Sierra Nevada map quest
National Geographic Society is looking for sustainable spots
Know of a sweet swimming hole near Tahoe or a foothills roadhouse that’s as essential to your Sierra vacation as the final destination?
Then the National Geographic Society wants to hear from you. The venerable nonprofit scientific-research and education institution is taking nominations from the public for a MapGuide of the Sierra Nevada region. The map will highlight the wide array of destinations, including art galleries, restaurants, hiking trails and even cemeteries that make there there.
MapGuides combine elements of “Best of” awards with a concept known as geotourism—defined by National Geographic as “tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place.”
That means Chili’s won’t be included.
But Ikedas might. Not to be confused with Ikea, the rustic restaurant in Auburn serves up hamburgers and pies in place of frozen meatballs. Ikedas is a favorite of Roseville resident Shaina Oppenheim, who raves about its tasty menu items as well as its use of locally grown produce.
“You don’t taste burgers like that anywhere,” Oppenheim said.
Those kinds of distinctive locations are exactly what MapGuide coordinators hope to discover through an open nomination process that can be completed online or by mail between now and fall of next year. Part of a push toward sustainable travel, the MapGuide is an effort to ensure destinations we enjoy today are around for future generations.
The map’s designers also hope visitors will patronize the sustainable businesses and benefit local communities.
Project manager Bradley Cleveland, who is working with the Sierra Business Council and the Sierra Nevada Conservancy in conjunction with National Geographic, recently launched the nomination process in the Yosemite area. Mountain travelers there impact the local gateway communities, such as Mariposa, in ways they might not consider. Residents, of course, notice.
“In Yosemite, they see the traffic jams,” he said.
Cleveland hopes locals will participate by nominating the quirky museum or the little-known music festival in town. Tourists will find it on the MapGuide, get out of their cars and interact with the people who live there.
Historian and American River College professor Chris Padgett pointed out that history buffs on their way to ski Tahoe might be inclined to stop in Truckee if they knew of its Hollywood past. Charlie Chaplin filmed scenes for one of his most famous movies, The Gold Rush, in and around the town.
“The fact that local people are providing input makes [the MapGuide] different,” said Jonathan Tourtellot, director of the National Geographic Society’s Center for Sustainable Destinations. “The geotourism maps are the only maps that we say, ‘We won’t do this unless the community takes part.’ ”
Although advertisers may provide funding so the MapGuides can initially be distributed for free, they will not have control over the content.
No one the News & Review spoke with divulged a really secret spot as a candidate for the guide—perhaps fearing eager tourists will overrun a favorite secluded trail or hang-gliding spot if an “X” marks its location on a map. Could herds of travelers stamp out any trace of what made a waterfall hideout so special in the first place? In Tourtellot’s words, “Don’t fool yourself.”
“There are so many travel writers and bloggers out there that if a place isn’t known, it’s going to be,” he said.
What’s important, he added, is that local people have control over how those places are managed. This can be done through fee implementation, visitor caps and other methods.
“If you do not take control of something attractive, you can guarantee someone else will, and they will have their own interests at heart, not yours,” Tourtellot said.
Longtime Sierra visitor Carmie Brincka would nominate the Georgetown firehouse mural, created by local artist Bob O’Hara. The mural depicts the town’s historic Main Street and the natural treasures, like Loon Lake, that surround the area.
Brincka admires the mural after once-monthly pancake feasts at the local VFW hall and thinks the breakfast deserves a place on the map, too. A long line wouldn’t keep her from coming back.
“Oh, I’d wait,” she said. “It’s worth the wait.”