Lake Tahoe presidential summit: Douglas officials hope for partnership
President Clinton’s forum on Lake Tahoe will take place this weekend, and while the headquarters for the meetings will be at Incline Village, Douglas County’s politically-involved residents say they have hopes for positive ramifications from the brief spotlight on Lake Tahoe, and feel the event will cross party lines.
“I certainly do welcome President Clinton to Nevada,” said Nevada State Sen. Lawrence Jacobsen, R-Minden. “I made two trips to Washington, D.C. and said then to representatives from the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management, that we ought to consider a summit at Lake Tahoe sometime.”
Jacobsen said he was the only legislator to travel to Reno Saturday to attend a pre-forum workshop designed to get input from concerned residents about specific concerns regarding Lake Tahoe’s present and future.
“Out of 63 legislators, I was the only one there,” he said. “It surprised me not to see any others. It was a very informative and useful workshop, too. The panels were excellent.”
Jacobsen said participants in the Saturday’s workshop broke into four groups to discuss different aspects of the Tahoe region.
“My questions were mostly about funding,” he said. “People have big ideas, and my question was how will it be funded. Will it be local, state or federal?”
Jacobsen said some of the ideas presented at the workshop include a bike path around the Lake, more hiking trails, horse trails and public transportation.
“Unfortunately, we’re our own worst enemies when it comes to the environment,” he said. “We trash what we use. I guess it’s just human nature.”
Jacobsen said he thought the presidential forum is a good idea for northern Nevada.
“If Lake Tahoe is considered a national treasure, then Washington should be putting funding into the Lake,” he said. “I think some good will come out of this forum. If nothing else, our senators will get his attention. Federal intervention with agencies like the USFS, BLM and Clean Water Act make it important for the President to see this area.”
Speculations about whether Air Force One might land at Minden-Tahoe Airport if a back-up landing site becomes necessary were dispelled by Vic Redding, airport operations supervisor.
“They could land here, but they couldn’t take off,” he said, explaining that it takes less distance to land a large plane than it does to get the speed necessary to take off. The runways at Minden-Tahoe are 50 feet narrower and 3,000 feet shorter than the runways at Reno Tahoe International Airport – too small for the president’s jet, Air Force One, a Boeing 747.
Jim Braswell, operational services director for the Minden-Tahoe Airport, said that although the president’s entourage always has an alternate route and airport, the odds of him coming to land at Minden-Tahoe are slim.
“If they were going to come through here, the Secret Service would have already paid us a visit,” he said. “When I worked at Las Cruces, N.M., the Secret Service would always come through two or three weeks beforehand and check things out.”
Douglas County commissioners recently passed resolution 97P-040, “Welcoming the president and vice president to Lake Tahoe and reaffirming local partnership commitments.”
One of the proclamations in the resolution, which was signed by all the commissioners, stated “Douglas County hereby agrees, to the extent possible, to support opportunities for partnerships which provide support for projects, programs and studies needed to obtain the mutually agreed upon environmental and economic outcomes of the Presidential Tahoe Basin Forum.”
Douglas County Commission Chairman Jacques Etchegoyhen said he didn’t think any of the commissioners would be attending the presidential forum.
“They’ll be in and out so quick that we won’t really have a chance to attend,” he said. “We did pass the resolution, which pretty much states our welcoming position.”
As of Tuesday, Carson Valley political groups were not planning any trips to the forum.
Beverly Willard, chairman of the Douglas County Republican Central Committee, said as far as she knew, county Republicans weren’t planning to head to the Lake as a group.
“I think it’s is going to be tough to get anywhere near the president,” she said, adding that since this is not a campaign visit, such as in an election year, area political groups might be less likely to clamor to the president’s side.
Karen Winters, Douglas County Democratic Central Committee secretary-treasurer, said she, too, feels the scheduled events at the presidential forum will be too tight to include a large number of area political groups.
“Of course, we are strong supporters of Clinton and Gore and think they’re doing a great job, but we also hope that after the forum they will be able to look farther ahead than the next five years in regard to protecting the Tahoe basin,” she said.
As for Douglas County Democrats traveling to the north shore forum en masse, Winters said there is too much planning ahead of time to even get near the president, and coupled with the fact that President Clinton will only be present for one day, she felt most Valley Democrats weren’t planning on attending.
“There is a great deal of mystery involved in a presidential visit,” said Sen. Jacobsen. “Many times I’ve heard that for security reasons, they don’t even let you know ahead of time that you will be invited.”
Jacobsen said he was surprised the Hyatt was chosen as headquarters.
“It’s pretty small, so not too many people will be able to get in,” he said.
Jacobsen, who just completed his 34th year as a Republican legislator, said that although he had not received an official invitation, and neither had anyone else from Douglas County as far as he knew Tuesday, he would be happy to attend if invited.
“He’s my president, too,” he said.