Save the lake

Labor Day weekend of geotourism events at Lake Tahoe

Jacquie Chandler and John Hara of Sustainable Tahoe are helping to put on the Tahoe Expo on Aug. 30 and 31.

Jacquie Chandler and John Hara of Sustainable Tahoe are helping to put on the Tahoe Expo on Aug. 30 and 31.

Photo/Sage Leehey

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When you think about Lake Tahoe, what do you think of? Skiing, gaming, partying, boating and beach days? And how do you get there and get around the lake? Drive? This is exactly what nonprofit organization Sustainable Tahoe is trying to change with Tahoe Expo on Aug. 30 and 31.

Executive director Jacquie Chandler wants to change the way people think about the lake. She thinks the Tahoe Expo can help do this by demonstrating what a geotourism-based economy could look like in the region for one day a year. This is the third year the organization has hosted this event.

“It’s one day until it’s every day,” Chandler said. “[Geotourism is] visitation that does no harm. It’s stewardship of the geography, the art, the culture, the heritage, the environment and the local well-being.”

She explained that the current “visitor’s menu” for Lake Tahoe—which includes the activities listed above—is too limited. She wants to expand it into a geotourism economy that benefits every party involved, including visitors, business owners and the environment.

“If you had to live off the water in your bathroom sink, would you be careful what you put on the edge of your sink?” Chandler said. “Well, that’s Tahoe. We’re not careful about what we put on the edge of the mountains.”

The Expo will have about 20 “geotracks”—fun and meaningful, low-carbon footprint activities that connect to Lake Tahoe. They are located throughout the region on both days and include activities like yoga on standup paddleboards, a tour to learn about our feathered friends at Spooner Lake, and an electric bicycle test drive and tour to monitor storm drain water.

These activities are located near bus stops so participants can help reduce their carbon footprint. Biking, hiking and water transit are options, too.

“Transit around the lake right now is killing the lake, but if we start looking at it a little more creatively, then the journey can be the reward as well,” said co-founder and president of the organization’s board John Hara. “If you look at other places, transit is part of the attraction. Clean, green transit.”

What both Hara and Chandler are most excited for, though, is at the event’s center stage at Sand Harbor from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.: a Washoe laka’lelup. This will be a gathering of Washoe people with various cultural activities, like making moccasins, rabbit blankets and arrowheads, and ceremonies to honor the water throughout the day. The Washoe have not done this kind of ceremony at Sand Harbor since 1840. This event will help the Washoe, too, because they’re racing against the clock to teach their ceremonies, arts and crafts and culture to the younger generations.

“A long time ago, and even today, our coming together as a people is part of who we are as a distinct people and as a community of people with related identities,” said Washoe Tribe language teacher Herman Fillmore. “Many times we come together for big ’gatherings,’ but often these are done when it is time—when things are meant to be—not as an event.”

The Washoe are the original guardians of the lake because the area is their homeland. Chandler believes this is “a rare opportunity for the past to serve the future” because we need their guidance to help preserve the lake.

There will also be a variety of performances on the Shakespeare stage at Sand Harbor starting at 3 p.m. on Aug. 30. There will be plays and dance and musical performances that each tie into the performer’s love for the water.