Mike Herron wanted to start a community activism group that would prove its worth through deeds rather than words.
So on May 25, the South Lake Tahoe native and his friend, Katie Doner, used social media to unite friends and create the South Lake Tahoe Community Action Team. Their mission: to develop a stewardship ethos that would incite locals to tackle the city’s environmental issues.
“We wanted a way to assemble as a group … We want to use our right to assemble to assemble community clean-up days,” Herron said.
The group holds weekly meetings Tuesday at 6 p.m. in the Bijou community center. It’s still small — Herron said five people attended the first meeting — but the organizers hope to grow those numbers through Facebook and community flyers.
One of the events that sparked the formation of the action team was the worldwide March Against Monsanto, a protest against the genetically modified food the company produces. That political-bent first inspired Herron to name the group Occupy South Lake Tahoe, but he veered away from the “stigma” the loaded title provoked.
“It wasn’t about that whole movement. It was about our community as a whole,” he said.
The group plans to hold community cleanups around the Bijou Community Park, throughout the network of South Shore bike trails and in the Fallen Leaf Lake area.
The fuels reduction project at Fallen Leaf inspired Herron to try and clean up the debris. He’d grown up camping around the small lake, and would dive in its clear waters picking up fishing lines and other trash.
“When I saw the cutting at Fallen Leaf, I knew something had to be done,” Herron said. “I know the (fuels reduction) really needs to be done, but I’ve worked on hand crews before and we really took care to leave as little of a footprint behind as possible.”
The U.S. Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit receives a wide spectrum of comments regarding the fuels reduction program, LTBMU spokeswoman Cheva Heck said. Some people want to see more work to remove the flammable materials, while others bemoan what the practice does aesthetically to the forest.
“There are logical arguments, but this is an emotion and aesthetic issue. And I don’t say that too belittle it,” Heck said.
The LTBMU is collaborating with the Fallen Leaf Lake Homeowners Association to post signage regarding the mandatory boat decontamination at the lake’s marina, (an exception to basin-wide protocol that doesn’t require all vessels to be rid of potential invasive species prior to launch). The Forest Service frequently works with community groups such as the homeowners association when it comes to managing public lands, Heck said.
As for the young action team, Herron hopes to see its reach grow one individual at a time.
“Glad I had a trash bag on my hike at Fallen Leaf Yesterday. I ended up filling it with beer bottles and cans that were at the Baldwin Chimney …. grrrrr ... Focus that anger into positive energy and clean it up myself,” the group posted on the Facebook page.
“We wanted a way to assemble as a group … We want to use our right to assemble to assemble community clean-up days.”
Community Action Team organizer