Volunteers clean up 1,676 lbs of trash on Tahoe beaches after Fourth of July
Plastic bottles, discarded chairs, lone flip flops, food wrappers and cigarette butts — these are the type of items that volunteers picked up from 5.6 miles of Lake Tahoe beaches on July 5 following the busy holiday weekend. The final tally was 1,676 pounds of litter.
More than 320 volunteers joined the League to Save Lake Tahoe for the annual Keep Tahoe Red, White and Blue cleanups that look place around the lake at Commons Beach, Kings Beach, Kiva Beach, Nevada Beach and Regan Beach.
“Over the weekend, Lake Tahoe hit its high water mark for the first time in years, leaving many of Tahoe’s beaches partly or fully underwater,” said Marilee Movius, the League’s community engagement manager. “With July Fourth celebrations crowded onto the remaining patches of dry ground, our volunteers collected litter that could have been harmful to wildlife and Lake Tahoe’s water quality.”
Trash-ridden beaches are a yearly consequence of a jam-packed holiday weekend in Lake Tahoe.
“We hope that someday we’ll discover that every Tahoe beachgoer has packed out their litter, but we’re not there yet,” said Jesse Patterson, the League’s deputy director. “Until then, we’re heartened to see so many community members pitch in to make a difference in protecting Tahoe’s shoreline.”
At Nevada Beach on the South Shore, Round Hill resident Charna Silver picked up trash for her second year as a volunteer.
“It’s our community service. We have this beautiful place that we call home, and we have to keep it beautiful,” said Silver.
Farther down the beach, James Reeves used a metal detector to search the shoreline. He drove up from Carson City and started combing the beach at 4 a.m.
“I find all the dangerous stuff,” said Reeves, reaching into his bag and holding up a handful of different-sized metal tent stakes. “Every now and then you get a ring.”
This year the top trash items were cigarette butts (5,242) and plastic pieces (6,357), according to the League, which asks volunteers to fill out an itemized sheet as they collect trash. Volunteers also picked up over 1,100 food wrappers.
For the first time this year the League will be shipping the cigarette butts and pieces of hard plastic to TerraCycle to be repurposed in the U.S. into new products.
Last year, 1,596 pounds of trash were collected on July 5.
Despite the best efforts of staff at the beaches in Lake Tahoe, trash remains an issue after busy weekends in the summer.
“We hand out trash bags all day long to everybody that comes in. Thankfully a lot of bags actually ended up near the trash bins,” said Bob Becker, who works at Nevada Beach for the U.S. Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit. “We’re making improvements, but we still need this cleanup.”
On the Fourth of July, the rangers and sheriff’s department are focused on keeping people safe and managing traffic flow for the crowds that come to watch fireworks.
“People were in line at 10:30 the night before. When I got here yesterday at 6 a.m. the line was all the way up Elks Point Road and twisted and turned around onto Highway 50,” said Becker on July 5. “The parking lot was full by 8:20 a.m. and Douglas County Sheriff had Elks Point Road closed by about 9 o’clock.”
“It really takes a community to pull this whole thing off,” added Becker.