Yosemite National Park Celebrates Trash Pickup Efforts

A collage of three photos: One of a group of volunteers with trash bags, one of a burlap sack that reads "Yosemite Facelift," and one of a volunteer signing up with a burlap sack in hand

Yosemite National Park, known for its gorgeous granite cliffs, waterfalls, and giant sequoia trees, is also home to a number of communities who love to care for natural spaces.

There is perhaps no greater example than the annual Yosemite Facelift, a yearly trash clean-up that takes place on National Public Lands Day.

This year, for the event’s 20th anniversary, approximately 1,500 volunteers gathered in Yosemite and the Stanislaus National Forest to pick up 10,432 pounds of trash. 

Volunteers clocked in at 12,138 hours of work throughout the event, and the event served as an excellent reminder to park guests to pack it in and out.

A volunteer holds a trash bag and water bottle outside of the Yosemite Visitor's Center
Photo courtesy of the Yosemite Climbing Association

The Yosemite Facelift event is hosted by the Yosemite Climbing Association, which was started over 20 years ago by Ken Yager, a Yosemite climber and guide who wanted to do something about the litter problem in his beloved park.

Now, the week-long event has expanded into 20 additional locations throughout America and celebrates the cleaning up of over a million pounds of Yosemite trash in the last two decades.

YCA works with the National Park Service and its climbing rangers and stewards to coordinate the event and ensure volunteer safety. 

A map of Yosemite with push pins in it
Photo courtesy of the Yosemite Climbing Association

Organizers also had the hospitality sector on their side. The Yosemite Rush Creek Lodge & Spa partnered with YCA to offer a 10% discount on lodging for guests during Yosemite Facelift.

Along with this, the Spa offered an exclusive “thank you,” providing lodge guests a free spa treatment (a magnesium foot soak) after contributing to the cleanup efforts.

“We’re honored to partner with the Yosemite Climbing Association to bring stewardship and volunteerism to our favorite local areas,” Rush Creek shared on its website

“We hope to welcome you to Yosemite to enjoy some fresh air and warm hospitality while doing something good for our beautiful park.” 

This kind of incentive seemed to increase participation for the event, as well, and led to a historic milestone in the park’s zero waste ambitions.

“Through our efforts and coordination with our partners at Yosemite Conservancy and Yosemite Hospitality, we succeeded [in] our goal of becoming the first Zero Landfill event in Yosemite National Park, with a total of 91.12% diversion rate!” the YCA shared on its website, following this year’s event. 

a volunteer signing up with a burlap sack in hand
Photo courtesy of the Yosemite Climbing Association

Other special projects were also hosted during the National Public Lands Day celebration, including collections for Yosemite’s seed banking program, the installation of campground food lockers, maintenance of designative climbing trails, and planting of native grasses in the park’s meadows.

National parks belong to people, and it doesn’t truly feel like your park until you go out and take care of it. That’s the magic of Yosemite Facelift,” Yager told Yosemite Conservancy.

“I believed that by involving everyone – all park visitors and park partners — this event offers a platform to collectively do something great for Yosemite, making it a place where we all play an active part in its preservation.”

Header images courtesy of the Yosemite Climbing Association

Article Details

November 6, 2023 10:31 AM
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