When Tahoe's environment, economy and communities work together

May 28, 2016:
Darcie Goodman Collins, PhD and Heidi Hill Drum
Tahoe Daily Tribune

Close your eyes. Picture Tahoe a few years from now, in a scenario where the best of all future plans have come to life. The lake is clear and blue. The beaches are clean. Our town centers are bustling with activity and thriving businesses. Visitors bike and walk around our communities, thrilled to enjoy the natural wonder of Tahoe without braving gridlock while here. The League to Save Lake Tahoe and Tahoe Prosperity Center share this vision, and with a few steps in the right direction it is not that far from reality.

One obstacle to achieving this vision is urban blight. Dilapidated, decades-old developments aren’t just an eyesore for our visitors and neighboring business owners; they also pose a significant environmental threat. Many sit on sensitive lands, such as former meadows that acted as natural filters keeping pollution out of the lake. Most lack modern stormwater management — BMPs in our region’s planning jargon. Every time it rains on these properties, stormwater runoff carries pollutants into Lake Tahoe, degrading its clarity. And blight is not what one wants to see while vacationing in beautiful Tahoe.

Getting rid of blight is one of the most important things our towns can do to protect the lake, support local residents and improve our economy. Redevelopment — the effort to rebuild and renovate in the already-developed urban centers of each of Tahoe’s communities — can foster the conditions for businesses that provide year-round jobs at better wages and better housing in more attractive neighborhoods. Better jobs and improved housing can help refill our schools with local families who live and work here. By comparison, the status quo is coming up short.

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Darcie Goodman Collins, PhD, is the executive director of the League to Save Lake Tahoe. The League — also known by the slogan “Keep Tahoe Blue” — is Tahoe’s oldest and largest nonprofit environmental advocacy organization, founded in 1957. Heidi Hill Drum is the executive director of the Tahoe Prosperity Center, whose mission is uniting Tahoe’s communities to strengthen regional prosperity.

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