Trash, tourism protesters plan demonstrations at 4 locations around Lake Tahoe

South Lake Tahoe resident Josh Lease is fed up with the trash and the constant stream of tourists flowing into Lake Tahoe during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Tahoe is being thrashed,” said Lease, a 20-year resident.

Lease said he was triggered and wanted to raise awareness after seeing local beaches being littered with garbage. He wrote an initial Facebook post on Aug. 9 detailing his frustration with the trash problem and the amount of people coming into Tahoe.

“I wanted to see if anyone was feeling the same way that I was,” Lease told the Tribune. “Why is everyday a holiday in Tahoe right now? Something has to be done.”

Since Lease has been in the community for nearly two decades, he said he apparently has a big reach in Tahoe. While Lease said his initial social media post was almost a joke, he realized many people were feeling the same way. Other locals started making signs and planning a protest near the roundabout on U.S Highway 50 in Meyers where a majority of tourists file into town.

Now, protests are planned for 4 p.m., on Friday and 9 a.m., on Sunday at four locations around Lake Tahoe — Truckee, Meyers, Incline Village and Kings Beach.

Lease believes the city is not properly handling tourism and the traffic issues that coincide.

“Money is more important than locals and we are seeing it first hand,” he said. “They are not fixing the problem, they are raising more.”

Lease says that people are flocking up here because most parts of the other states are closed and Tahoe is accommodating these people. He believes this is making it difficult for locals.

“We can’t lock everyone out,” said Chris Fiore communications manager for South Lake Tahoe. “We recognize people from out of town view Tahoe is a safe haven.”

He said the city also hears concerns of people seeing tourists coming in droves into the basin.

Fiore said that they realize that trash is an issue in Tahoe and they are collaborating with other agencies to work on the issue. During a city council meeting on Aug. 11, there was discussion about the trash problem and partnering with South Tahoe Refuse and the Public Works Department. Fiore said that if people are going to come to Tahoe, they need to give it the respect it deserves.

“People are going to show up and it is important to get them to realize that this is the place we call home,” he said. “People should leave no trace. It is dangerous for wildlife and dangerous to the environment when trash is left behind. It is unacceptable.”

The city has implemented the ambassador program to hand out masks around town and partnered with local agencies for marketing campaigns.

“During this crisis the city has gone above and beyond to keep people safe, keep Tahoe safe and keep Tahoe open,” he said.

Fiore said that the governor’s travel ban is still in place and that if people see egregious violations that they should call the police’s non-emergency line.

Lease said for protestors should bring their own signs but urges people to make sure they are tasteful and respectful to tourists.

Some of the signs will include “NO SCHOOL = NO TOURISM” “DON’T TRASH OUR HOME” and “TAKE YOUR TRASH WITH YOU.”

“I want this [protest] to reach Newsom,” Lease said. “Either open us all up or shut us all down completely.”

Echo Summit project to resume in September with 2 week closure, local passes available

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — The $14.1 million bridge replacement project on Echo Summit and U.S Highway 50 is set to resume construction on Sept. 13.

During a portion of the construction project, U.S Highway 50 over Echo Summit will be fully closed for 14 days for bridge demolition work and the installation of new girders.

From Sept. 18 through Oct. 2, motorists will have to use alternative routes. Detours will be in place for motorists while the road is closed for traffic.

“We know this is an inconvenience, but there are other ways,” said Steve Nelson, Caltrans District 3 public information officer. “Detours that can bring people to and from Tahoe include state routes 89, 88, 49 and 16.”

The detours will add approximately 35-45 minutes to travel between Sacramento and South Lake Tahoe according to Nelson.

The construction zone will include Caltrans Echo Maintenance Station and span eastward 1.2 miles.

Commuters who use Echo Summit daily can apply for a pass to use Johnson Pass Road. This pass is only available to local residents who use the highway frequently.

“Johnson Pass is not set up for high volume traffic,” Nelson said.

Nelson said this pass is not for people planning a vacation or appointments, in such cases they need to use the detours.

“We already have 500 applications and we expect we will get more,” he said.

Caltrans is vetting each pass application. Passes will be issued electronically in the next couple weeks.

The construction project was originally supposed to run this last spring.

However, due to supply issues with the girders, construction was placed on hold. Since summer is a peak season for South Lake Tahoe, Caltrans did not resume work this summer and the project was postponed to the fall.

“We are not saying Tahoe is closed, you can take detours,” said Nelson. “We don’t want to discourage people from coming.”

The replacement of the bridge will ensure seismic and current safety standards. The existing bridge was originally built in 1939 and is in need of mandatory repairs.

“It is remarkable that it has stood the test of time,” said Nelson. “We don’t want to take risks, we need to be proactive.”

He said that this project has been on Caltrans’ radar for some time because it could potentially turn into a public safety concern if they aren’t proactive about revamping the bridge.

While the timeline on their website says that the project completion will be this December, Nelson said that is a conservative estimate and they anticipate being done before then.

“We are going to get in, get out and open the road,” he said

For more information about the project or to apply for a local pass, visit www.Way2Tahoe.com.