Instead of working in her office at the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, Forest Service spokeswoman Phyllis Swanson spent Tuesday cleaning up after more than 1,000 college students who trashed Slaughterhouse Island during a weekend boating trip.
Three Forest Service employees usually keep the lake and its facilities clean, but when more than 100 tents, scattered trash and waste were discovered Sunday, the agency gathered 25 people – from Swanson in public relations to firefighters and law enforcement – to assist in the cleanup.
Shasta County is preparing for the mass pilgrimage of Memorial Day weekend visitors who come every year to celebrate on the lake north of Redding during the day and then dock boats or camp on the islands at night.
Shasta-Trinity National Forest spokeswoman Phyllis Swanson said the incident was the first in the 20 years students have organized trips to the lake
Some college students choose Slaughterhouse Island as an outdoor version of a typical college campus party – coolers of alcohol on boats and lake shores and experimentation with illegal substances.
One of the photos of the weekend incident that went viral on social media pictured a Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity member’s cooler which read, “Wanna do some blow man?”
Shasta County residents were infuriated by the disregard the group – including some University of Oregon students – had for their home. The school was identified by clothing left on the island.
Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity at the University of Oregon issued a statement of apology and has suspended the chapter’s activities until the investigation concludes.
“Though it is not known who all was involved at this time, we find this situation to be absolutely unacceptable,” read the statement. “On behalf of any of our members involved, the UO Zeta Omicron Zeta Chapter would like to extend our deepest apologies for any destruction of Lake Shasta resort and the surrounding environment.”
The statement also said that the fraternity contacted the Forest Service to arrange for its members to assist in future cleanup of the environment.
Shasta County resident and UC Davis employee Justin Henry is rallying UC Davis student volunteers to assist in the cleanup during Memorial Day weekend, when even more people will be out on the lake. He is also trying to secure a boat from one of the local renting companies to haul away the bags of trash.
UC Davis freshman Emma Maloney said it is understood among students that the last boat to leave the island is responsible for cleaning up.
“Everyone I have talked to has been horrified by the way that UO left it last weekend,” said Maloney, who said plans to be at Lake Shasta this weekend.
Swanson said there has not been a similar incident in the 20 years students have organized trips to the lake. She said groups can evade the Forest Service by leaving before the cleanup crews come out in the morning.
Sgt. Rob Sandbloon of the Shasta County Sheriff’s Office said 11 officers will patrol the 46-square-mile lake for Memorial Day weekend, primarily to ensure boaters’ safety.
Sandbloon said he has requested two additional emergency medical technicians for the weekend from local ambulance companies in addition to the EMTs that accompany Cal Fire’s patrols.
In addition, the Water Safety Council at UC Davis will sponsor a boat at the lake this weekend with EMTs, water and snacks as part of its SafeBoats program.
The program came as a response to the death of a UC Davis student during a houseboating weekend in 2005.
UC Davis junior Emily Bader heads the SafeBoats program and the Water Safety Council at UC Davis and said that the program provides free emergency assistance to anyone near the island and serves as a safe space for students who may not feel comfortable with some of the reckless behavior that accompanies these trips.
Bader applied for a club grant and receives funding for the program from the university’s Panhellenic and Interfraternal councils.