Kevin MacMillan: Thanks for trashing beloved Tahoe beaches |

Kevin MacMillan: Thanks for trashing beloved Tahoe beaches

Recently, after the influx of July 4 Weekend crowds we had in town, we asked the following poll question on the North Shore tab of “How do you react to large summer tourist crowds?”

The results, of course random and nonscientific, were quite interesting, showing nearly a split among those who voted.

The response, “Hate it: I hide out until they’re gone,” received the most out of 875 votes, with 312, good for 35.66 percent. Oh so close, however, were the 302 votes (34.51 percent) for “Fine with it; comes with the territory of living here.”

And not far behind was the third option, with 29.83 percent of voters (261) opting for “Don’t like it; traffic and carelessness is frustrating.”

I’ve always been a “Fine with it” person ever since moving here more than seven years ago. Of course, I didn’t fully realize just how large the crowds would be when I did, but more often than not, I’ve chosen not to let them bother me.

Avoiding travel — or driving slower and patiently if I must — and choosing the right time to visit the grocery store are just a couple ways I opt to adapt.

I knew what I was getting myself into when I began calling the North Shore of Lake Tahoe home. And I’m fine with it.

That is, of course, until I see and read about the aftermath.

Since when did Lake Tahoe become a trash dump? You’ve likely all read the headline in our newspapers, and ones just like it carried among plenty of others across the region and elsewhere: “Volunteers remove 2,260 pounds of trash from Tahoe beaches.”

Wait, what? Seriously?

First of all, kudos to the League to Save Lake Tahoe for coordinating this effort. More than a ton of trash was saved from muddling the famed waters of our alpine lake.

But secondly, what makes this worse is the fact this small sample was just from six beaches around Lake Tahoe, one of which was Commons Beach in Tahoe City in our backyard.

With record or near-record crowds reported at Commons, West End Beach at Donner Lake and the restricted IVGID beaches in Incline Village, among reportedly massive groups of people at Chambers, Kings Beach and along the East Shore, one can only imagine how much more trash was picked up during both public and private clean-ups.

Meanwhile, one unfortunately can imagine just how much is still left over, waiting for the winds to pick it up to infiltrate Lake Tahoe — or, for that matter, how much already has.

Last Friday, at the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza’s weekly open community meeting (9-10 a.m. every Friday at its office at 925 Tahoe Blvd.), a passionate gentleman with deep ties to the community shared stories of finding bags upon bags of beer bottles, cans, plastic bags and other recyclables and trash strewn about the beautiful beaches along the East Shore.

I myself have visited those beaches several times each summer, and often I’ve collected a shopping bag full of trash during visits. And that’s not because I personally employ a “pack it in, pack it out” mentality — this is mostly trash from others left behind.

Who knows? Maybe it’s locals who’re trashing our beautiful beaches. Maybe it’s visitors from the Bay Area, or those closer to home in the foothills or Reno. Maybe some of you reading this have littered before.

Maybe some people just flat out don’t care.

Or, perhaps others are purely malicious at heart.

But one thing’s fairly clear: If we asked this poll question — “Do you prefer your drinking water seasoned with cigarette butts and beer can resin?” — I think we all know what would be the resounding answer.

Kevin MacMillan is managing editor of the Sierra Sun and North Lake Tahoe Bonanza. Email him at

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