Washoe Tribe celebrates winning Meeks Bay permit

The entrance sign to Meeks Bay Resort. Washoe Tribe photo

The entrance sign to Meeks Bay Resort. Washoe Tribe photo

After more than a year of campaigning, the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California has received its 20-year permit to operate Meeks Bay Resort.

“We fought for many, many years to have access back to Lake Tahoe, since our people were forcibly removed from the area,” said Tribal Chairman Serrell Smokey.

In the beginning of September 2022, the Forest Service put out a competitive process to solicit proposals and bids for the Granger-Thye Concession special use permits to operate the Meeks Bay Resort facilities.

“That is the authority that we use for these types of permits. And what that means is that the fee to the government for this business opportunity, rather than being sent to the Treasury, that fee can be reinvested in Meeks Bay Resort to take care of the infrastructure and deferred maintenance and needed improvements there. A portion of the revenue that’s earned through the operation of the business, in this case Meeks Bay Resort, that money can be reinvested to improve facilities and improve public service,” said Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit Public Services Staff Officer Daniel Cressy.

Meeks Bay Resort is a Forest Service owned facility, and all the land, buildings and infrastructure is owned by the government. So, the concession includes these government-owned facilities on the north and south sides of Meeks Creek, including the General Store and Visitor Center; north and south campgrounds; eight cabins, Lake Front Lodges; the Kehlet Mansion; Meeks Bay House and Studio; Snack Bar; beach rental building; and day-use area.

The deadline for the proposals were due in February 2023 for the Meeks Bay Resort, with the best proposal that serves the public and the American taxpayers the best, to be named the winner. Letters were sent out on June 29, notifying the Washoe Tribe that they were the selected bidder to run concessions.

Smokey said he was worried because there are a lot of big money investors in Meeks Bay that wanted that land. It turns out there was no way of competing with what the Washoe can contribute, as the original inhabitants and stewards of the land.

 “A lot of it is, you know, really putting a lot more of ourselves up there as far as the culture, the language, and being able to make everything better,” Smokey said. “Throughout the years, I felt that we weren’t allowed to really fix anything up there, make things better. Make sure everything’s clean, and providing the best services that we can out of the area, for everybody that comes through.”

Cressy said he’s excited about the Washoe having the best proposal.

“The business entity at the Washoe Tribe is really the entity that we’re going to be working with here,” Cressy said. “But I think it’s really good for Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit and for the tribe and for the general public. It’s good for the public to have that presence of the Washoe Tribe actively stewarding the lands and resources and providing those services to the public. I think, in terms of the presence of native Washoe language, and other kinds of interpretive programs, helps the general public have a deeper connection to the heritage of this area.”

For the past two years, Chairman Smokey says that he and the Tribe have what they call a Waši ⁃ šiw ?itde Festival at the Valhalla Tallac Historic site on South Lake Tahoe.

“And even through that area we always had to pay,” Smokey said. “We had to pay to rent the area, and then we had to be out of there by 4 p.m. So now we finally started using our place that we have to hold that festival, and it was really good, not only for tribal members, and we’ve got a lot of tribal members up there, but also for the general public, because it is open to the public.”

Smokey said that’s the sort of thing the Tribe wants to do at the site.

“I think people really enjoyed it,” he said. “It’s sharing our culture. It’s always our hope that the public understands the importance of the lake, the importance of it that we hold. And if they can understand that, then maybe they’ll give a little more respect to the land and pickup their trash, and take care of it a lot better.”

To reserve space at Meeks Bay, visit https://www.recreation.gov/camping/campgrounds/10220612.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment