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RECAP: Four Wheel Campers & Clean Up The Lake’s Volunteer Event at Fallen Leaf Lake

RECAP: Four Wheel Campers & Clean Up The Lake’s Volunteer Event at Fallen Leaf Lake

Four Wheel Campers’ partnership with Clean Up The Lake began in 2022, and we are pleased to share the details of our latest event with the Lake Tahoe-based 501(c)(3). Not only did our volunteers collect and sort hundreds of pounds of debris and litter at Fallen Leaf Lake, but we got a tour of Clean Up The Lake’s research truck, which is outfitted with a Project M camper. Four Wheel Campers donated the camper to Clean Up The Lake in late 2022, and it has helped the nonprofit on cleanups and pilot missions across California and Nevada. 

“Four Wheel Campers and our customers appreciated the opportunity to assist the Clean Up the Lake team in their ongoing effort to restore our lakes and nature spaces,” says Dan Welty, President of Four Wheel Campers. Through our volunteer events and donations to environmental nonprofits, Four Wheel Campers is committed to giving back to our public lands — and working with organizations that support these endeavors. To date, we’ve run four successful volunteer events alongside three conservation nonprofits, and our goal is to host one event per quarter in 2024.

A dozen volunteers hopped in the boat to assist Clean Up The Lake’s divers with debris collection, while the rest of the group spent several hours picking up litter on the trails around Fallen Leaf Lake. Photo courtesy of Elisabeth Brentano.

After getting rained out of our June 2022 cleanup at Donner Lake, we held a two-day volunteer event at Fallen Leaf Lake in June 2023. On the first day, half of our volunteers assisted with a trail cleanup near Fallen Leaf Campground, while the rest joined Clean Up The Lake on the water to assist scuba divers in collecting nearly 350 pounds of debris from the bottom of the lake. Half a dozen volunteers snorkeled near the divers to help spot debris, and half a dozen more hopped into kayaks to help gather debris at the surface. One of our volunteers even served as captain for the day, driving Clean Up The Lake’s tri-toon boat. After lunch, both groups reconvened to help unload debris. With two different cleanup crews, plus two dive groups, our volunteers also had the option to take time off after working, giving them time to explore the stunning scenery at Fallen Leaf Lake. We were pleased that everyone was able to participate in their first-choice volunteer activity.

Volunteers unloading debris from kayaks and a zodiac, and loading debris and scuba gear onto Clean Up The Lake’s work truck, which is outfitted with a Project M. Photos courtesy of Elisabeth Brentano.

On the second day, our group spent several hours sorting the debris we gathered from Fallen Leaf Lake, along with nearly 900 pounds of debris collected at Convict and June Lakes a few weeks earlier. We began the sorting process by separating debris on several tarps, which were labeled with nine categories for material types, and 83 different use-type subcategories. The debris was then weighed and logged, and the process was repeated. Sorting and cataloging debris is just as important as removing it from the environment, as this comprehensive dataset is critical in producing educational materials and mitigation solutions. Simply put: this data gives Clean Up The Lake the information they need to present the community with ways to make a change.

After categorizing debris, volunteers weighed it and Clean Up The Lake logged the items from each cleanup. Photos courtesy of Elisabeth Brentano.

While our volunteers generally spend four to eight hours each day working at our cleanup events, we also enjoy kicking back at camp. Four Wheel Campers provides camping for volunteers, plus light breakfast fare, snacks, beer, wine and one meal per day (either lunch or dinner). At our Fallen Leaf Lake event, we ordered two dozen sandwiches from the deli at Camp Richardson, and happy hour began around 6 p.m. If you’ve been to a Four Wheel Campers rally, you know these events attract a certain crowd, and our cleanups are no different. These are the kind of folks you want to share stories with around the campfire, and from new friends to familiar faces, it’s the people who truly make these events.

Four Wheel Campers ambassador and volunteer events organizer Elisabeth Brentano gives a rundown of the next day’s events during happy hour at Fallen Leaf Campground. Photo courtesy of Gregg Boydston.

After the sorting event and a leisurely lunch at camp, we sat down for a Q&A session with Clean Up The Lake founder and executive director, Colin West. Half of our volunteers got to work alongside Colin on the first day, but it was great for everyone to get a brief history of how the org was created, and how they plan on expanding in the years to come. 

Clean Up The Lake’s equipment manager Hayden Farris then gave our group a tour of the org’s research truck, which is outfitted with a Project M — a donation made by Four Wheel Campers in 2022. The full-size truck camper houses everything from scuba tanks to kayaks, and it has made pilot missions much easier, as Hayden and other staffers now have a much cozier camp setup. “It’s been a game changer for us,” Hayden said, noting that the previous setup was either a tent or the back of an SUV crammed with gear. Four Wheel Campers is thrilled to support Clean Up The Lake, and we look forward to our summer 2024 cleanup with the nonprofit, date TBD.

Clean Up The Lake founder and executive director Colin West chatting with volunteers (left); Clean Up The Lake equipment manager Hayden Farris shares how the nonprofit uses their Project M camper on cleanups and pilot missions (right). Photos courtesy of Elisabeth Brentano.

Thank you to everyone who attended, and we look forward to seeing you at our next cleanup! For more information on volunteer events, be sure to check the Four Wheel Campers’ Events page, and subscribe to our newsletter for updates and event coverage.

A handful of volunteers and Clean Up The Lake staffers who attended the June 2023 cleanup event at Fallen Leaf Lake. Photo courtesy of Elisabeth Brentano.

Written by Elisabeth Brentano

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