to be the lead agency in a public buyout of the 548-acre Western theme amusement park on Lake Tahoe's north shore.

The U.S. Forest Service, Nevada Transportation Department, State Lands Division and Washoe County have expressed an interest in joining a buyout of the prime real estate being put up for sale by its owners.

"It would be a joint venture with all the agencies, but we would be the lead agency," Syd Brosten, improvement district board chairman, said Sunday. "We feel like we have the most to gain or lose depending on how it's handled."

The agencies are working under a deadline, needing to finalize the purchase for an estimated $45 million to $50 million from the Anderson family by late this year.

Backers envision using part of the property for parking and government facilities, and preserving several Ponderosa Ranch attractions, including the main ranch building and church, as a park.

Supporters also envision leaving most of the property as open space and incorporating the ranch into a system of trails for hikers and bikers.

A final deal is subject to many conditions, including an environmental review by the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency and participation by other agencies, Brosten said.

An appraisal will determine the cost of the property.

"I have no idea when final action will be taken," he said. "Right now, we don't know exactly how involved each of the agencies will be ... We need a lot of agency approvals."

Bill Horn, the improvement district's general manager, said there was concern that other agencies would purchase land parcels and then "just sit on them."

"Washoe County, the state of Nevada and TRPA don't ever let us get involved in what our community looks like. Now is our chance," he told the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza.

The amusement park, which opened in 1968, was based on the NBC show "Bonanza" that aired from 1959 to 1973. It concerned the exploits of the Cartwright family who lived on the fictional Ponderosa Ranch.

While few scenes were shot at the ranch itself, Bonanza at times was shot on location around Lake Tahoe.

Bonanza was the No. 1 TV show in the United States for several years and spent most of its 14 years among the top-rated shows. The show now is in syndication.