Blue Crew helps keep Tahoe clean
LAKE TAHOE — Nothing ruins an experience like gazing out at the view from the mountains and seeing a chip bag stuck in a bush or wading into Lake Tahoe’s clear water and stepping on a rusted soda can.
Fortunately, blue-shirted heroes are making the basin cleaner for everyone. They are known as the Tahoe Blue Crew.
As part of the volunteer arm of the League to Save Lake Tahoe, the Tahoe Blue Crew grew out of the adopt-a-beach program.
Since 2014, the League has gone out with the adopt-a-beach program on July 5 to do post holiday clean-ups. It then grew to include other popular weekends at the lake such as Memorial Day weekend.
While they still do those big beach clean-up days, the program morphed into the Tahoe Blue Crew.
“For the last couple of years, we’ve been rebranding the program so that we can expand it to be more than beaches, that people can adopt a trailhead, or a parking or around their business or another forest lot, basically anywhere in the Lake Tahoe Basin that is impacted by litter,” said Marilee Movius, community engagement manager for the League to Save Lake Tahoe. “We thought this is very important because community clean ups are essential … But there’s so many places in Lake Tahoe that are still impacted and its essential we have volunteers getting out and there and being part of the solution to protect Lake Tahoe and to keep Tahoe blue.”
Tahoe Blue Crew leaders can adopt a litter hotspot of their choice. The League asks that they do three clean-ups a year at that spot but regularly monitor it to make sure it remains clean.
Anyone can join an existing crew, or start their own. There is no size limit on crews, even one person can be a crew.
Leslie Edmonds has adopted the bike path near her home on Upper Truckee Meadows in South Lake Tahoe.
“We wanted to keep our neighborhood clean and take ownership of a part of Tahoe,” said Edmonds.
Her crew is her family consisting of her husband and their two kids, Rowan, 8, and Maia, 13. Edmonds says the clean ups are family bonding time as well as an educational opportunity for her kids.
“They love Tahoe and they love it when it’s immaculate,” Edmonds said. “I want them to be aware that Tahoe needs to be pristine.”
Edmonds added that her family has competitions like who can find the weirdest thing or the hardest thing to grab.
While volunteer days can be fun and rewarding, it’s all frustrating to continually see trash.
Carolyn Usinger lives in Carson City and regularly drives up to Incline Village.
“I was amazed by how much trash was on Highway 28 and Mt. Rose Highway,” Usinger said. “I was busy pointing fingers at everyone else, then I thought, ‘why don’t I do something about it.’”
Usinger has adopted NV28 between Crystal Bay to Lake Shore Dr. and Incline to Spooner (when it’s safe for her to be out there) and Mt. Rose Highway from Incline to the summit.
She tries to go out every two days and since Sept. 2019 she’s collected 150 bags of trash.
Her ultimate goal is zero trash in Tahoe.
“I’m setting the expectation that it’s not okay to dump trash in Tahoe,” Usinger said.
In 2019, the Tahoe Blue Crew, which has 193 volunteers, hosted 65 cleanup efforts at 15 different beaches and neighborhoods. They cleaned 104.55 miles of beaches and neighborhoods.
Not only do the cleanups help keep Tahoe blue, they also serve as educational opportunities for other people.
“When people see what you’re doing, they are interested in helping,” said Loretta Friedel who has adopted Cove East and Tahoe Keys.
Edmonds also said she’s had people enjoying the bike path stop to help them for a little while.
Just by being out there, the Blue Crew is able to signal to people that leaving trash is not okay.
“People do have an impact when they leave trash behind,” Friedel said.
Finally, Movius said data collected from the Blue Crew has been instrumental in enacting change. Blue Crew members are encouraged to document what trash they find.
“The data was instrumental in passing the polystyrene ban, and the plastic bag ban in the city limits and also supported the Incline Village General Improvement District smoking ban,” Movius said.
The League hosts regular training sessions, which are now virtual and provides materials for new Blue Crew leaders.
To learn more or to join, visit http://www.keeptahoeblue.org.
Laney Griffo is a reporter with the Tahoe Daily Tribune, a sister publication of the Sierra Sun based in South Lake Tahoe.
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