International scrutiny prompts response for famously trashy Tahoe beach

Volunteers gather up trash on Zephyr Shoals Beach on July 5. League to Save Lake Tahoe photo

Volunteers gather up trash on Zephyr Shoals Beach on July 5. League to Save Lake Tahoe photo

A Lake Tahoe beach notorious for the more than three tons of garbage found after the Fourth of July will be more intensely managed starting this fall, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

“What happened at Zephyr Shoals was absolutely unacceptable,” said U.S. Forest Service Supervisor Erick Walker, naming the National Forest location hardest hit with litter on July 4th. “Lake Tahoe is a national treasure, with 155,000 acres of public land that are open for everyone to enjoy. You wouldn’t empty a trash-filled cooler on your living room floor; it’s just as unthinkable to do it on a Tahoe beach.”

With no alcohol ban, fees or controls, Zephyr Shoals on the former Dreyfus Estate prompted public outrage and drew widespread attention to the challenge of preventing litter at the iconic Sierra Nevada destination, officials said.

On Friday, the Forest Service announced that Zephyr Shoals will be managed by a concession beginning this fall, similar to other developed National Forest sites around the Tahoe Basin.

“With a concessionaire managing day-to-day operations under a permit with the Forest Service, the public will continue to have access, but can expect changes like managed parking, enhanced trash management, signage, sanitation services, and staffing,” according to the announcement.

Efforts at many of Lake Tahoe’s more popular sites to reduce trash and enforce alcohol prohibitions may have increased the impact on Zephyr Shoals.

“Over the last decade, land managers for many of Tahoe’s popular recreation sites have taken aggressive and effective steps to prevent user impacts,” officials said. “That has squeezed irresponsible partygoers into smaller, less intensively managed sites, concentrating the impacts there. Zephyr Shoals, located on the lake’s southeastern shore, is a prime example.”

Organizers of the annual clean-up hope a combination of enforcement, education and facilities will contribute to reducing the garbage at the location.

“As the public’s interest in Tahoe continues to climb, it’s increasingly important that people who enjoy this special place also do their part to take care of it,” said U.S. Forest Service Public Services Staff Officer Daniel Cressy. “Promoting this goal is one of the core pillars of the Lake Tahoe Destination Stewardship Plan, and one way we’ll reach our shared vision for Tahoe as a healthy, thriving, welcoming place.”

Their hope is that people realize that there are ways to keep Zephyr Shoals as clean as the rest of Lake Tahoe’s beaches.

“Every year, I hear from people who plan their vacations so they can join our cleanup on July 5th,” said League to Save Lake Tahoe Senior Community Engagement Manager Marilee Movius. “It’s become their families’ tradition. This year, it was also amazing that so many folks responded to posts on social media by dropping everything to join our cleanup. We hope everyone will follow their lead by not littering in the first place and taking small, simple actions to leave Tahoe better than they found it. That’s the Tahoe way.”

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