Washoe Meadows State Park

Washoe Meadows Update

A coalition of conservation organizations supported Washoe Meadows Community’s initiation of actions to protect Washoe Meadows State Park from the proposed incursion of a golf course development. The Sierra Club took action as well as the Center for Biological Diversity, Resource Renewal Institute and Defense of Place. The arduous 14-year campaign to thwart the state-proposed expansion of a golf course into Washoe Meadows State Park – a park that was promised protection “in perpetuity” in 1984 California legislation – has come to a successful end with State Parks’ withdrawal of its environmentally ruinous and statute-breaking plan.

As the park heals from the regional impacts of last year’s Caldor Fire, the community remains even more committed to the defense of this special place and its irreplaceable resources.

Our work is not over yet, though.  We must be vigilant in our review of the new project that State Parks will be proposing in 2023 to ensure that the park and its resources remain protected.

Washoe Meadows State Park

Washoe Meadows State Park is rich in native wildlife, including black bear, pine marten, long eared bats, northern goshawk, and migrating birds. The Upper Truckee River, home to many species of fish, forms the park’s eastern boundary. The river separates the state park from a state-owned recreation area and 18-hole golf course.  State Parks is in the planning phase for restoring the Upper Truckee River and will propose a project. We will review any changes that will impact the park and the adjacent recreation area.    

The golf course is currently located immediately adjacent to the Upper Truckee River, and sends sediment and chemical runoff into Lake Tahoe.   In 2006, the state released a proposed plan to restore the river. The state’s preferred alternative was to reroute the river and move half of the golf course into Washoe Meadows State Park. Doing so would require the state to downgrade the area from a state park to a state recreation area, reducing its environmental protections.  In addition, the conversion would require massive excavation and the removal of over 1600 trees, which would threaten the delicate hydrologic balance of the park’s fens and wetlands that serve as sources for clarifying water that flows to Lake Tahoe.   We are opposed to the re-route of the river and the encroachment of the golf course into this prime recreation area.  

Preservation Efforts by Washoe Meadows Community

In 2006, Sierra Club members Bob and Grace Anderson founded Washoe Meadows Community, a grassroots nonprofit organization and coalition of conservation groups, volunteer activists and supporters from across the state working to protect the natural, cultural and recreational resources of Washoe Meadows State Park. Tahoe Area Group Sierra Club and the Mother Lode Chapter have worked alongside Washoe Meadows Community since the beginning, writing comment letters, speaking at public meetings, and participating in meetings with elected officials, agencies, and other conservation groups. The work of Washoe Meadows Community and the Sierra Club has resulted in support from other conservation groups including the California Native Plant Society, Defense of Place, Resource Renewal Institute, Planning & Conservation League, World Water and Climate Network as well as the Bear League.

In response to a lawsuit filed by Washoe Meadows Community with support from Sierra Club via an amicus brief, a 2015 court order forced the State Park & Recreation Commission to cancel their approval of the project’s environmental document and their classification downgrade of the parkland. The court order was upheld in appellate court in November 2017. 

2018 State Parks Proposal and Tahoe Area Group Comment Letter

In July, 2018, California State Parks presented a new alternative (“Alternative 2B”), which improved on the original proposal but would still move 5 golf holes into the state park.  On July 26, 2018, the Tahoe Area Group and the Center for Biological Diversity sent the following formal comments to the California Department of Parks and Recreation on the draft EIR for the Upper Truckee River Restoration and Golf Course Reconfiguration Project:  

Letter and Comments to CA Parks & Rec, July 2018.

Recent Developments show promise

This year the California Park & Recreation Commission directed State Parks to select a project that will not move golf course holes into the Park. We have continued to monitor—and correct when necessary—State Parks’ compliance with that directive.  Because of our court victories and the Park Commission’s mandate, we believe that a new project will be developed in a way that protects Washoe Meadows State Parks.

Continued Involvement is Needed

In today's time of water scarcity and climate change challenges, it is more crucial than ever that we call on the California Natural Resources Agency and its State Parks Department to stay true to their core values and mission to protect California's natural and cultural resources now and far into the future.  It is critical that we maintain involvement by all conservation groups until we can confirm that State Parks has revised the river restoration project to ensure preservation of the park’s resources.  Tahoe Area Group will continue to monitor developments and will provide updates on this page regarding any new legal actions, proposals, and public comment opportunities as they occur. 

Two virtual Scoping Meetings are planned for January 25th on Zoom, one at 4pm and one at 5pm.  Presentations will be made related to the new project. This is an opportunity for public comment regarding the type and extent of environmental analyses to be undertaken.

Wildflowers of Washoe Meadows State Park

The Sierra Club Tahoe Area Group is excited to work with local wildflower expert Lisa Berry to create this wildflower guide to Washoe Meadows State Park. Lisa is a writer and photographer who has been teaching at Lake Tahoe Community College since 2007. In the spring and summer, she leads wildflower hikes for LTCC’s Wilderness Education Department and Community Connect Program. The Sierra Club was originally planning to have Lisa lead a wildflower walk to engage the public with the natural beauty and ecological importance of Washoe Meadows State Park in South Lake Tahoe. While we have not been able to have in-person events or outings this summer, Lisa Berry was able to provide this beautiful guide to the wildflowers of Washoe Meadows. We hope that now and in future years, visitors can use this resource to find and identify wildflowers they see on their walks and hikes in Washoe Meadows State Park. Remember to keep your eyes peeled for flowers and stay on marked trails!

Wildflowers of Washoe Meadows Part I 

Wildflowers of Washoe Meadows Part II

Wildflowers of Washoe Meadows Part III

To see more of Lisa Berry’s work, visit https://wildflowercat.darkroom.tech/

Please be considerate of the natural environment and other visitors when you visit and recreate in Washoe Meadows State Park! Remember your Leave No Trace principles here.