This post was written by Sarah Angulo, 2015 Mono Lake Intern.
On a sunny, hazy Saturday morning in the Mono Basin, myself and four other volunteers gathered in front of the Mono Lake Committee Information Center & Bookstore. We all had the same goal in mind: to clean up Lee Vining Creek.
A week prior, I had scouted the Lee Vining Creek Trail, particularly at the bottom of the hill closest to the highway. I found that this summer had not been kind to it—July’s floods had brought a mixture of natural debris and trash from town down the hill. In addition, some visitors had left remnants of a good time in the rocks near the trail and highway wall. I knew when I saw the trash there, at a place where I spent calm mornings in my hammock listening to the sound of the creek rushing by, that our efforts would be sorely needed.
So, off we went from the Committee down the street to the start of the trail. Immediately we spotted some trash. Bags were passed out, and we set to work. Quickly we cleared the berm under the highway wall of visible trash, while Lynn, one of our volunteers, found a spot in some particular need of attention. Once that was done we made our way down the hill, which is where we found most of the trash. In the washed-out places on the hillside, rains had carried plastic jugs, chunks of cement, bits of glass, and even an old boiler (that was too heavy for us to lift out of there, unfortunately). We spent an hour cleaning up this section of the trail, then scanned near the creek for more. Luckily, the washed-out area was the worst of it, and everything else closer to the creek was clear of trash. With some more time to spare, we then drove up the creek a short ways to the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power diversion dam, a popular spot for fishing. There we cleaned up discarded beer and soda cans and forgotten pices of fishing line before calling it a day.
We returned to the Committee and weighed the trash we collected from the morning. The five of us ended up collecting 14 bags of trash and recycling. The ten bags of trash ended up weighing about 53 pounds. The four bags of recycling weighed about 17 pounds. This put our grand total of waste collected for the day to be 70 pounds! Many thanks to the Committee staff and volunteers for all their hard work during the morning.
Yesterday’s work at Lee Vining Creek is part of the Great Sierra River Cleanup, which is a larger series of cleanups that happen throughout the Sierra each fall. Working together with the Ocean Conservancy’s Coastal Cleanup, the Sierra Nevada Conservancy helps to organize events through different organizations like the Mono Lake Committee. The efforts of this region-wide cleanup have collected hundreds of tons of trash and recyclables throughout its six-year run. In drawing attention to especially trash-ridden areas, the hope is that we can bring to light how much these places have been impacted and slowly decrease the amount of trash collected over time.