Better Together

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Melissa SiigWhen I moved to Tahoe City 22 years ago and started working as a reporter, I remember people telling me, “I’ve only lived here five years so I am not a true local yet.” From a perspective of a new arrival to Tahoe, five years seemed like a lot. I wondered at the time when I would be considered a local — would it take five years, 10 years, or even 20? Are the only people who are true locals those who were born and raised here? And who gets to decide?

Living in a resort community with a large number of second homeowners and visitors, I have found myself falling into the trap of us vs. them. I have met nice families on the trails or at the ski hill who told me they live here, and when I asked where their kids go to school, they responded, “Oh, in the Bay Area where we live most of the year.” My first reaction is to think, “Well then, you don’t actually live here.” But then I catch myself. Maybe they have owned a house in Tahoe longer than I have? And even if they are only here a few months of the year, does that make them any less a local than me? If we all love Tahoe and have a deep connection to it, does it matter if we are here 365 days a year or 100 days or even 20? Maybe a better definition of the word “local” is someone who is a good steward of Tahoe’s unique environment and cares deeply about this special place, whether it’s as a full-time or part-time resident, or even as a visitor. In other words, being a local is about the relationship you have with a place, not the length of time you have lived there.

In Meghan Robins’ story, I Don’t Use the Word Local Anymore, she prefers the term “community member” and provides suggestions for being an active member of Tahoe/Truckee. But being a community member can have its ups and downs. Tahoe Regional Planning Agency Executive Director Julie Regan remembers what’s it like to be a community member when the community you love is threatened. She writes about her experience living through the Caldor Fire in South Lake Tahoe in 2021, where it took a village to protect the town and her neighborhood of Christmas Valley. Not only was the city saved thanks to the tireless efforts of a multitude of firefighters from around the state, but its residents also relied on the kindness of neighbors and even strangers.

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The message I gain from these two stories is that we all do better when we focus on what connects us rather than what separates us. The beauty of Tahoe/Truckee is that we all come together at communal events like Truckee Thursdays, Concerts at Commons Beach in Tahoe City, and Music on the Beach in Kings Beach — events that are highlighted in the Owl Post — where we have a chance to celebrate and enjoy this magical place, together.

Author

  • Melissa Siig

    Melissa Siig ditched international politics in Washington, D.C. in 2001 to move to Tahoe, where she quickly found her true calling — journalism. She has written for regional and national publications, and enjoys writing about community issues and quirky human interest stories. When not at her keyboard, she is busy wrangling her three children, co-running Tahoe Art Haus & Cinema, or playing outside.

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