SOUTH LAKE TAHOE (CBS SF) — With little snowfall for the last two winter seasons, business has fallen for Lake Tahoe’s ski resorts and one of them is already looking to the summer for new revenue as the U.S. Forest Service has tentatively approved major plans to expand its summer attractions—including a mountain coaster. Some environmentalists, however, say it will have have a negative impact.
The agency’s Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit late last month issued a draft decision in favor of the proposed Heavenly Mountain Resort Epic Discovery project.
Among other attractions, the resort on Tahoe’s south shore is seeking to boost summer visitation by 45 percent to 160,000 with a mountain bike park, kayaking and paddle-boarding, zip-lines and mountain coasters.
The coaster, a gravity-driven ride close to the ground, would allow riders to coast through the forest at their own pace by operating a brake. Plans also call for a “sky cycle,” a bicycle-like device suspended from a cable that visitors can pedal to move along the treetops.
While most public comments to the Forest Service about the project were supportive, the Tahoe Area Sierra Club Group raised several objections.
The project will increase congestion in the Tahoe Basin during the busiest time of the year for visitation, said Laurel Ames, the group’s conservation committee chair.
“This place is jammed in the summer,” Ames told the Reno Gazette-Journal. ”The Heavenly project exacerbates the summer part, it exacerbates a whole series of problems we deal with here in the summer … It is more traffic, it is more congestion, it is more air pollution.”
The Forest Service’s release of its draft decision initiated a 45-day period during which public comment on the plan will be accepted.
“People who have commented previously in writing can object to that decision and tell us why,” said Matt Dickinson of the Forest Service. “Not until after that process runs through will we actually sign the final decision.”
In addition to the Forest Service, Heavenly also still needs approval from the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency and Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board.
While Heavenly is operated by a for-profit, publicly traded company, it’s located on about 10,500 acres of public land leased from the Forest Service.
Heavenly hopes to begin construction on the project sometime this year.
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