Officials: Parking issues at Tahoe only getting worse

Vehicles with license plates from more than a dozen states were parked along Highway 50 near the Zephyr Cove parking lot in marked No Parking zones.

Vehicles with license plates from more than a dozen states were parked along Highway 50 near the Zephyr Cove parking lot in marked No Parking zones.
Hannah Sullivan Pence | Tahoe Daily Tribune

Finding parking at Lake Tahoe’s popular beaches and trailheads is a common issue for those looking to enjoy all that the Basin has to offer. While some people spend minutes and sometimes hours looking for parking or waiting for someone else to leave, others are willing to take the risk and deal with the consequences of parking wherever they please.

After designated parking areas reach maximum capacity vehicles overflow onto the shoulder of the highway around the lake causing risk to life and limb. Often within hours of opening the gates cars begin parking illegally, near beaches like Sand Harbor, Zephyr Cove, Round Hill, Nevada Beach and Emerald Bay.

In some instances negligent drivers park over the line and in the direct path of oncoming traffic.

While drivers can be ticketed for parking illegally or worse, towed, many remain undeterred, as they attempt to beat the heat around the Tahoe Basin this summer.

“It’s only a matter of time before something bad happens,” California Highway Patrol Officer Ruth Loehr said.

Blind turns and speed limits of 45-55 mph pose tremendous risk for people illegally crossing traffic or impeding the lane of traffic, Loehr said.

Illegally parked vehicles can be towed from no parking zones and drivers fined, with maximum fines reaching over $300.

“Motorists parked on the narrow shoulder near the highway’s busy travel lanes create potential traffic safety concerns,” said Nevada Department of Transportation spokeswoman Meg Ragonese.

“As Tahoe’s beaches increasingly draw more traffic during the summer months, the Sheriff’s Office — in conjunction with Nevada State Police — works to enforce parking on Highway 50. The Nevada Department of Transportation manages the parking signs and restrictions, and law enforcement imposes these regulations to help keep everyone safe by issuing parking citations to illegally parked vehicles,” according to Douglas County Sheriff’s Office.

On July 10, Nevada launched a project to install a traffic signal and improve Highway 50 near Warrior Way on Lake Tahoe’s east shore while simultaneously completing projects to provide protected turns to and from Warrior Way, construction of crosswalks, intersection sidewalks and pathways leading visitors directly from the signal-ized intersection into the U.S. Forest Service Zephyr Cove Day Use Area.

“Crews are excavating and making highway and roadside improvements, including the use of heavy equipment,” Ragonese said. “Roadside work zones are not a safe place for roadside parking.”

Additional work is being done to protect the water quality with infiltration basins and drainage improvements being installed north of the intersection, which will also enhance natural roadway stormwater infiltration, according to NDOT.

Through the fall, drivers will continue to see intermittent weekday single lane closures on Highway 50 near Warrior Way. The majority of closures will take place weekdays between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m., with periodic overnight lane closures. Additional brief lane closures may also take place in the winter and spring to finalize activation of the signal.

Despite the on-highway construction cones and signs, the heavily traveled highway is still impeded by ongoing disregard for no parking zones and lane demarcation.

In addition to safety concerns Ragonese told the Tribune “Erosion and dust pollution created by parking on the dirt roadway shoulders can also impact the Lake Tahoe environment.”

According to Caitlin Meyer of The Tahoe Fund, about two dozen agencies around the basin are working to construct the Tahoe Basin Area Parking Enforcement Plan.

The plan will work in conjunction with analysis from a third-party consulting agency, to make getting to, around and from Tahoe safer by open communication within the “patchwork” frame of the Basin.

“Appropriate parking management and enforcement of on- and off-street parking supply is key to providing more convenient parking in a fiscally sustainable way. It isn’t sufficient to have open parking spaces if they are not visible to the people looking for them. Communication strategies and coordinated pricing can achieve uniformly distributed parking demand, directing drivers to the spots that best match their need,” the plan phase two strategy said.

Loehr said the main issue is people continue to park illegally wantonly disregarding low parking fines and tow-away signs.

“I’ve had a car pull in directly as a car is being removed by tow truck,” Loehr said.

The safest way to stop people from parking illegally is to make it physically impossible with natural boulders.

CHP Lt. Brian Cocagne said there has been no forward movement after suggestions to increase fines and reduce vehicles around Emerald Bay which perpetuates the substantial risk pedestrians and vehicles face.

“We are actively engaged with partner agencies to find solutions to parking in all recreation corridors,” said Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s Public Information Officer Jeff Cowen. “Specifically in the Roundhill area and Emerald Bay, staff is working with local law enforcement and the U.S. Forest Service.”


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