Popular national parks to raise fees to $35, not $70

WASHINGTON — The Interior Department is increasing fees at the most popular national parks to $35 per vehicle, backing down from an earlier plan that would have forced visitors to pay $70 per vehicle to visit the Grand Canyon, Yosemite and other iconic parks.

A change announced Thursday will boost fees at 17 popular parks by $5, up from the current $30 but far below the figure Interior proposed last fall.

The plan by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke drew widespread opposition from lawmakers and governors of both parties, who said the higher fees could exclude many Americans from enjoying national parks. The agency received more than 109,000 comments on the plan, most of them opposed.

Most of the rate hikes take effect June 1, the National Park Service said. The $35 fee applies mostly in the West and will affect such popular parks as Yellowstone, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Mount Rainier, Rocky Mountain and Grand Teton parks, among others.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said the fee hikes were needed to help maintain the parks and begin to address an $11.6 billion maintenance backlog.

“Every dollar spent to rebuild our parks will help bolster the gateway communities that rely on park visitation for economic vitality,” Zinke said.

Zinke thanked those who made their voices heard through the public comment process: “Your input has helped us develop a balanced plan that focuses on modest increases,” he said.

The maintenance backlog “isn’t going to be solved overnight and will require a multi-tiered approach as we work to provide badly needed revenue to repair infrastructure,” Zinke added.

Theresa Pierno, president and CEO of the National Park Conservation Association, hailed the new fee structure.

“The public spoke, and the administration listened,” she said, noting that the plan to nearly triple fees at popular parks was opposed by a range of businesses, gateway communities, governors, tourism groups, conservation organizations and the public.

The revised fee plan is “a big win for park lovers everywhere,” said Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona, top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee.

“This is a prime example that activism works,” Grijalva added. “The American people raised their concerns, participated in the public comment period and made sure that the Trump White House knew the proposal was unpopular.”

Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell, top Democrat on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said she was glad Zinke “abandoned his reckless plan to almost triple park fees on American families,” but said the new plan lacks transparency or a full analysis of the impact fee hikes will have on park visitation and local economies.

She opposes “any action that creates barriers to accessing public lands,” Cantwell said.

The fee schedule announced Thursday sets a $5 increase for all parks that charge entrance fees. Parks that previously charged $15 will now charge $20; a $20 fee will rise to $25; and a $25 fee will now be $30.

The current $30 fee is the highest charged by the park service and applies to the 17 most-visited parks. More than two-thirds of national parks will remain free to enter.

Scorpions joins 2018 Lake Tahoe Summer Concert Series

Rock band Scorpions is the latest addition to the 2018 Lake Tahoe Summer Concert Series lineup. On Friday, Aug. 31, the German group will take the stage at Harveys Outdoor Arena at 7:30 p.m.

The band, which formed in the ’60s, is known for classics including “Rock You Like a Hurricane” and “Wind of Change.”

“In these 50 years, they have become Germany’s, or rather Continental Europe’s, most successful rock band, the living proof that not only VW, Mercedes or BMW are able to compete internationally, but classic rock music made in Germany as well,” states Scorpions’ online biography.

Washington-based heavy metal outfit Queensrÿche will open the South Shore show.

Tickets for the gig range from $69.50 to $149.50, and go on sale to the general public via Ticketmaster on Friday, April 20.

The 2018 Lake Tahoe Summer Concert Series features performances by fellow rock artists Robert Plant, Phish, Steve Miller Band with Peter Frampton and Dave Matthews Band.

Few inches overnight, more snow on the way (video)

The Lake Tahoe Basin got a dusting of snow Wednesday night with Heavenly Mountain Resort receiving two inches, Sierra-at-Tahoe eight inches and Diamond Peak on the North Shore received an inch. Sierra reportedly received the highest amount of any Tahoe resort. Temperatures the next couple of days in South Lake Tahoe will get down to freezing at night with highs in the 50s, according to the National Weather Service. A stronger wave of moisture is headed our way Sunday night and may dump several inches of snow. The only resort remaining open on the South Shore after Sunday is Heavenly. The California side will close at the end of the day Sunday, April 15, but the Nevada side will be open through April 22.

Lake Tahoe weather: Storm brings 8 inches of new snow to Sierra-at-Tahoe

At least one Lake Tahoe ski resort is reporting over ½ a foot of snow in less than 24 hours.

Sierra-at-Tahoe said the storm that moved through the region late Wednesday and early Thursday dumped 8 inches of new snow. Snow totals from other South Shore resorts were not immediately available Thursday morning.

The fresh powder comes just as Sierra-at-Tahoe plans to wind down the 2017-18 season this weekend. Diamond Peak Ski Resort in Incline Village and Northstar California also plan to close after this coming weekend.

Kirkwood Mountain Resort closed for the season after this past weekend. Heavenly Mountain Resort will stop the chair lifts after Sunday, April 22.

A few scattered snow showers remain possible at Lake Tahoe Thursday, according to the National Weather Service. There is a 20 percent chance of precipitation in South Lake Tahoe, which is expected to see a high temperature of 34 degrees Thursday.

Sunny conditions with high temperatures in the 50s are expected Friday and Saturday.

Harvey named Thrower of the Year by World Masters Association

The World Masters Association named Glenbrook's Bill Harvey the 2017 thrower of the year.

The WMA awards this new honor to one male and one female thrower each year in all age groups ranging from 40 to 105-plus.

Harvey's recognition comes on the heels of being named the 2016 United States Track and Field Masters Age Group Athlete of the Year (70-79).

"I think they based the award on performance in all the major championships," said the 72-year old shot put and discus thrower. "When I resumed throwing at 60, I set some lofty goals and have achieved several of them. But, I never dreamed of getting this type of recognition from my peers. I have had a good run. Now I will have to try to live up to the honor."

Harvey's "good run" began in 2016 when he won the shot and discus at the WMA World Championships in Perth, Australia.

In 2017, he was the gold medalist in the shot and discus at WMA Indoor World Championships in Daegu, South Korea (the discus was held outdoors); the World Masters Games in Auckland, New Zealand; the National Senior Games in Birmingham, Alabama; the USATF Outdoor National Championships at LSU in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; and the NACAC Championship (WMA Regional Championships which includes North America, Central America and the Caribbean) in Toronto, Canada.

This March he added shot put gold at the USATF Indoor National Championships in Landover, Maryland. With this win, he now holds every major national and international championship simultaneously; and is ranked No. 1 in the world for shot put in the men's 70-74 age group, both indoors and outdoors.

He is not slowing down, though. Harvey is looking ahead to future records and championships.

"I want to break the records for the 75-79 age group," he said. "The next two and a half years will be difficult now that I am in the older half of my current age group. If I stay healthy, I think both the records and the chance to win all the way through an age group might be possible in 75-79."

Valhalla Tahoe announces Art, Music & Theatre Festival lineup

Valhalla Tahoe's annual Art, Music & Theatre Festival celebrates its 39th year with live entertainment that kicks off in June and lasts through October. According to a press release from Valhalla, it's the most diverse and ambitious festival since the tradition began.

"The lineup provides a little something for everyone! Between the great performances and the natural setting you can't beat Valhalla Tahoe for one of the best experiences on the lake. This year should be more fun than ever," said Sharon Romack, the new executive director of Valhalla Tahoe.

This year the Art, Music & Theatre Festival offers musical and dramatic theater, comedy shows, concerts and more. The summer-long fun begins on Friday, June 22, with Little Faith, an R&B, soul and gospel collective.

Other performers scheduled to headline Valhalla's season include: the Tahoe Improv Players (June 30, July 10, 24 and 31); Broadway in Blue — a revue featuring songs from classic and contemporary Broadway shows (July 5-8, 12-15); Capoeira, Dance and Drumming Workshops with SambaDa, a Brazilian dance band (July 17-18); Tea for Three: Lady Bird, Pat & Betty — a one-woman show about life and love in the White House (July 19-22); James Garner's Tribute to Johnny Cash (Aug. 1); and Ultrafaux with Evan Price — a concert highlighting Balkan folk, gypsy swing, be-bop, funk and more (Sept. 5).

Additional entertainment is expected to round out the current lineup. Visit http://www.valhallatahoe.com for information and a full schedule.

Tahoe too pricey for affordable housing study

STATELINE, Nev. — A study of housing availability in Douglas County by the Nevada Rural Housing pretty much wrote off Lake Tahoe.

The report, which was released Wednesday, acknowledged that there is a large concentration of housing along Lake Tahoe in Douglas County.

"While these communities comprise a significant housing market, the sheer expense of development in these communities makes it impractical for the development of affordable housing," report authors said. "Therefore this study focuses on those areas that offer opportunities to address the overburdened population."

Consultants Vogt Strategic Insights focused on Minden-Gardnerville and northern Carson Valley as key housing areas.

According to data included in the report, residents 65 and over are projected to be the fastest growing segment of the county's population.

"It is expected that Douglas County will continue to grow, attracting retirees from California and even the Carson City region, who see the Valley as an attractive place to live," the report said.

The county is projected to actually experience its largest decrease among adults 45-54 years old.

The number of households in the county is expected to increase by 3.8 percent, which is a rate of 150-160 a year, with most of those being residents 65 and older.

"As the majority of the baby boomer generation is now of senior status, growth among senior age cohorts relative to the overall household base is typical of aging communities," the report pointed out.

"Baby boomers are being replaced by a much smaller, younger, generational cohort with respect to demographic size."

Most of the county's households own their own homes, with only 31 percent projected to be renter-occupied in 2021.

More than 2,250 renting households are paying more than 35 percent of their income, according to the report. Most of them have incomes below $35,000.

Not all renters have low incomes, with the report noting a trend for younger, wealthier renters to displace them.

"Many of the new renter households within Douglas County are earning $50,000 or more per year, and existing renter households will see increases in income levels," consultants said. "We are regularly seeing an increase in area homeowners and new household formations becoming renters by choice, also increasing demand for high-quality rental units."

Most of the county's future growth will be in Minden-Gardnerville, which includes the Gardnerville Ranchos.

According to the report, that area is projected to increase 4 percent with 10,507 households by 2021. The North Valley is projected to increase 2.5 percent to 5,218 households.

Meanwhile the rest of East Fork Township is expected to grow at 2.5 percent to 5,524 households.

The housing studies cover the state's 15 rural counties and the rural areas of Clark and Washoe counties.

"This data will contribute to the important dialogue between developers, planning agencies and housing authorities," Authority Deputy Director Bill Brewer said.

The studies are available at http://www.nevadaruralhousingstudies.org

South Lake Tahoe seeks to fill 2 seats on planning commission

The city of South Lake Tahoe is in need of two new members for its planning commission.

The openings follow resignations from commissioners Jamie Orr and Jesse Dwyer, both of whom moved outside city limits, making them ineligible for the commission.

"It has been a pleasure serving for the past year and working closely with city staff and my fellow commissioners," Orr wrote in a resignation letter to council. "I am thankful for the confidence of the members of city council in appointing me to this role and hope that I have fulfilled my duties to the residents of the city."

Dwyer, who is moving out of the country, shared similar sentiments in his resignation letter.

"The theme of the resignation is just one of gratitude: I learned so much in this short time from you and Kevin [Fabino] and others, and the example you set is nothing short of inspiring."

City Clerk Susan Alessi will be accepting applications for the two open seats until Tuesday, April 24, with City Council expected to make the appointments at its May 1 meeting.

Applications can be picked up at the clerk's office at 1901 Airport Road between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Applications can be emailed, mailed or faxed upon request to the clerk's office. Completed applications must be returned no later than 5 p.m., on April 24.

Contact Alessi at 530-542-6004 for more information.

El Dorado County VHR ad hoc committee will meet tomorrow in Meyers

El Dorado County’s ad hoc committee on vacation home rentals (VHRs) will meet Thursday evening in Meyers.

The meeting will take place at Lake Tahoe Environmental Science Magnet School, 1095 E. San Bernardino Ave. It is scheduled to run from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m.

The first public meeting of the committee, which the Board of Supervisors formed in September 2017, was held Feb. 12. It was created to research potential changes to the county’s ordinances governing VHRs and provide suggestions to the supervisors for consideration.

Supervisors Sue Novasel, whose district includes Lake Tahoe, and Michael Ranalli serve on the committee.

VHRs have become one of the most controversial subjects on the California side of Tahoe’s South Shore. In late 2017, South Lake Tahoe City Council approved changes to the city’s VHR ordinance. Those changes included steep increase in fines for violations.

City of South Lake Tahoe issues 8 VHR citations in 4 days

The committee is scheduled to meet one more time before the full Board of Supervisors meet in South Lake Tahoe to discuss VHRs. The supervisors meeting, which has been rescheduled multiple times due to inclement weather and a venue issue, is scheduled to take place Wednesday, May 2, at 6 p.m., at the South Tahoe Middle School, 2940 Lake Tahoe Blvd.

The next ad hoc committee meeting is slated for April 23 in Placerville. The committee also has meetings scheduled for June 11 in Placerville and July 26 in the Tahoe Basin.