By Dave Lass
With the snow starting to fall here in Truckee, California, summer is officially over, and the Tahoe crowds are going home to put away their golf clubs, swimsuits, rafts and fishing equipment. For most locals, it’s time to prepare for the shoulder season, as we wait and pray for the fluffy white stuff to come on in earnest in the High Sierra.
Truckee is the northern gateway to Lake Tahoe, one of the world's most scenic and popular recreation areas. This area draws big crowds in both winter and summer. Unfortunately, summer fun means a lot of trash and junk gets left along the more accessible streams and lakes -- tons of it, actually. So for members of the TU Truckee River chapter, the end of summer means not only no crowds and even better fishing for our hearty wild trout, but also time to pick up after all the folks who left more than footprints while enjoying this amazing area.
Thus on September 21st, Truckee River TU turned out in force for the Great Sierra River Cleanup. The Great Sierra River Cleanup is the premier “stream stewardship” event in the Sierra Nevada.
This year, in total some 3,100 volunteers collected approximately 61,500 pounds of litter and debris throughout the region.
2013 marks the fourth year Truckee River TU has hosted this event. This year, the chapter organized a number of cleanup sites along the Truckee River and several of its tributaries, from Lake Tahoe all the way to the Town of Hirschdale. TRTU and other community members rolled up their sleeves up for three hours in rainy, cold weather to fill a 30-yard dumpster – donated by Tahoe Truckee Sierra Disposal - with all the trash we cleaned up from these various sites.
Some of the strangest things we found this year? A blue plastic stegosaurus, a pink flowered tiara, an unopened package of ham, and a baby stroller with a demon mask attached to it. We also pulled old car engines, used diapers and motor oil out of the water or the riparian zone.
“This is a terrific event, said TRTU Vice-President Morgan Thalken. “This kind of community involvement ensures our beloved Truckee River will remain great for trout, and for people.”
The Great Sierra River Cleanup is sponsored by the Sierra Nevada Conservancy, in partnership with almost 60 community organizations at 110 sites throughout the Sierra Nevada. “Some 23 million Californians get their water from the Sierra, so it is gratifying that so many volunteers take part in cleaning up our rivers, lakes and streams,” said SNC Executive Officer, Jim Branham. “In five years the Great Sierra River Cleanup has removed 580 tons of trash and debris from our watersheds.”
The Great Sierra River Cleanup is about much more than picking up trash. It’s about communities demonstrating their support for clean water, healthy rivers, and aesthetic landscapes. It’s an opportunity to learn about where California’s water comes from and a time to come together with family, neighbors, and friends to take care of what we love -- our great Sierra rivers.
For more information on how to get involved in projects like the Great Sierra River Cleanup, and to help us conserve, protect and restore the Truckee River Watershed, visit the Truckee River TU chapter on Facebook and “Like” us -- www.facebook.com/TruckeeTU.
Dave Lass is California Field Director for Trout Unlimited. He lives and works in Truckee.