Coastal Cleanup Day is Saturday | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Coastal Cleanup Day is Saturday

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Jim Grant / Tahoe Daily Tribune file/ Danielle Ledesma, front, and her mother, Carol, fill trash bags with cigarette butts, broken glass, Band-Aids, bottle caps, discarded paper and a few combs as they scour El Dorado Beach at Coastal Cleanup Day in 2004.

Saturday will mark the 21st anniversary of California Coastal Cleanup Day.

While 47 California counties took part last year, with close to 51,000 total volunteers, the Coastal Commission is still hoping to achieve participation by all 58 counties this year. The cleanup is part of a much larger national and international effort – International Coastal Cleanup – which focuses on educating people about the harmful effects of careless dumping and environmental pollution on coastal beaches, as well as on lakes, streams and other inland waterways.

The California cleanup began with its primary focus on coastal areas, with heavily polluted urban beaches the main target. Over the years, it has spread inland, with the growing realization that man-made debris, mostly generated on land, finds its way into all types of waterways. Because Tahoe is such an environmentally sensitive area heavily impacted by visitors during the summer months, this end-of-summer cleanup is especially important.

The Clean Tahoe Program is once again the Coastal Cleanup Coordinator here at the lake. Last year almost 80 Coastal Cleanup volunteers covered over 17 miles of beaches and waterways, and collected nearly 100 pounds of recyclables and just over 1,500 pounds of trash, tracking the debris on data forms provided by the Coastal Commission. As in past years, cigarette butts led the list, followed by plastic pieces, and then glass. And another varied array of unexpected items showed up too, including a wheel from a steam engine train buried in the sand, a manhole cover, a live crawfish trapped in a bottle and a set of fake nails. Items found on past cleanups include a men’s restroom sign and a silver-beaded watch found underwater, but still working.

The cleanup is a great educational experience for adults and children alike, as participants learn first-hand how many different types of debris find their way to the rivers and lakeshore from inland sources. Paper, plastic, cigarette butts, oil and gas on city streets are all washed by rain and snow into storm drains and eventually into the lake or nearby streams. Amazingly, errant golf balls from the Lake Tahoe Country Club continue to find their way down the Truckee River into Lake Tahoe. Not only is this avoidable man-made pollution an eyesore, it’s extremely harmful to aquatic wildlife. Liquids can poison their environment. Solids can be mistaken as food and eaten, or create entanglements that trap and eventually kill them.

Tahoe residents again have the opportunity to make a positive difference by taking part in California Coastal Cleanup Day on Saturday. The cleanup begins at 9 a.m. and lasts until noon. It’s a small amount of time to give to be part of a worldwide environmental campaign.

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Some of the areas cleaned last year by volunteer groups included Regan Beach, El Dorado Beach, the Truckee River Marsh at Cove East, Sawmill Pond, Blackwood Meadows and the Truckee River at Highway 50. Dive teams removed underwater debris from the Lake Tahoe shoreline stretching from Tahoe Keys to the Estates.