Most beaches were clean, while one was extremely hard hit
LAKE TAHOE, NV/CA – Over the course of just three hours on the morning of July 5th, 402 volunteers cleaned up 8,598 pounds of litter left from Fourth of July celebrations at Lake Tahoe.
Cigarette butts, plastic food wrappers, beach toys and even barbecues were plucked from six popular beach sites, as well as nearby parking lots and streets, around the Tahoe Basin. Several of the sites were relatively litter-free, including Commons Beach in Tahoe City and Kings Beach State Recreation Area, showing the impact that trash cans, restrooms and management staff can have to prevent pollution.
The League to Save Lake Tahoe has organized the annual July 5th “Keep Tahoe Red, White & Blue” Beach Cleanup since 2014. Despite several clean beaches, the trash removed this year is tragically an all-time high on this, the 10th anniversary of Tahoe’s largest litter cleanup event.
“This morning, one of Tahoe’s beaches looked like a landfill. Thanks to passionate volunteers and community partners, it started to look like Tahoe again after some hard work,” noted Dr. Darcie Goodman Collins, CEO of the League to Save Lake Tahoe. “To Keep Tahoe Blue, everyone who enjoys this place must act more like our volunteers and partners by doing their part. It starts with leaving nothing behind, and picking up any trash you come across. Unless each of us share in the responsibility for protecting this place, it could be ruined.”
Zephyr Shoals, an unmanaged stretch of beach on Tahoe’s east shore, was by far the most impacted of the six cleanup sites. Notably, the site is far from permanent trash cans, dumpsters or toilets. An astounding 6,318 pounds of litter – the equivalent of a ¾ ton pickup truck – was strewn across the narrow strip of sand and piled between bushes and trees in the nearby forest. The area is cleaned regularly by the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s “Tahoe Blue Crew,” a volunteer program offered by the League. Although they cleaned the beach just before the Fourth of July, an amazing amount of trash accumulated in just one day. Because the Lake Tahoe Basin behaves like a giant granite funnel, any trash left behind will move downhill and into the Lake’s blue waters.
Understanding the threat that litter poses to wildlife and the local ecosystem, fourteen businesses, organizations and local governments partnered with the League to bring this massive litter cleanup event to life: Mananalu Pure Water, Clean Up The Lake, Stio Mountain Studio, Zephyr Cove Resort, Bally’s Lake Tahoe, ECO-CLEAN Solutions, California State Parks, the City of South Lake Tahoe, Tahoe City Public Utility District, USFS-Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, Vista Recreation, Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, Tahoe City Downtown Association, Northstar California Resort, Kirkwood Mountain Resort, and Heavenly Mountain Resort.
This broad collaboration exemplifies the concept of shared stewardship: when individuals, public and private groups come together to Keep Tahoe Blue.
“Heavenly, Kirkwood, and Northstar are proud to partner with the League to Save Lake Tahoe through our EpicPromise program for their July 5th beach cleanup,” said Tom Fortune, VP and COO of Heavenly and the Tahoe Region at Vail Resorts. “It is crucial that we all work together as good stewards of the environment – something we deeply value as a company and as members of the Tahoe community. We are grateful to the League for their work and in organizing this annual event that all of our teams look forward to.”
Each cleanup location included its own unique features, including the BEBOT, an electric, beach-cleaning robot that sifts the sand to remove tiny plastic bits and other trash. The League to Save Lake Tahoe worked with ECO-CLEAN Solutions to bring the robot to Tahoe in 2022. Another innovative technology, a mobile watercraft cleaning station, was introduced for the first time on July 5th. The League, together with TRPA, provided funding for the trailer-mounted station that any paddler can use to remove ecologically disastrous invasive species from kayaks or paddle boards before they hit the water. The station will be deployed at several locations through the summer. Divers from nonprofit Clean Up The Lake also plucked trash from the below the water at Zephyr Shoals, continuing their important, underwater trash removal mission.
Both residents and visitors helped clean up the mess on July 5th. While every individual has their own personal connection to Tahoe, they all are motivated to protect the Lake for the future.
“I’ve lived here for 36 years and volunteered with Keep Tahoe Blue every July 5th for the past seven years,” said John Ruiz, a South Lake Tahoe resident. “I love it here and hate to see it get trashed, so I donate my time to keep it clean. I wish everyone would join me to preserve Tahoe for all the years to come.”
*Total litter gathered across all cleanup sites was originally undercounted as 8,559 pounds. The accurate total was 8,598 pounds. Similarly, the total litter gathered at Zephyr Shoals was first reported as 6,279 pounds; the actual total was 6,318 pounds.
Media Resources: Images and videos from Zephyr Shoals unless otherwise noted. Please credit “League to Save Lake Tahoe.”
League to Save Lake Tahoe, Chris Joseph, 805.722.5646
The League to Save Lake Tahoe, also known by its iconic slogan “Keep Tahoe Blue,” protects and restores the Tahoe Basin’s unique natural beauty and environmental health – today and for future generations. Guided by science, we develop innovative solutions to complex environmental problems, mobilize thousands of volunteers each year, and act as both watchdog and advocate for Tahoe’s wellbeing. Learn more about our 66-year-old, 501c3 nonprofit organization at keeptahoeblue.org.