Party Rock cleanup under way
August 15, 2009
Looking out from a cluster of granite boulders near the apex of Saddle Drive known locally as Party Rock, there’s nothing but nature’s splendor spread out before you: Lake Tahoe backed by the mountains and blue sky.
Looking down, there’s nothing but reminders of people’s presence in the forest: glass shards from broken beer bottles form a mosaic along some sections of the ground, gang graffiti is sprayed across boulders that have been repainted to a more natural color more than once, and a burnt spoon, like those typically associated with hard drug users, sits abandoned at the base of a rock.
The area resembles how a post-party fraternity house might look if no one bothered to clean up the mess.
But Party Rock’s perpetual hangover is going to get some help this weekend from members of Clean Tahoe and El Dorado County Jail’s work program.
On Saturday morning, low-risk inmates and Clean Tahoe staff will head out to Party Rock for a six-hour effort to remove the thousands of pieces of broken glass and trash that litter what could be an exceptional spot if it wasn’t for remnants of the rock’s unruly clientele.
South Shore resident Lisa Thomas, who regularly walks the trail next to Party Rock with her dogs, Jake and Elwood, spearheaded the effort with the two groups after growing angry with the dangerous condition of the area.
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“It’s a beautiful trail,” Thomas said on Friday. “It sucks that they just trashed it up there.”
Despite the easily accessed views of the lake at the rock – which is a short walk from the road – Thomas says it’s likely locals shy away from the area because of the crowd it attracts.
“Instead of complaining about it, the right thing to do was doing something about it,” Thomas said.
Efforts to remove graffiti, including sandblasting, go back 20 years, said U.S. Forest Service spokesman Rex Norman. But even recently repainted rocks bear new graffiti, indicating cleaning up Party Rock for good won’t be a one-time deal.
Angelo Clelan, a work program officer for El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office, was approached by Thomas a couple weeks ago about utilizing the program’s manpower to clean up the area. He said he just hopes the 10 to 12 inmates expected to participate in the cleanup are able put a dent in the seemingly limitless amount of broken glass and debris at the rock.
Clelan said the copious amounts of graffiti at the site are the most aggravating aspects of the area, but said he is doubtful the spray paint will ever be completely removed.
But Thomas is more optimistic.
“We’re trying to get it spotless,” Thomas said.
She said she also intends to go to the South Lake Tahoe City Council to advocate for the placement of signs discouraging littering at the site and suggest regular police patrols of the area to take the “party” out of Party Rock.
Although the area isn’t the only place around the South Shore that gets trashed on a regular basis, it’s definitely the worst, said Ellen Nunes, the program manager for Clean Tahoe.
The program pays special attention to cleaning up after the holidays – like Fourth of July and Labor Day – that always attract large numbers of people to the lake, but places like Party Rock need constant attention in the summer months, Nunes said.
“We do a lot of after party cleanups, but that’s just the way it is in town,” Nunes said. “When you have people the natural byproduct is trash.”
The program picked up 75 tons of trash at the South Shore last year, but just like when you clean your house, the clutter comes back, Nunes said.
But there are signs of hope.
Problem areas like Blackwood Meadow – where Clean Tahoe cleaned up 1,300 pounds of debris last year – have seen some improvement with regular visits by program employees this year, Nunes said.
And efforts like Thomas’ are one way the South Shore can keep from getting trashed, Nunes added.
“You can come to Clean Tahoe if there’s an area you know is a problem,” Nunes said. “This is all of our backyards.”