Connecting with Alpine County’s environment |

Connecting with Alpine County’s environment

by Lisa Gavon
R-C Alpine Bureau

How are you connected to the smallest County in California? Perhaps you have just driven through Alpine, marveling at the breathtaking beauty of Hope Valley, hoping to return and explore the wild river and mountain trails. Maybe you are a regular visitor who camps at Grover’s Hot Springs or Turtle Rock Park, coming up for weekend getaways. You could be one of the many families who live in the Bay Area and have a second home here as a respite from the city. Of course, there are those of us who discovered Alpine County and couldn’t bear to spend a day away from this unique place, braving the snows of winter and enjoying the feeling of isolation and autonomy year-round.

Of the scores of people who feel an attachment to Alpine County, the majority do not live here. Our population is low, so many jobs are filled with people who reside elsewhere and commute. The individuals who fill these positions of responsibility can have a lasting impact on our policies, land use decisions, and environment.

It was a natural fit for Sarah Green, who lives in South Lake Tahoe, to find her niche working as the executive director of the Alpine Watershed Group. It is worth commuting over the high mountain passes, because she has a deep passion for the land and people of the Alpine community. Director for seven years now, she has run the organization longer than anyone else who has held the position. Under her supervision, the small group has blossomed into a vital nonprofit with three full-time staff.

Sarah was born in Sunnyvale, Calif., and has spent every summer since her birth at the family cabin at Fallen Leaf Lake. She started backpacking when she was only 5-years-old and the lakes, mountains, and open land are in her blood. She skied winters at Alpine Meadows, and the minute she graduated from college she moved straight to Lake Tahoe.

Sarah’s mother helped found open space preservation groups in the Bay Area, and this became a huge influence on her. Sarah graduated with honors from University of California at Davis with a degree in environmental biology and management, minoring in botany. She was a competitor in collegiate cycling, and continues to be a voracious reader and writer. She is currently working on a memoir of her mother’s life, striving to capture her unique experience in words.

Sarah’s focus has always been on watershed education, emphasizing community building and youth development. Prior to coming to Alpine County, she was Watershed Program Associate for the Sierra Nevada Alliance. She has also worked as Program Coordinator for the Community Collaborative of Tahoe Truckee and as Service Learning Coordinator with the Tahoe Truckee School District. All of these positions have made use of the integrated areas she has studied, and all focus on “doing service”: a cornerstone of Sarah’s life and outlook.

She has a deep sense of internal direction and sets high standards. She believes you have to know the science, but you also have to know how to work with it within the landscape, giving weight to the human component. Sarah says that she sees the potential for Alpine County to do more and be more effective in what is done.

The “watershed” concept unifies all of our natural and man-made resources. Sarah states that it is of utmost importance to maintain the character of the community. The programs that she oversees include monitoring, restoration, and educational outreach projects. She has continued the annual Creek Day which combines both work and celebration. Sarah has helped coordinate the highly successful Alpine Aspen Festival, now in it’s third year. It is based in Hope Valley during the spectacular display of fall colors. The gathering highlights the vital role of aspen groves in providing clean water to the people of California and Nevada. The Festival includes educational hikes, artist workshops, fly fishing demonstrations, Dutch-oven cooking, and conservation projects.

This year it will be held on the weekend of Oct. 8 and 9.

Sarah manages the Alpine Watershed Group with the idea of overcoming differences to focus on a common desire to enjoy nature.

The group seeks to preserve and enhance the watershed for future generations. For Sarah, it is never about being right or wrong, but about making a good choice. Running a nonprofit is very hard work, but she finds it exceptionally rewarding. It is important to her to be truly present with every individual person, acknowledging that we cannot take care of the environment unless we take care of each other. You can reach Sarah through their website: