Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Ticker Column 2: Red, White, and Tahoe Blue and Crystal Bay

As recent articles in the Tahoe Ticker have made clear, it's a pretty tough time for a great many people in the Tahoe Basin. The winter has been slow due to the economy, and then made worse by the sparse snowfall. Christmas week was a teaser – we really thought it might be a great season, but then we didn't see any real snow until March, and while it helped it was, economically, too little too late. The simple fact is that once Spring comes and the weather gets warm here and elsewhere, people's thoughts turn to golf and tennis, even if the snow is good.

Still, there are a lot of people here who, to put it charitably, have enough money that they don't have to worry. Unfortunately many of them do worry – about themselves and their own narrow interests. There are a few people in Crystal Bay, and I do believe it's just a very few, who have made it their lives' work to gain access to the beaches in Incline Village, even if that means that the private beaches become public. They have the unmitigated gall to frame their quixotic crusade as a civil rights issue and to compare their "plight" to the situation of African-Americans in days before the Civil Rights Movement. If that weren't so arrogant, it would be laughable.

These individuals' latest crusade is against Red, White, and Tahoe Blue, the Incline Village/Crystal Bay Independence Day celebration that is coming into its third year. By way of full disclosure, I'm one of the founding members of RWTB and on its Board. The Board is composed entirely of volunteers who are committed to a community celebration and to raising money for local charities. In the first two years of RWTB thousands of dollars went to local causes and the celebration consisted of entertainment, community fun (a rubber duck race, an ice cream social), a parade, and a tribute to local veterans.

Some of these events take place on the beach – the rubber duck race, the fireworks, and one barbecue. Actually, while the fireworks take place on the lake, they are widely visible. Last year a very popular event entailed watching the fireworks from the Village Green, across the street from the beach, while the Reno Philharmonic played, and the view was great. The Village Green is open to anyone, by the way.

Each year members of the RWTB Board have quietly purchased extra punch cards and made sure that no one was excluded from the events on the beach. Individual Board members have gone out of their way to invite Incline and Crystal Bay residents who don't have beach access to be their guests on the beach, but that apparently isn't good enough for the Crystal Bay few. They will settle for nothing less than full access and have instituted legal action to that effect. Well, this is America where anyone can sue anyone for anything, so I guess that's their right (or Wright), but it's going to cost the District, and therefore the residents, a lot of money and in the end there's a strong likelihood that the courts could open the beaches to the public. For those of you keeping score at home, the residents-only policy is a significant contributor to home values here, and if the beaches go public the values will go down. Great timing, eh?

I'm not going to debate the merits of private vs public beaches. The salient point here is, I think, that the Incline beaches have been residents only from the beginning of the community and everyone who purchased a home without beach access knew that when they bought. Their rec fees are lower as a result, and it doesn't make sense to me to now say "no fair." If you thought it wasn't fair, you shouldn't have bought that house.

With all that, to call RWTB discriminatory is sheer demagoguery. Don't make the mistake of buying in to it. Come to RWTB, give to RWTB, and have a great time. I know I will.

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