For nearly 20 years, volunteers have been meeting in Yosemite National Park annually in September to clean up the park so that visitors can appreciate the natural beauty of the landscape. Yosemite Facelift, which will be held on Sept. 21–25 this year, was founded in 2004 by avid climber Ken Yager, who admits that when he launched the program, it was for purely personal reasons.
“I was a climbing guide at that time for Yosemite Mountaineering Schools, and I would take people on private climbs and teach classes on El Cap and Half Dome,” he recalls. “Getting to [the climbing spots] was embarrassing because you’d be tiptoeing through toilet paper everywhere.” Upset by the mess, Yager asked a few other climbers to help him pick up the trash, and the three-day experience went so well that they decided to do it again the following year.
Since 2004, volunteers have removed more than 1 million pounds of trash and decades-old construction debris from the park. “Now we’re down to mostly micro trash and water bottles, but we still collect anywhere from 13,000 to 16,000 pounds a year,” Yager says. “We’ve also branched out and have partnered with the National Park Service to help them with special projects they might not have the funding to do otherwise, like trail repair and the spray paint removal.”
Yager says they expect 2,000 volunteers to participate this year, and a number of local businesses are promoting the effort, too. Yosemite Rush Creek Lodge & Spa, for example, is encouraging guests to “trade trash for spa treatments” by offering those who participate a complimentary “detox” for face and feet post-cleanup effort, along with a discount on lodging. The lodge, which opened in 2016 and is located half a mile from the park’s Highway 120 west entrance, offers a variety of room types, including villas that sleep up to six, along with a pool, full-service restaurants and a spa. Those who want to participate in Yosemite Facelift must pre-register for the event on the Yosemite website by Sept. 15 to ensure entry at the park gate.
“There are so many people who attend the event every single year,” Yager says. “The park looks a lot better now, and what this event has turned into is really quite special.”
Lotus Abrams has covered everything from beauty to business to tech in her editorial career, but it might be writing about her native Bay Area that inspires her most. She lives with her husband and two daughters in the San Francisco Peninsula, where they enjoy spending time outdoors at the area’s many open spaces protected and preserved by her favorite local nonprofit, the Peninsula Open Space Trust.