Busloads of visitors swarm South Lake Tahoe park, witnesses say crowd came from Bay Area

Neighbors said the group showed no regard for the safety of South Lake residents. One commented this an ongoing issue, "almost a Fourth of July weekend, every single day."

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Saturday, August 1, 2020
Witnesses say Bay Area visitors swarmed South Lake Tahoe park
South Lake Tahoe residents said three busloads of people swarmed Bijou Community Park in South Lake Tahoe on Sunday.

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. (KGO) -- Residents said three busloads of people swarmed Bijou Community Park in South Lake Tahoe on Sunday.

Neighbors said the group showed no regard for the safety of South Lake residents. The crowds were caught on-camera by local Nicholas Parr.

Parr and a friend were wrapping up their game of disc golf, when they noticed a crowd in the distance.

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"From my vantage point, it only seemed about maybe 40 or 50 people. Still a lot," Parr told ABC7 News. "But as we got closer, and after the video, I saw three full buses. I would estimate about 180 people."

Parr said it became obvious the group wasn't familiar with the area. "They didn't really know what to do, and they started spreading out through the whole course. That's the most amount of people I'd ever seen in one gathering, even before COVID."

Separately, and standing much closer, was resident Alana Mozley. She shared video of a sea of kids, with no social distancing in sight.

"There was too many of them not wearing masks," she said. "Or taking the proper precautions to safely do whatever they were doing."

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However, Parr said he spoke with a couple group members and learned they were attending a church event.

"As I know there's no large churches around, I asked them where they were from. The girls talked for a second and responded they were from Redwood City," Parr said.

So, ABC7 News reached out.

Redwood City's Communication Manager said it's conducting additional, targeted outreach to help slow the spread of COVID-19. The effort includes notifying places of worship.

In a statement to ABC7 News, the city said in-part, "We continue to urge the community to remain vigilant against this deadly virus by following all social distancing and health safety precautions."

ABC7 News is working to independently confirm where the group came from, and why they were in South Lake.

"We don't really care what kind of an event It was. It was irresponsible," South Lake Tahoe Communications Director, Chris Fiore said. "We would have taken action, had we known."

Fiore said the city was only made aware of the crowds once video was posted to social media.

He explained, during a global pandemic, everyone plays a part- including acting responsibly and also reporting violations.

"If the people who shot the video to post on social media would have taken the time to call our police non-emergency line and say, 'Hey, there are a couple hundred people standing shoulder-to-shoulder, none of them are wearing masks.' We would have been able to address that situation immediately," Fiore added. "So it's going to take all of us."

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Fiore continued, "At the end of the day, we're a small town with a small staff doing the best we can to manage. We are not omnipotent."

Parr described the crowds he's seen across South Lake Tahoe recently. He told ABC7 News, "Just today, I tried to go disc golfing in North Lake and traffic was one of the worst I've ever seen."

He continued, "There were still hundreds of people on the beaches. Now, they weren't all in one group like this event last week, but it's not all that much different with beaches packed and streets packed."

"There's just no structure for keeping us safe," Mozley added. "And I know that we need tourism."

She continued, "It is almost a Fourth of July weekend, every single day. Our beaches are completely packed. There's cars lining the entire highway to get to beaches because other counties are closed. However, Tahoe is open for business."

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"My hope for people from the Bay Area, or anyone traveling to Lake Tahoe, keep it to a small group," Mozley said. "Please respect the locals and our space and do it safely.

Fiore explained the City of South Lake Tahoe recently launched a volunteer ambassador campaign.

The campaign allows ambassadors to go out into the community, to hand out masks and educate locals and visitors alike about the importance of staying safe, to keep Tahoe open.

"For the most part, it's worked here, but not everybody's following the rules," he said. "And we saw that."

To view the entire video posted to Parr's public Instagram account, click here.

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