It felt like summer over the weekend at Lake Tahoe, with one giant exception and issue.
With warm, blue-sky days, the U.S. Forest Service opened campgrounds and trailheads. Yet in what seemed to be an irrational decision to visitors, five state parks at Tahoe remained gated and closed for the “winter” as temperatures hit the 70s on Sunday and there was no trace of snow on the ground, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
None of the five state parks in the Tahoe region is on the July 1 closure list, yet each is still gated.
The issue, according to Tahoe State Park Superintendent Brian Barton, is that rangers don’t have the water systems up and running yet, and Barton will not order the parks opened until there are restrooms with flush toilets.
“It’s all about the water systems,” Barton said. “With limited staff, we’ll have a staggered opening to the parks.”
What about opening the parks with no running water and restrooms in order to allow visitors to drive to trailheads and go for hikes?
Barton said he would not do that in order to ensure “a quality experience for visitors.”
Sugar Pine Point, Tahoe State Recreation Area and Donner Memorial State Park will not open until May 25, the Friday launch to Memorial Day weekend, Barton said.
D.L. Bliss, the gorgeous park on the rim of Emerald Bay with Tahoe’s best easy hike, the Rubicon Trail, is not scheduled to open until June 15. If you arrived at the gate last weekend, wanting merely to go on a short hike overlooking the lake, a mid-June gate opener might have seemed incomprehensible.
You can hoist a bike in and ride a mile or two to the shore, but few are aware that it’s OK to do so.
In another head-scratcher, the boat-in campsites on Emerald Bay, closed and vacant over the weekend despite summer-like weather, are not expected to open until July 1.
A nearby campground, Eagle Point at Emerald Bay State Park, as well as parking for day use, will stay closed for the season for rehabilitation, Barton said.
The premise shared by most rangers is that state parks should not be open to the public unless there is staff on site, piped drinking water and restrooms with flush toilets provided and serviced, trash pick-up scheduled and a camp host available.
Many other agencies, like the East Bay Regional Park District and its 70 parks – or the Forest Service with its campgrounds opened over the weekend at Tahoe – operate successfully without any such premise.