A three-word slogan — Keep Tahoe Blue — has become the rallying cry of the League to Save Lake Tahoe and offers a blueprint for others around the world.
In late 1954, Dwight D. Eisenhower was in the White House, Roger Bannister had broken the four-minute mile, and Alexander Cochrane Cushing had a fanciful idea.
Cushing was the co-founder of what was then called the Squaw Valley* ski area, a small resort on the western shore of Lake Tahoe that offered some of the steepest, most challenging terrain in the U.S. Undeterred by his resort’s relative obscurity, particularly when stacked against global ski centers such as Innsbruck, Austria, or Chamonix, France, Cushing decided that Squaw Valley should bid to host the 1960 Winter Olympic Games.
It seemed a laughable proposal. Legend has it that Cushing himself was motivated strictly by the publicity that would surround an underdog bid. After all, there was little there, beyond Cushing’s charming but tiny resort and two year-round families. But Cushing had powerful — and wealthy — friends, and he organized a team and raised funds. A few years later, to the surprise of many (including perhaps himself), he won.
To ready itself for the world’s eyes, Tahoe began building.
Along with an Olympic Village, and, eventually, the completion of the four-lane I-80, the development around Lake Tahoe included the Tahoe Keys subdivision, built by dredging the western half of the Upper Truckee Marsh. Wetlands play a crucial role in watersheds, and this particular one filtered much of the water that made its way into the lake, in addition to providing habitat for birds, fish, and other wildlife.
But, while many celebrated this unbridled development as a sign of prosperity and progress, a local attorney named Bill Evers saw something else: the paving over of a paradise…