Lake Tahoe is already a world-wide tourist destination, especially during the summer, with its serene beaches, and in the winter, when the ski resorts are filled with new snow. But local environmental advocates want to keep visitors coming to Tahoe throughout the year by facilitating geotourism—tourism focused on sustainability and ecofriendly activities.
Sustainable Tahoe, the crew behind the Tahoe Expo, an immersive showcase of Lake Tahoe, is working toward establishing the region with the National Geographic Sierra Nevada Geotourism project. But it first has to prove how Lake Tahoe will encourage geotourism.
“There are a few steps we need to do before we can become a part of the project,” says Jacquie Chandler, track coordinator for the expo. “The first is identifying assets of the area. And then part of becoming a geotourism destination is creating an annual showcase that draws people to geotourism, so that’s what we’re doing with the expo.”
This is the second year of the Tahoe Expo, held from Sept. 8-9. The expo offers “tracks” for which participants can sign up, focused on different aspects of conservation and wildlife. For instance, the Water Quality Track will take visitors on a research boat with the Tahoe Environmental Research Center, who will then take the group kayaking. Some tracks will be held at a later date, including the Tahoe Beneath the Surface track, in which participants will will go boating an snorkeling to learn about what lives within the lake. The tracks last for most of the day on either Saturday or Sunday, but participants can sign up for one on each day.
“It’s a little bit evolved from last year,” says Chandler. “Last year, it was an open house, and we encouraged people to take public transit. But this year we have specific tracks with guides who will lead people.”
Chandler says that the entire event aims to be as sustainable as possible, which means that participants should use the public transportation provided by the event. Each track has a different meeting point which will transport visitors to events. Depending on the track, visitors may be transported with a shuttle or a water taxi.
“We recognized last year that when 60 people showed up for the bear hike, we needed to do something different,” says Chandler. “People struggled taking transit. They just wanted to show up and be taken on a guided tour, so that’s what we’re doing this year.”
Students from the Sierra Nevada College helped to plan out each track, and Chandler says that Sustainable Tahoe reached out to local businesses. The tracks are headed by researchers, environmental advocates and members of local nonprofits.
“Those people have so much passion about meadows, bears and wildlife, why not put them in the front?” she says. “We’re aiming to make education, recreation and conservation a fun adventure.”
Chandler hopes that geotourism can bring money back to the community, while also emphasizing the importance of conservation.
“This is a historic moment for Tahoe,” Chandler says. “We will be able to sustain our environment and economy. The expo is an incredible demonstration of the future of how we can sustain the area.”