Opinion: We owe an apology to Tahoe and the Sierra Nevada | SierraSun.com

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Opinion: We owe an apology to Tahoe and the Sierra Nevada

After four years of drought, it was truly a magical sight to see the Tahoe area covered in snow to ring in the New Year.

As expected and hoped for, the snow also brought in droves of people excited to play in all this great snow. It was wonderful to see so many families making new memories on the ski hills and sled hills around the region.

With the crowds also came a much-needed infusion to the economy that is still reeling from the less than stellar snow seasons these past four years. Hotel rooms were full, restaurants were crowded, and ski resorts were at capacity. For the first time in years, help wanted signs are posted on windows.

By most accounts, it was a win-win for the snow revelers and the local businesses.

But we owe an apology to our mountains. In all this wonder and glory over the new snow, we forgot to take care of the environment. In all the excitement to sled, we left behind more than just tracks.

In all the excitement to snow shoe, we left behind more than extra big footprints. In all the excitement to get powder runs, we left behind more than our cars in the parking lots. We left water bottles, broken sleds, trash that blew out of the car, cigarette butts, and beer bottles.

No one means to trash the area, it is just something that happens when the joy of playing in Tahoe gets in the way. If you've just been sledding for two hours in sub-freezing temperatures, your thoughts are probably more on getting the kids back into a warm car than if you remembered that water bottle that rolled away, or that sled that broke in half on the last run down.

If you are eager to be first in line at the lift, it is hard to notice the trash that blew out of the car while you were shutting the trunk. With so many people around, it is hard to stop and look around without losing your spot in line.

As a region, we need to do a better job of reminding folks to take care. We need to share the culture of care taking in the region that we know exists and can exist if we all just pay a little more attention.

We need more trashcans in high traffic areas during the busy season. We need more "Take Care" signs around to give the gentle reminders to hide trash in trashcans, and not behind trees or in the snow.

Since 2013, a group of organizations in Tahoe has been working on a creating a culture of caretaking in the Tahoe Region. Through a funny and clever campaign called "Take Care," the team created a series of reminders that poke fun of the mistakes we all make when we aren't paying attention.

Launched this summer, the messages can be seen in places like downtown Tahoe City, at the Village at Squaw, on the dog beaches of Incline Village, and atop the mountains at Heavenly and Northstar. All of the materials are available for free for anyone to use at http://www.takecaretahoe.org.

If we all work together, we can create a win-win-win for everyone, including the environment.

This is a join Our Turn opinion column by the Lake Tahoe Outreach Committee, which is composed of the League to Save Lake Tahoe, North Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority, Tahoe Fund, Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, Tahoe Resource Conservation District and UC Davis-Tahoe Environmental Resource Center. We invite you to join the movement and take the pledge to Take Care at www.takecaretahoe.org.