‘Pack it in, pack it out’: locals protest surge of litter left in Truckee-Tahoe area

Chants of “pack it in, pack it out” rang through the Friday evening air at Kings Beach as several locals gathered at a roundabout to protest the influx of trash being seen in the area.

The gathering in Kings Beach was one of several planned protests that occurred last weekend around Lake Tahoe and Truckee.

“It’s the most trash I’ve ever seen,” said Jessica Robinson. “I grew up here, and it’s out of hand.”

Several in the group echoed Robinson’s sentiment, citing an increase in visitors to the Tahoe Basin due to the outbreak of COVID-19, resulting in more litter being left behind.

“This is such a magical beautiful place and we’re working hard to keep it that way.”— Meg CooperTahoe local

“We need to educate. I thought it was common sense not to litter, but it’s not common sense anymore, so we need to teach tourists, as well as be supported by local leaders,” said another Tahoe local, Meg Cooper.

“We need our local government officials to support us and help us and bring in more trash cans and more man power, and even more regulations. People are on the beach and there’s too much parking allowed. There’s less care than ever and less respect than there’s ever been. This is such a magical beautiful place and we’re working hard to keep it that way.”

At Kings Beach, according to California State Parks, nearly 25 dumpsters per week are filled at the day-use only site. California State Parks said it also removes roughly 100,000 pounds of trash per week from Tahoe and Donner parks, which it estimates will cost $250,000 during 2020 to keep up with removal.

The data collected comes from Donner, Tahoe State Recreation Area, Kings Beach State Recreation Area, DL Bliss, Sugar Pine Point and Emerald Bay.

Others at Friday’s protest in Kings Beach called for restrictions or bans on short-term rentals to curb the amount of visitors making their way to the basin.

For the basin’s land managers the outbreak of COVID-19 has resulted in limited staffing as an influx of people seek to recreate outdoors.

“Trash has always been a challenge, but this year, COVID-19 has added pressure,” U.S. Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit Public Services Staff Officer Daniel Cressy told the Tahoe Daily Tribune (See full story page 13).

Cressy added that it’s not just more people visiting local beaches, but existing infrastructure is being overwhelmed. The Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit hasn’t been able to hire as many staff members this season due to the outbreak of COVID-19. Cressy said forest service crews are also encountering bagged trash left outside of dumpsters, either because the dumpsters are full or because people aren’t comfortable touching them.

Of the items left behind at local beaches, the most common, according to past beach cleanups done by the League to Save Lake Tahoe, are cigarette butts, small plastic pieces, food wrappers, and food waste.

Many cleanups of the annual beach cleanups are conducted by the league’s volunteer group, Tahoe Blue Crew, which scours areas in the basin for litter several times each year. At its yearly Keep, Tahoe Red, White and Blue Beach Cleanup on July 5, volunteers removed nearly 500 pounds of litter, including 835 pieces of food waste, 1,245 plastic food wrappers, 3,495 cigarette butts, and 6,515 plastic pieces.

For those looking to help keep the area’s beaches clean, the league will be hosting virtual Tahoe Blue Crew training on Thursday, Aug. 27. Currently, the league has trained 61 Blue Crew leaders. More information can be found at

Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. Contact him at or 530-550-2643.

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