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First Campground Proposed in Tahoe Basin in 20 Years

Brockway Campground would significantly increase North Shore’s campsite inventory
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The Tahoe Basin may see its first new campground in more than 20 years, thanks to a proposal from Mountainside Partners. The application, which was submitted to Placer County and the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency on Wednesday, proposes building up to 550 campsites off Highway 267 near Brockway Summit.

Sierra Pacific Industries owns the 120 acres that Mountainside Partners proposes to build Brockway Campground on, located between Northstar and the Fibreboard Freeway. The site was originally slated for 112 residential units as part of the Martis Valley West Project, but Mountainside Partners announced in January that the Tahoe Basin would be excluded from that project after concern from various environmental groups. While Brockway Campground is on the same piece of land, it is completely separate from the Martis Valley West Project, and neither project is contingent on or related to the other.

Blake Riva, managing partner at Mountainside Partners, said there are currently 18 campgrounds in the Basin, with a huge void between Tahoe City and Zephyr Cove. The last campground in the Basin was built more than 20 years ago. The North Shore contains only 2 percent of campsites within the entire Basin. Brockway Campground seeks to fill that gap, Riva said, and will cater to a variety of camping experiences — including tents, RVs, and eco shelters.

“In the North Lake Tahoe region, there’s just not much camping available … In general, today’s campers want easy access, a variety of outdoor experiences, and facilities offering comfort, security, and social opportunities,” Riva said. “Brockway Campground will provide all of this in the beautiful natural setting of Lake Tahoe.”

The 104-acre parcel is currently zoned to allow 832 campsites, which would be eight camping sites per acre. However, the proposal calls for 550 sites, which is 34 percent less than the maximum allowable, Riva noted. In addition to camping sites, the campground would offer amenities like restrooms and showers, family pavilions, group camping, a swimming pool, general store, adventure center, rental center, dining facility, and lodge.

“Lake Tahoe is a very popular destination for camping and recreation,” Riva said. “[Brockway Campground] will be built out over time based on market demand.”

Camping on the Rise

The 2015 North American Camping Report, published by Kampgrounds Of America (KOA), saw an “uptick in camping” since 2012. The report also found that destination camping is on the rise, and that access to technology is important to campers.

“Camping today is more diverse than ever before, from who’s experiencing the great outdoors and how they’re planning travel to what amenities they prioritize and why they value camping,” KOA CEO Jim Rogers said in a statement released in March. “Camping is not a one-size-fits-all travel experience.”

While the developer has not built a campground before, Riva said Mountainside Partners researched current camping trends and looked at campgrounds in California, Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado for ideas. The developer also hired Bud Surles, former assistant superintendent of Yellowstone National Park and chief of concessions for the National Park Service, on the Brockway Campground design. Surles hopes the campground will be a model for “green” camping by using eco-friendly and environmentally sensitive practices and materials in the project, including solar power, low-flow and automatic shut-off plumbing fixtures, gas fire pits, LED lighting, and more.

“The Brockway Campground has the potential to truly become one of the most iconic campgrounds in the West,” Surles said in a statement. “Knowing and understanding the sensitivities related to operating in the Tahoe Basin, we’ve given tremendous thought and consideration to every element of the Brockway Campground.”

Oz Architecture, based in Boulder, Colo., will design the campground’s buildings. The firm, which designed The Village at Northstar and The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe, developed the national guidelines for national parks in the U.S. and has done work for the National Forest Service and the Grand Canyon.

“It’s not hard to argue that it is a great site,” Andy White, principal with Oz Architecture, told Moonshine Ink.

White said his firm will utilize rustic materials, such as log siding, in the design, and will make sure the colors complement the surrounding environment. He said the natural surroundings, like the trees and meadow, will ultimately drive the design.

Riva said that local organizations such as the Boys Scouts, Girl Scouts, the Boys & Girls Club of North Lake Tahoe, the Tahoe Area Mountain Bike Association, and the Tahoe Rim Trail Association have all expressed excitement over the project.

“We are trying to create an opportunity for them that doesn’t exist [locally],” Riva said. “In exploring a potential campground at Brockway Summit, we have received overwhelming positive feedback from stakeholders in the area.”

Development Concerns

While the Brockway Campground proposal significantly differs from the site’s original plan, environmental groups still have concerns. Some groups, like the North Tahoe Preservation Alliance, have expressed the desire for no development on Brockway Summit. Other groups, like the League to Save Lake Tahoe, are awaiting more information.

Darcie Goodman Collins, the League to Save Lake Tahoe’s executive director, said her organization is concerned that the proposed campground is outside the urban boundary.

“Low impact recreation use is what we would like to see in that area,” Goodman Collins said, noting that she has not seen the campground proposal. “Our concern continues to be high impact use. Currently, that area is pristine. It might not be appropriate … It depends on the proposal.”

The Tahoe Rim Trail Association is also concerned about increased use in the area, particularly on its trails, but said Mountainside Partners has been working closely with the organization.

“They have listened well to what our users would need,” Tahoe Rim Trail Executive Director Mary Bennington said. “One of our biggest concerns from switching to a campground from a housing development is educating people about our trail.”

Because of the Tahoe Rim Trail’s close proximity to the proposed campground, Bennington foresees a significant increase of use on that section of the Tahoe Rim trail.

“Our biggest concern is these types of projects going in and impacting our trail so it’s not fun for everyone,” Bennington said. “We want to protect the trail for future generations. We want to keep that experience the way it is; that is what makes our trail so special.”

However, Bennington said she is excited that Brockway Campground could offer secured parking, water, bear boxes, and other amenities for thru-hikers that are not currently offered in that area.

A shuttle service will also be provided from the campground to nearby recreational and shopping locations to reduce individual vehicle trips. Riva said the project is subject to environmental review — including possible traffic and light pollution impacts — which will take approximately 12 months and needs approval from both Placer County and TRPA.

If all goes according to plan, the campground could open in summer 2017 with 150 to 250 initial campsites. Camping in the Tahoe Basin currently costs $35 to $125 per night, and Riva said Brockway Campground would fall within that price range.

According to Riva, “A new campground in North Lake Tahoe will serve to address the imbalance of campsites within the Tahoe Basin, as well as enhance and support the recreational opportunities available to families visiting the region.”

For more information on Brockway Campground, visit brockwaycampground.com.

 
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June 9, 2017