When Jeff Poulin moved to South Shore a year ago he was distressed to see litter along the roads. He started picking it up, first on foot, then on a bike with a trailer.
Through spring, summer and fall, Poulin would travel 10 to 20 miles per day and pick up as much as 20 bags of trash with each outing.
At the third annual Lake Spirit Awards ceremony Wednesday, Poulin was one of eight people recognized for a strong commitment to protecting and restoring Lake Tahoe.
“He began picking up litter, something so simple,” Joanne Marchetta, executive director of Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, said of Poulin’s efforts. “This humble, unsung hero started quietly picking up trash and making a difference.”
Poulin is happy to do what he can.
“I’ve always felt Tahoe was one of the most beautiful places in the world. It seemed it merited that behavior of walking along the road and picking up the litter, so I was happy to do it,” he said.
Tom Carter, a 61-year-old stand-up paddle boarder who lives on the North Shore, was recognized for pulling tires out of the lake.
Carter was paddling on the lake one morning when a tire on the bottom caught his eye. He dove in, pulled the tire out and has made it his mission to retrieve as many as he can.
Over two summers, Carter removed more than 40 tires. Traveling on his paddleboard, he dives as deep as 30 feet to pull the tires out of the sand with nothing more than a deep breath of air.
Kathy Strain, a teacher at Lake Tahoe Community College, was recognized for her efforts to educate people about environmental issues.
“Whether teaching college students about our fragile watershed or organizing nature outings for her daughter’s elementary class, she tirelessly educates the community about environmental issues,” Marchetta said.
Cindy Gustafson, of the Tahoe City Public Utility District, was recognized for her years-long commitment to building better bike trails and sidewalks and improving recreational amenities in and around Tahoe City.
There were so many outstanding nominees for this year’s Lake Spirit Awards that judges included four honorable mentions, Marchetta said at Wednesday’s ceremony. Others recognized were:
• Tom Wendell, a South Shore resident, was recognized posthumously for his efforts to encourage sustainability and improve non-motorized recreational opportunities in the area.
• Missy Mohler, director of Sierra Watershed Education Partnerships, was recognized for her work in Truckee-Tahoe School District and educational programs such as Wonders of the Watershed, Trout in the Classroom, Winter Discovery and the Trashion Fashion Shows, where students make designer-quality clothing using recycled materials.
• Dan Shaw of California State Parks, was recognized for his efforts battling Eurasian watermilfoil in Emerald Bay, where 95 percent of the infestation was eradicated and agencies gained knowledge to help in other efforts to combat invasive aquatic plants.
• Dylan Eichenberg of Tahoe City was recognized for his volunteer efforts cleaning up graffiti on lakeshore rocks, picking up trash along beaches and pulling invasive aquatic plants.
“They represent the essence of what it takes for a community to become true stewards of our incredibly fragile ecosystem,” Marchetta said in a formal statement about this year’s award recipients.