‘Hibernating trash’: Lake Tahoe clean up events net low amount of waste

Keep Tahoe Blue: a League to Save Lake Tahoe First kicks off volunteer season and Clean CA Community Days
Provided/League to Save Lake Tahoe

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — The League to Save Lake Tahoe hosted two cleanups this past weekend, one at Heavenly Village and another at the Spooner Summit sled hill, which kicked off their volunteer season and supported Clean CA Community Days, an 11-day event sponsored by the Governor’s Office.

A combination of volunteers from Tahoe Blue Crews and Take Care Tahoe and community members and visitors helped clean those areas from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, and Chris Joseph, communications director for the League came away from Spooner surprised with the little amount of waste, but he remains concerned about trash being layered into the snow like a lasagna.

As layers of snow melt, more will be revealed, he said.

“Spooner was wonderfully free of tons of garbage, we expected mountains and heaps,” Joseph said, and added that volunteers were not met with their typical “multi-colored plastic carpet” made up of wantonly discarded unwanted sleds. “It was good to see the place just look like a snowy hill for once, it’s clean for now, but not for good. We could surmise that the dumpster and port-a-potties the League funded for the winter season are helping to divert that waste out of the environment.”

Joseph added that other agencies have helped to effect change during the winter season, including the sled corrals promoted by the Tahoe Fund/Take Care Tahoe and supported by the League and UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center.

Keep Tahoe Blue held a cleanup day on Saturday at the Spooner sled hill.
Provided/League to Save Lake Tahoe

“The sled corrals are installed at five different sled hills around the lake,” Joseph said.

The idea is to provide a place to concentrate the garbage in one spot as well as provide an area for used, unwanted, sleds to be left behind for future use.

A partially buried sled corral at Spooner Summit sled hill.
Provided/League to Save Lake Tahoe

Joseph said the corrals have been effective and a crew had come just days before the scheduled clean up to dig out the corrals that had become covered.

Prior to the arrival of the dumpster and portable restroom facilities in 20/21, a single Tahoe Blue Crew removed nearly 2,000 pounds of trash during 30 clean ups hosted throughout the year. The total of weight of trash, 1,981 pounds, was reduced to 126 pounds of trash for the 21/22 winter season with the nonprofit funded waste receptacles being introduced.

The proof is in the pudding, according to Joseph, “having a place for people to properly dispose of their trash works. However, it’s unsustainable to rely on volunteers and funding from a nonprofit to support those effective and much-needed facilities.”

In stark contrast, the Heavenly Village clean up resulted in 18 volunteers collecting 169 pounds of trash during the five hour event.

Keep Tahoe Blue Crews work to clean up the Heavenly Village Shopping Center and surrounding area.
Provided/League to Save Lake Tahoe

The League’s Senior Land Use Policy Analyst, Gavin Feiger, said he picked up beer cans from a snow bank in the morning, and in the early afternoon, the same spot had food wrappers sticking out of the melting snow bank.

What Joseph called “hibernating trash” was found in the tourist core epicenter.

Joseph said, “As the day wore on and the snow started to melt, more and more trash revealed itself — giving a preview of what we can expect to see at Spooner later this season.”

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