Walter E. MacKenzie Papers

Identifier: NC1060

Scope and Contents

The Walter E. MacKenzie Papers primarily contains information and material reflecting MacKenzie's participation as a member of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA) from 1970-1974. The material in the collection dates from 1958-1980 and includes records of TRPA as well as its predecessor organizations.

The records include agendas, correspondence, minutes, reports and studies, ordinances, plans, personal notes, printed material concerning Lake Tahoe and subjects pertinent to Lake Tahoe, and newspaper clippings. Both the quantity and quality of these records make it possible to trace the history of coordinated planning/conservation efforts on behalf of the Lake Tahoe Basin, both informal and official. Topics such as utility supplies, housing, subdivisions, casinos, recreation, sewage disposal, transportation, and water and air quality are extensively represented in subject files and official records such as minutes and ordinances. Other issues affecting the quality of life in the region are also well documented, as are economic resources such as the logging and tourist industries.

The collection includes several maps with information difficult to obtain from other sources. Examples include maps showing land capabilities, shore zones, land use planning, sub-regional traffic plans, watersheds, population capacities, and more.

Two other subseries provide an interesting contrast for the perplexing problems faced by planners: Recreation and Sewage (Series 2, Subseries 16 and 17 respectively). The recreation series provides much information on plans and policies for increasing the recreational use of the Tahoe Basin, while the sewage series attempts to deal with the practical problems resulting from that increased population of users. Other series such as those on public utilities and transportation offer still more information about the problems faced by planners in the Lake Tahoe.

The collection also contains material relating to MacKenzie's work with Sierra Pacfic Power Company, the State of Nevada Department of Economic Development, and Johnson Development Company. Some personal information, including documents from his time at the University of Nevada, Reno and the Reno Evening Gazette, are also included as well as a small amount of information on the Patterson family. These documents, all included in Series 3, span the years 1947-1987.


  • 1898-2018


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research; Box 20 with personnel records is restricted. Materials must be used on-site; advance notice suggested. Access to parts of this collection may be restricted under provisions of state or federal law.

Historical Note

Walter Edward MacKenzie was born February 18, 1929, in San Francisco, California to Leona D. Patterson and Walter Fowle MacKenzie. He graduated from San Mateo High School (California) in 1946 and continued his education at San Mateo Junior College before transferring to the University of Nevada, Reno in 1948. Before finishing his degree, MacKenzie was drafted into the U. S. Marine Corps, serving from 1952-1956. Upon discharge, he returned to UNR to finish his Bachelor of Arts in Journalism, graduating in 1957.

While at the university, MacKenzie worked as a freelance photographer as well as a reporter for the Sagebrush, UNR's student newspaper and editor of UNR's yearbook, Artemesia. After graduating, he continued his work in journalism working as a freelance writer, the northern Nevada correspondent for Newsweek Magazine, and as a staff reporter and political analyst for the Reno Evening Gazette. During his time with the Reno Evening Gazette, he won an award for excellence in journalism for his reporting regarding a missing inventor who was found in Nevada.

MacKenzie left the Reno Evening Gazette in 1965 to work as the Public Information Representative for Sierra Pacific Power Company, a position in which he served until 1979. In March 1980, he began his appointment as the Director of the State of Nevada Department of Economic Development, a post he occupied until December 1982. Upon leaving the state, he began working as the Vice President for Marketing for the Johnson Development Company in Fernley, Nevada.

Over the years MacKenzie was also involved with various groups including the Reno Rodeo Association, the Reno Mayor's Advisory Committee, the Nevada Conservation Forum, the Nevada Symphonic Association, the Nevada District Export Council, the National Association of State Development Agencies, and the Tahoe Regional Planning Commission, and the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.

Created in 1969, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA) is the legal governing body for the Lake Tahoe Basin in California and Nevada. Its origins date from the mid-1950s, when the Tahoe region began to experience rapid growth due to the establishment of year-round casinos and the growth of the region's skiing industry. Residents realized that there was a need for a regional plan; one of their first efforts toward that goal was the Tahoe Improvement and Conservation Association (TICA), established in 1956 by west shore homeowners. From TICA came the Lake Tahoe Area Council in 1958, which was instrumental in instigating basin-wide air and water pollution studies, stronger coordination between government entities, and concerns for special planning features. Walter E. MacKenzie was a charter member from Nevada from 1970-1974.

Other similar and sometimes overlapping groups included the Nevada-California Lake Tahoe Association, initiated in 1957 by the Max C. Fleischmann Foundation, and the Lake Tahoe Area Council in 1958, sponsored by the Nevada-California Lake Tahoe Association. The latter instituted many studies on lake boating uses, public parks, a hotel-motel economy survey, and the phenomenal growth of the lake area and produced a Tahoe area base map. All of these groups were unofficial with no governing authority.

The first official planning group originated in early 1958 when the Bi-County Planning Commission of California and the Tri-County Planning Commission of Nevada were formed. Their primary purpose was to seek solutions to common planning problems of the region. Each county selected a delegate who in turn coordinated specific planning problems of the individual county with the regional aspects. Almost immediately, the Bi-Tri Commissions recommended the formation of a new agency, the Tahoe Regional Planning Commission (TRPC) and its working arm, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.

Membership in the TRPC is composed of two appointees from each of the three Nevada counties and three from each of the two California counties. One of each counties' representatives is a county commissioner or supervisor whose district is located in the lake basin; the other appointee is a member of the planning commission of their respective county and also a resident of the Tahoe Basin. The Commission is assisted by the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC), composed of the professional planning directors of each county and the City of South Lake Tahoe.

Since its inception, the TRPC has dealt with a variety of problems: parkways, roads, sewage, water, zoning rules and procedures, fills, breakwaters, subdivisions, and gaming. In its early years, the TRPC sponsored extensive studies and analysis on critical subjects such as a population projection for the area.

At a joint session of the TRPC and the Lake Tahoe Area Council in December 1964, the two bodies adopted a suggestion to form a Joint Study Committee regarding the feasibility of a regional approach to meet the basin-wide needs of Lake Tahoe. Their final recommendations were adopted by the California legislature in 1967 and by Nevada in 1968. This compact authorizes the Nevada Tahoe Regional Planning Agency and the California Tahoe Regional Planning Agency to make all planning decisions for the Tahoe Basin.

MacKenzie died in Nevada on August 16, 2018.


31 Linear Feet (32 boxes; 3 OS folders)

Language of Materials



Walter Edward MacKenzie (1929-2018) was active in marketing and advertising for various companies in the Reno, Nevada and Lake Tahoe regions. The collection consists of records of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA) and related agencies and advisory bodies, including minutes, agendas, correspondence, reports, studies, ordinances, subject files, and printed material concerning Lake Tahoe. Other records include those from his time with the Sierra Pacific Power Company, the State of Nevada Department of Economic Development, and Johnson Development Company of Fernley, Nevada. Additional materials on the Patterson Family are also present.


Arranged in the following series: 1) TRPA Administration; 2) TRPA Reports, Publications, Subject Files; 3) Career and Personal Papers

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Walter E. MacKenzie in 1974. Additional materials donated by the Estate of Walter MacKenzie in July 2019.


Guide to the Papers of Walter E. MacKenzie
Susan Searcy
December 1987
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Nevada, Reno. Special Collections Department Repository

Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center
1664 N. Virginia St.
Reno Nevada 89557-0322 USA
775-682-5724 (Fax)