South Lake Tahoe restoration project emphasizes volunteer participation |

South Lake Tahoe restoration project emphasizes volunteer participation

Jack Barnwell
Zack Bradford (left) and Krisha Penollar plant a willow brush near the Upper Truckee River behind Lake Tahoe Airport on Saturday, Sept. 12. Nearly 100 volunteers helped plant willows, wood rose and willow stakes to stabilize the river banks as part of the 18th annual Tahoe Forest Stewardship Day.
Jack Barnwell / Tahoe Daily Tribune |

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — Approximately 100 volunteers worked on the banks of the Truckee River behind Lake Tahoe Airport on Saturday, Sept. 12, as part of the 18th annual Tahoe Forest Stewardship Day.

Volunteers of all ages dug holes, planted willow stakes and wood rose, and removed invasive weeds at 16 sites along the river in an effort to stabilize an ongoing restoration project.

The League to Save Lake Tahoe, a nonprofit, coordinates the annual event. Past stewardship projects occurred on multiple sites around Lake Tahoe.

“The goal is to promote restoration and bring people together to help restore areas of Lake Tahoe and the Truckee River watershed,” Marilee Movius, the League’s community engagement manager, said at the work site on Saturday.

Efforts at Lake Tahoe Airport site ensure sediment and nutrients don’t reach Lake Tahoe and impact its clarity.

League volunteer Erin Chichlowski agreed with the project’s goal.

“It’s a great way to build a community and show respect for a place everyone enjoys so much,” Chichlowski said Saturday while hammering a wooden stake into the ground.

According to Jason Burke, the city’s stormwater program manager, most of the Truckee River wetlands in that area were filled in with the construction of Lake Tahoe Airport in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Developers dug a channel and straightened the river, cutting it off from the wetland.

Like the construction of the Tahoe Keys in the 1960s, which destroyed half of the wetland, Burke said the action came at a time before planners fully realized that ecological damage could be done.

“At the time it was about conquering nature,” Burke said. “Now we know that’s not very good for the habitat and the wildlife.”

California Tahoe Conservancy and the City of South Lake Tahoe began restoration work in 2009 when it created a new, more natural channel and filled in the original one constructed during the 1960s. Regular maintenance has since been conducted in addition to events like the stewardship event to ensure the banks remain stabilized.

According to Devin Middlebrook, an environmental education specialist with Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, restoring wetlands serves an important purpose. Since the Truckee River is the largest watershed in the Lake Tahoe Basin, it acts as a major filter.

“Being able to return the Upper Truckee River to a natural state is very impactful to reducing the natural pollution in Lake Tahoe,” Middlebrook said.

Past restoration efforts included the Cove East project near Venice Drive in the Tahoe Keys. California Tahoe Conservancy removed tons of fill dirt and restored portions of the wetland.

Middlebrook added that volunteer efforts like Tahoe Forest Stewardship Day ensure greater restoration success.

“It shows how the community wants to get involved with hands-in-the-dirt type of events and it educates people,” Middlebrook said.

For more information on Upper Truckee Marsh restoration efforts, visit

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