BY DANE SHANNON

Recently, I sat down and listened to Wayne Poulsen, Jr. talk about the history of Olympic Valley to a small group of locals that ranged from high school students to business owners and community leaders to service workers. Poulsen moved to Olympic Valley with his parents when he was 4 years old, and they were the first year-round, non-Native American people in the valley. It was a wonderful night, with a storied history shared.

I encourage you all to do your research, to dive in deeply, and learn about this place we all love. How can you make a judgment about future development otherwise? Do you really know what is best for this valley if you don’t know the details about previous development attempts, successes or failures? I thought I did until this meeting.

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I want to share one theme that resonated with me the most from that night. Squaw Valley has a long history of people coming in, developing, and making their money, sometimes without regard to the community and environment as a whole. During the meeting, Wayne talked about the importance of community and its role as a watchdog to question and help guide development.  

He brought up several historical instances in which the community could have been involved to produce a better outcome. Where was the community to question why the electrical substation was placed near the entrance of Squaw Valley road in plain sight? Where was the community when Tower One was planted on top of the iconic cliff face we now know as Tram Face? He likened this to placing a tower on El Capitan in Yosemite. Where was the community when Shirley Creek was dredged or the “alien-looking” Tram building was put up? Wayne had many other examples, but the point being, right or wrong, we historically did not have a powerful enough local organizational structure, formal or informal, to question and help direct development for the overall good of the community and visitors alike.

So people of Tahoe, Truckee, second homeowners and vacationers from the Bay Area, Sacramento, and Reno, lovers of Tahoe skiing and Lake Tahoe, and kids lapping the park, I bid you to do your research on the history of this area, not just the last 20 years, but the last 100 years or more, and ask yourself, does the current plan honor what this valley is truly about? Ask questions, get involved, and learn about recent developments in the plan. This will affect all of you, your friends, family, and our children. This is the biggest shift in the valley since the 1960 Olympics. Sometimes it is easy to overlook the fact that it is happening right now.  

We realize that change is needed for the overall health of our community, but it needs to be checked and balanced and, most importantly, guided towards the environmental needs of our entire region. This level of development is irreversible. So it is critically important to understand your effect on the final outcome. The shift in the most recent proposal could mean that KSL is responding to community feedback or could simply be the next step of their original plan. Whatever the case, it is up to us to help mold the next stages. With the release of the new “Right Plan,” it would be easy to sit back, but now is the time to really make our voices heard. Continue to ask questions and offer ideas. Don’t wake up one day, look around, and say, “What happened here?”

After the meeting I had to ask myself, was Wayne Poulsen, Jr. right when he asked us, “Is this community evolved enough to take on such an important process?” Your opinions matter; you will make a difference. Come on community, let’s make Wayne proud and take him up on the challenge.

~ Dane Shannon has been living in the Lake Tahoe and Squaw Valley area since 2005. A passionate outdoorsman, he proudly supports the community-building efforts of The Friends of Squaw Valley and Incorporate Olympic Valley.

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