‘Inspiring day’: Tahoe groups, volunteers focus on restoration, recreation access

Laney Griffo
Volunteers helped rebuild stairs that access the beach. (Laney Griffo
Tahoe Daily Tribune)

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Volunteers proudly gathered this week on Lake Tahoe’s South Shore to pick up litter, repair heavily used trails and also decommission ones that shouldn’t exist.

The League to Save Lake Tahoe partnered with the U.S. Forest Service and Tahoe Heritage Foundation to host its 24th year of the Tahoe Forest Stewardship Days.

Even though COVID limited the number of who could attend, about 40 volunteers happily gathered Wednesday, June 16, at Tallac Historic Site.

“It was exciting to partner with the Forest Service to kick off Tahoe Forest Stewardship Days,” said Marilee Movius, community engagement manager for Keep Tahoe Blue.

Volunteers decommission social trails by covering them with pine cones and pine needles. (Laney Griffo
Tahoe Daily Tribune)

The volunteers were split into three groups; trash clean-up, stair repair and decommissioning social trails.

Keep Tahoe Blue Chief Strategy Officer Jesse Patterson said this was the perfect project because it focused both on environmental restoration and recreation access, plus it was in a beautiful location.

The event was funded through a grant from the U.S. Forest Service and was sponsored by Ernie’s Coffee Shop which provided lunch for the volunteers.

The Pope-Baldwin Estates at the Tallac Historic Site are a popular location for visitors to see and the shoreline is frequented by locals and visitors alike. However, an increase of visitors, due to the pandemic has caused several issues.

This event will be the first of five volunteer days this summer. (Laney Griffo
Tahoe Daily Tribune)

Steep stairs are available along the shoreline for people to access the beach. With the age of the stairs, which are about 30 years old, and the increase in visitation, they have become increasingly difficult and, at times, dangerous to use.

Some years, the water level rises to the bottom step and has worn away the sand.

“Whether you’re an aging person or just an adult bringing a paddle board down, you can fall so easily,” said Jude Markward, THF director of operations. She added that it’s difficult for children to navigate and she’s even seen dogs struggle.

THF is raising money for near stairs and ADA access down to the beach, but in the meantime, volunteers were working to pack more sand down between each of the steps so they aren’t as steep.

To bypass the stairs, people have created social trails which are formed by people walking through the forest to get to the beach.

The event had nearly 40 volunteers. (Laney Griffo
Tahoe Daily Tribune)

Markward said they’ve found about 20 new social trails, so in addition to fixing the stairs, volunteers worked to decommission those new trails.

“The soil will get compact when people are walking through which then causes more erosion because the water doesn’t soak in, it just flows right out to the lake,” said Bill Renn, USFS Lake Tahoe Basin Mangement Unit

He went on to add that leading up to the event, the California Conservancy went out and gathered pinecones, sticks and pine needles.

At the Tahoe Forest Stewardship Days, volunteers broke up the dirt, then covered the path with the cones, sticks and needles. Renn said the goal was to make the path not look so obvious and to make it uncomfortable to try and walk on.

Wednesday’s event was a huge success by all accounts. Movius said they had volunteers of all ages out and they even had people who were on the way to the beach stop by the booth and sign up for a future event.

The stairs to the beach have been dangerous due to age and overuse. (Laney Griffo
Tahoe Daily Tribune)

“People were so excited to be out and seeing other people,” Patterson added. “It was an inspiring day.”

The stewardship days started as a big volunteer day, once a year every fall. They added a spring event to show volunteers that restoration is on-going, not a one-time project.

However, this year, in addition to the big fall clean-up, they will be hosting volunteer days throughout the summer. Wednesday’s event was the first of five that will be happening once a month until October.

“They’re popular and there’s such a need for help from land managers,” Patterson said.

To keep up-to-date on future volunteer days, visit

The California Conservancy helped prep for the event. (Laney Griffo
Tahoe Daily Tribune)

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around the Lake Tahoe Basin and beyond make the Tahoe Tribune's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.