With the current housing boom indicating an influx of new residents to the Truckee/Tahoe region, I’d like to extend a warm welcome to all our newcomers. But even more so, I’d like to get a few things straight and perhaps clear the air on the sordid relationship between “locals” and “visitors.”

The relationship between “us” and “them” has long been fraught with tension. We have our little pet names and phrases for outsiders from the Bay Area: Go Back to the Bay, Gaper! And visitors have shared on local Facebook pages their terms of endearment for us like Tahoe elitists. For an uber-liberal state that preaches peace and love and tolerance, I’m not really feeling the love.

The situation here has nothing to do with wealth or skin color. The contempt is the product of a perceived lack of respect — and maybe there’s an element of fear thrown in too for good measure.

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Answer this: How many times have you gone to use a public restroom somewhere like a theme park or a stadium, only to find that the condition is unsanitary to say the least? Urine all over the seats, toilets unflushed, used toilet paper on the floor. You find yourself wondering, How do these people live? Do they trash their own homes like this? Well, that’s how it feels when thousands of people come into the Tahoe/Truckee area and thoughtlessly toss their garbage atop an overflowing trash can or drop it on the ground, leave dirty diapers and human waste in the woods, exhibit flagrant disregard for the peace and tranquility mountain life offers, or — my personal favorite — trespass.

My house is tucked back in the woods along a dirt road. I cannot count how many times I have had people come up my quarter-mile hill of a driveway by foot, bike, or car for a hike or ride, disregarding a dozen private property/no trespassing signs. Just because you’re in the woods, folks, doesn’t mean you can go anywhere you please. Respect is a two-way street; please observe the signs — like the ones that say no camping and campfires prohibited. There are very valid reasons why these things may not be permitted, especially campfires. Our vast forested lands become a massive tinderbox just waiting to go up in flames with one ember in a treetop, one cigarette butt tossed on the ground. It’s a matter of safety.

It’s safe to say a good number of people around these parts are transplants who moved here for a better quality of life. Perfectly understandable. (I’m much happier locking my car at night to keep bears out than to prevent it from being stolen.) But a sudden influx of people descending upon our quiet mountain hamlet scares us. Not because we think we’re elite or better than anyone; we’ve just seen what happens when the crowds come and we’re afraid of the long-term effects of them never leaving. What is the logic behind going to visit a pristine mountain area for its clean, unadulterated beauty but then literally trashing it with litter and graffiti?

What it comes down to is that we want to welcome you with open arms, whether you’re here for a visit or moving here permanently. But if you’re here for a better quality of life than you had in the concrete jungle, you have to leave the city mentality behind and adapt to mountain living. It truly is a different way of life and it is important to educate yourself about living here. In doing so, you’ll learn why we’re all so protective of this gift of a place we call home.

You’ve heard of Tahoe Time? Slow down. Enjoy the scenery. Smile, wave, say hello to someone walking by — don’t look down at your phone. You’ll see that Tahoe folks really are very welcoming because at one point or another, most of us were the new kid on the block.

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