A portion of trail between Incline Village and Sand Harbor won’t officially open until summer 2019, but some people can’t resist trying it out.
A portion of trail between Incline Village and Sand Harbor won’t officially open until summer 2019, but some people can’t resist trying it out.

The ultimate idea is to ring all of Lake Tahoe with high-quality trails for both folks on bicycles and those who just want to put one foot in front of the other.

Now, along a stretch of Lake Tahoe’s north shore, that vision is taking an important step forward. Work on a $38 million project to build a multiple-use trail along a three-mile-long stretch of shoreline between Incline Village and Sand Harbor State Park is now winding down. While final touches won’t be finished, and the Incline to Sand Harbor trail won’t officially be opened until early the summer of 2019, construction crews are now completing the bulk of a job that started in 2016.

“There have been some delays, but this project has gone real well,” said Carl Hasty, executive director of the Tahoe Transportation District. “We will be down to wrap-up type of work in the spring.”

While the trail is still officially considered a construction zone and people are told to stay away until after its official opening, some can’t resist the urge to explore what will soon be an important recreational feature for the Lake Tahoe Basin. Among them are Incline Village residents Michael and Nathalie Sacci, who strolled along a portion of the trail one recent sunny afternoon with their dogs and 10-month-old daughter Sofia. Once the trail is open, they plan to break out their bikes and enjoy it on a regular basis.

“I’m so stoked about it,” Michael Sacci said. “It’s been something that’s been talked about for years and years. It’s something I’ve looked forward to for a long time. It’s going to be huge for our family.”

The project includes a paved, 10-foot-wide path with five bridges, a trailhead parking lot, a fiberoptic conduit and, as with every major road project in the Tahoe Basin, significant water quality and stormwater drainage improvements to protect the lake from pollution.

The project, combined with future work, is also meant to help address a serious safety concern posed by hundreds of cars that park along Highway 28 to access the area, putting pedestrians at risk.

“First and foremost, it is a major safety project,” Hasty said. “It’s been a big safety concern for a long time now. … This provides an alternative for people using their cars to get where they want to go.”

It also serves as a demonstration project for ambitious plans to someday have bicycle-pedestrian paths encircling all 72 miles of Tahoe’s shoreline. Another demonstration project, a 2.3 mile section of trail at Tahoe’s south shore between Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course and Round Hill Pines, was finished in 2015. Many more miles of trails have been built over the years on Tahoe’s California side.

“This is a link to the goal of getting a Class 1 bike trail all the way around Lake Tahoe,” Hasty said. “This helps to get that Nevada state line to Stateline portion complete.”

Even as construction nears completion for the Incline-to-Sand Harbor trail, the Tahoe Transportation District is designing another project to extend the trail another eight miles from Sand Harbor to Spooner Summit, with new parking lots planned.

“It’s incremental progress, but it is steady progress,” Hasty said. “This is important. It’s definitely an important part of Tahoe’s economy and its transportation network.”

Does Incline Village’s Michael Sacci think completion of a bike trail network around the lake is realistic? He’s not sure but sees room for optimism.

“I didn’t think this was realistic, but they made it happen,” Sacci said.

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