After the now infamous photos and videos of trash on Lake Tahoe beaches on the 5th of July, volunteers came together to clean up the problem.
In a remarkable display of community effort, 402 volunteers dedicated three hours on the morning of July 5th, 2023, to clean up a staggering 8,559 pounds of litter left behind from Fourth of July celebrations at Lake Tahoe.
Cigarette butts, plastic food wrappers, beach toys, and even barbecues were diligently collected from six popular beach sites, as well as adjacent parking lots and streets across the Tahoe Basin. In better news, several sites showcased minimal litter accumulation, demonstrating the positive impact of trash cans, restrooms, and proactive management in preventing pollution.
Since 2014, the League to Save Lake Tahoe has organized the annual “Keep Tahoe Red, White & Blue” Beach Cleanup on July 5th. Despite the presence of clean beaches, this year’s cleanup unfortunately witnessed an all-time high in the amount of trash removed. The timing of the event coincided with the 10th anniversary of Tahoe’s largest litter cleanup initiative.
Dr. Darcie Goodman Collins, CEO of the League to Save Lake Tahoe, remarked on the effort, stating, “This morning, one of Tahoe’s beaches looked like a landfill. Thanks to passionate volunteers and community partners, it started to look like Tahoe again after some hard work. To Keep Tahoe Blue, everyone who enjoys this place must act more like our volunteers and partners by doing their part. It starts with leaving nothing behind and picking up any trash you come across. Unless each of us shares the responsibility for protecting this place, it could be ruined.”
Among the six cleanup sites, Zephyr Shoals, an unmanaged stretch of beach on Tahoe’s east shore, was the most heavily impacted. Despite regular cleanups conducted by the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s “Tahoe Blue Crew” volunteer program, a staggering 6,279 pounds of litter, equivalent to a ¾-ton pickup truck, was scattered across the narrow strip of sand and piled between bushes and trees in the nearby forest. The swift movement of trash downhill towards Lake Tahoe’s pristine waters poses a significant threat to wildlife and the local ecosystem.
Here is the sad aftermath of Lake Tahoe’s Fourth of July celebration. (via @cleanupthelake/IG)? original sound – Active NorCal
Recognizing the critical importance of addressing litter concerns, fourteen businesses, organizations, and local governments joined forces with the League to support this extensive cleanup event. The partnership reflects the concept of shared stewardship, where individuals and public-private groups unite to preserve Lake Tahoe’s natural beauty.
Tom Fortune, VP and COO of Heavenly and the Tahoe Region at Vail Resorts, expressed their commitment to the cause, stating, “Heavenly, Kirkwood, and Northstar are proud to partner with the League to Save Lake Tahoe through our EpicPromise program for their July 5th beach cleanup. It is crucial that we all work together as good stewards of the environment – something we deeply value as a company and as members of the Tahoe community. We are grateful to the League for their work and in organizing this annual event that all of our teams look forward to.”
The cleanup effort featured innovative technologies tailored to each location. The BEBOT, an electric beach-cleaning robot capable of sifting sand to remove small plastic fragments and other debris, made its debut at Lake Tahoe last year in collaboration with ECO-CLEAN Solutions. Additionally, a mobile watercraft cleaning station was introduced on July 5th, enabling paddlers to remove ecologically harmful invasive species from kayaks or paddleboards before entering the water. The station, funded by the League and Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, will be deployed at multiple locations throughout the summer. Meanwhile, nonprofit Clean Up The Lake’s divers undertook the crucial task of removing trash from beneath the water’s surface at Zephyr Shoals as part of their ongoing underwater cleanup mission.
The cleanup event saw the active participation of both residents and visitors, each motivated by their personal connection to the cherished Lake Tahoe and the desire to preserve it for future generations.
John Ruiz, a South Lake Tahoe resident who has volunteered with Keep Tahoe Blue for seven years, shared his sentiment, saying, “I’ve lived here for 36 years and volunteered with Keep Tahoe Blue every July 5th for the past seven years. I love it here and hate to see it get trashed, so I donate my time to keep it clean. I wish everyone would join me to preserve Tahoe for all the years to come.”
The massive cleanup effort serves as a rallying cry for increased stewardship and highlights the collective responsibility to protect Lake Tahoe’s pristine environment.