Although discovered by John C. Fremont in 1844, the area of Lake Tahoe was slow to develop mainly due to its harsh winters and alpine location. However, as more people came west due to the Gold Rush, Lake Tahoe slowly began to develop into a tourist destination, especially when silver was found nearby in Virginia City, CA. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, vacation homes started cropping up all over the basin, followed by ski resorts in the 1950s. But Tahoe didn’t really take off as a top ski destination and place to live until after hosting the Winter Olympics in 1960 at Squaw Valley.
It’s debated whether the cost of hosting the Olympics outweighs the benefits, but for Tahoe in the 1960s it meant a newly booming economy. Like today, places that host the Olympics are faced with increased demands on their transit, public services, housing needs and more. For Lake Tahoe in the 1960s, that meant the needed completion of the four-lane highway I-80, which made it easier for winter game enthusiasts to visit. With the completion of 1-80 and new surrounding infrastructure, developing the lake became more economically feasible and profitable.
In order to ensure that Tahoe developed in a sustainable way and that the lake was protected from the negative impacts generated from development, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA) was created in 1968. Today, the TRPA still works to protect the lake from uncontrolled development, along with countless non-profits and environmental agencies such as the League to Save Lake Tahoe and Clean Tahoe Program in the area. Clashing interests between environmentalists and developers doesn’t always make for easy compromises.
Are there any other cities you know of that have boomed as a result of the Olympic games? What are some of the biggest problems associated with such rapid development from a booming economy?
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