TAHOE CITY, Calif. – Last summer, the Lake Tahoe Basin, Truckee and surrounding mountain communities saw a dramatic increase in visitation as travelers sought out the great outdoors. While the mountains provided a much needed respite, it quickly became evident that many visitors weren’t familiar with Leave No Trace practices. Trash piled up outside of proper receptacles or was left behind altogether. Trails were heavily impacted, trail etiquette ignored, and wildlife disregarded. This summer, six organizations are launching ambassador programs in locations around the Lake Tahoe region to directly address and reduce tourism-related environmental impacts the region regularly experiences.
Every weekend throughout the summer, up to 50 ambassadors will be positioned at popular recreation sites to provide information to Tahoe-Truckee area visitors about the importance of proper trash disposal, trail and wildlife etiquette, wildfire safety and other Leave No Trace principles. While each program is independently managed, ambassadors from each program will wear the same Take Care Tahoe branded uniform to demonstrate a united, consistent approach to the education effort.
“We’re excited to launch such a robust collection of ambassador programs during this inaugural summer season pilot,” said Crew Stover, program and outreach coordinator at the Tahoe Fund, a Take Care Tahoe partner. “The intention with this effort is to help educate visitors, particularly those who may be new to recreating in the outdoors. The Tahoe Fund is proud to have played an important funding role in getting this new initiative launched with our partners.”
The six ambassador programs include:
Taskforce Trailhead Program
As the number of hikers, bikers and equestrians on the Tahoe Rim Trail continues to grow, trampled vegetation, trash, fires, and negative wildlife encounters have unfortunately also increased. These impacts illustrate the need to educate trail users about basic trail ethics and Leave No Trace principles to ensure a fun and sustainable trail experience for the nearly 500,000 annual Tahoe Rim Trail users. With support from the Tahoe Fund, the Tahoe Rim Trail Association has launched the Taskforce Trailhead Program to help reach trail users and share essential outdoor ethics. Volunteers interested in sharing their passion for trails are needed and can learn more about how to get involved at https://tahoerimtrail.org/volunteer/taskforcetrailhead/.
South Lake Tahoe Student Ambassador Program
Aimed at addressing increasing tourism impacts, the Sierra Nevada Alliance will employ and coordinate 13 students to interact with the public at busy locations in the Tahoe Basin. Their role will be to promote environmental stewardship with the goal of changing behaviors. The program was designed to provide work experience for high school and community college students pursuing careers in the natural resources, hospitality and tourism industries, and is funded by the Sierra Nevada Alliance (SNA), City of South Lake Tahoe, Lake Tahoe Unified School District, Lake Tahoe Community College, Tahoe Fund, Tahoe Women’s Fund, El Dorado Community Foundation, and Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority. In addition, SNA will employ an additional Climate Action Corps Fellow as ambassadors to help build capacity and coordinate regionally with partnership with the Tahoe Rim Trail Association, Town of Truckee, and Trout Unlimited.
Tahoe Bike Safety Ambassadors
Spearheaded by the Lake Tahoe Bicycle Coalition, ambassadors will engage directly with cyclists at high-use bike trail locations each Saturday in June, Tahoe Bike Challenge month. Ambassadors will share information with passing cyclists and pedestrians about route finding using the Tahoe Bike Map (map.tahoebike.org), biking etiquette, safety, and the environmental benefits of bicycling. A bike stand, tools, and an air pump for minor repairs will also be available for riders. Bike Safety Days are designed to help visitors navigate the often confusing network of bike trails and routes so that they can get to their destination safely and without driving.
Keep Truckee Green Ambassador Program
This summer, the Town of Truckee’s sustainability program, Keep Truckee Green, will hire two ambassadors to inspire and educate recreationalists to take care of the region’s natural resources and recreate responsibly. The ambassadors will be roving around hotspot areas including Donner Lake, Downtown Truckee and the Legacy Trail to have meaningful conversations with residents and visitors about initiatives like the “Grab a Bag” litter pick-up program, reusable to-go boxes, and the importance of doggy bag disposal.
Sustainable Truckee – Trail Host Ambassador Program
Truckee Trail Host Ambassadors, funded by Visit Truckee-Tahoe and managed by the Truckee Trails Foundation, are both stationed and roving at popular Truckee, California trailheads to educate and inform trail users about responsible recreation, while keeping an eagle eye out for illegal campfires. Objectives of the ambassadors are to mitigate wildfire danger, trash, and cultivate a friendly, positive outdoor experience. Truckee’s Host program is also supported by 18 trailhead A-Frame signs stating “NO FIRES” with a QR code to the “Truckee Travel Alert” daily webpage hosted on VisitTruckeeTahoe.com/travelalert.
North Lake Tahoe Resort Association Program
The North Lake Tahoe Resort Association (NLTRA) will host a volunteer from the Americorps California Climate Action summer fellowship to help mobilize and recruit volunteers for region-wide clean-up days and educate visitors about the importance of safe, responsible travel. The ambassador will visit a number of high-traffic areas across North Lake Tahoe and share tips with visitors that include crisis response, wildlife awareness, trash mitigation (including promotion of the Clean Tahoe Litter Hotline), fire safety and tenets of the Traveler Responsibility Pledge.
In addition to the new ambassador program, a coalition of agencies, non-profits, and visitors authorities co-led by the USDA Forest Service and Tahoe Regional Planning Agency are coordinating regionally to better manage recreation and tourism impacts. The non-profit Clean Tahoe Program has expanded operations for more trash pickups, on-demand microtransit services are being piloted across North Lake Tahoe, law enforcement agencies are ramping up parking enforcement where possible, additional parking capacity has been added at Emerald Bay, and stewardship messages like Take Care Tahoe are being shared and amplified by multiple agencies and visitors authorities.
Learn about and contribute to projects supported by the Tahoe Fund at www.tahoefund.org.