Life sprouting from charred mountainside of Stewardship Day |

Life sprouting from charred mountainside of Stewardship Day

Gregory Crofton, Tahoe Daily Tribune

Clouds of ashen dirt swirled around the 275 people who volunteered Saturday to help reforest erosion-prone land burned in a wildfire last summer. Walking and working the steep land sent clouds of dust into the air.

“I think I have dirt in every orifice,” said Wendy Copple, a volunteer from South Shore.

Residents, members of community groups and staff from environmental agencies joined forces to spread mulch, seed and plant Jeffrey pines in a key drainage area burned in the 673-acre Gondola fire. It was sparked by a cigarette suspected of being tossed from the Heavenly Ski Resort Gondola on July 3, 2002.

This was the second year the League to Save Lake Tahoe focused its annual Forest Stewardship Day on restoration of the area. Swaths of bright green vegetation rooted amid charred trees were evidence of the work from Stewardship Day 2002.

Dan Sussman, of the League, organized the event. He said the abundance of wildlife he’s seen in the area in recent weeks — chipmunks and woodpeckers in particular — is also proof of recovery.

“It’s work, but it’s fun,” said Sussman of the event which is designed to be educational. “People like getting out in the woods. And they learn about how watersheds and erosion control work.”

Copple brought eight girls to volunteer for the stewardship day. She formed a service club for girls about six years ago called Earth Angels. She helped Samantha Barns, 13, get the water needed to plant a Jeffrey pine.

“It’s amazing once we opened the doors for the girls to do volunteer work how much they love it,” Copple said.

“It’s fun,” Samantha said. “A lot of my friends are in it and we make fun out of all the work we have to do. At the end, we always go out and get treats and stuff.”

Caylen Vetter, 16, of the group home Tahoe Turning Point, and five of his friends were working just up the hill from the Earth Angels. They said they volunteered to help protect the lake.

“We want to keep the lake clear,” Caylen said. “And make (the area) prettier. Dead trees don’t look great. We’re out here giving it our best and gettin’ dirty.”

Forest Stewardship Day also included work to obliterate an old road and the chipping and chopping of wood in the forest that created a wildfire risk.

–Gregory Crofton can be reached at or at (530) 542-8045.

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