California College Students Accused of Trashing a Beloved Lake Over Memorial Day Weekend

By: Stephanie Bontorin | Published: May 31, 2024

Memorial Day weekend is meant to be filled with celebrations and remembering the men and women who have given their lives while serving the U.S. military. Most cities celebrate with parades and other fun activities to mark the beginning of summer. 

Unfortunately, some people can take the party too far and disrespect the environment. This is exactly what happened when a group of college students in California trashed a beloved lake last weekend.

Where Were the College Students From?

Roughly 3,000 students from UC Davis and the University of Oregon were a part of the group that trashed Shasta Lake over the weekend.

A view of a large university campus at sunset with large trees between buildings

Source: Borawik/Wikipedia Commons

The U.S. Forest Service, located in Northern California, sent out a report detailing the events and the people responsible for the damage.

Details of the Party

The students rented approximately 130 houseboats and stayed on Slaughterhouse Island in the southwestern region of the lake.

A large white houseboat drifts down a large lake with trees on either side

Source: Ccatlett1972/Wikipedia Commons

The island is a well-known spot with locals and has been treated poorly in the past. A similar story emerged in 2016 when college students from the surrounding area had a similar weekend of debauchery that trashed the island. The forestry service spent weeks cleaning the island in the wake of the celebrations.

Partying Irresponsibly

Debbie Carlisi, a recreation officer representing the agency’s Shasta-Trinity National Forest division, spoke to the press about the weekend’s events.

A large trash can filled with litter and bottles surrounded with more bags and miscellaneous trash

Source: John Cameron/Unsplash

She stated that the students left glass bottles and cans, cups, wrappers, and various pieces of trash after they left the lake. Some students even threw their trash directly into the lake despite being handed trash bags directly by the forest service.

Concerns for Wildlife Affected by the Litter

Along with the manpower needed to clean up the affected areas, the Forest Service raised concerns about the permanent damage to wildlife and the environment.

A bucket, green rope, a can of coke, and other trash sit on a large sandy beach

Source: Brian Yurasits/Unsplash

Carlisi raised the issue by saying, “There was a lot of stuff that was left in the lake. That’s going to cause a problem with our fish and wildlife, and it decreases the recreation experience for our next visitors.”

Clean-Up Cannot Begin Immediately

Unfortunately, due to the lake’s abnormally high level, the clean-up process cannot begin immediately. Instead, the forestry service will need to wait until the water level recedes to retrieve most of the trash.

A group of people pick up litter on a beach

Source: Brian Yurasits/Unsplash

Until then, the litter has the ability to wreak havoc on the spawning season of fish during the time spent waiting.


Forestry Service Has a Message for College Students

When asked if Carlisi had a statement for the students responsible for the damage, she stated, “If you were bringing your family out here with you, would you want to find this mess when you were camping?”

Two men wearing blue t-shirts and white hats pick up litter from a sandy beach next to an ocean with small fishing boats

Source: OCG Saving The Ocean/Unsplash

It’s currently unclear if the forestry service has any plans to identify the parties responsible or if their colleges will be alerted of the destruction they caused.


Different Outcome from Mother’s Day Campers

The forestry service knows that not all college students are cut from the same cloth. On Mother’s Day weekend, a large group of students came from Oregon State University to spend the weekend camping on the lake.

A large view of a blue lake with a bridge surrounded by green trees

Source: Public Domain/Wikipedia Commons

Roughly 40 of the 1,600 students who visited that weeknd stayed behind to ensure that the area was left clean and tidy. Despite being a massive group and renting about five houseboats, this group had a much different attitude towards the condition that they wanted to leave the lake. They were able to stay organized and plan ahead to leave no trace on the recreation site. 


Memorial Day Campers Might Ruin the Experience for Others

The group that camped on Mother’s Day left the lake in good condition, so the forestry service trusted that the Memorial Day campers would behave similarly.

An aerial view of a large blue lake filled with docks and house boats

Source: Public Domain/Wikipedia Commons

Unfortunately, now, the students from UC Davis and the University of Oregon might have given college kids a bad rap. The service says that in coming years, they might need to restrict the number of students who can visit the lake.


Bad Behaviour Can Get Guests Banned From National Parks

Guests can be banned from National Parks for littering and failing to comply with simple rules. Forests, parks, and lakes have long had issues with residents littering, polluting and leaving graffiti despite signs and public campaigns.

A view of a large meadow and mountain range with wild flowers, trees and a blue sky

Source: Kelsey Wiedel/Unsplash

Park rangers often have a hard time controlling visitors’ behaviour and will write a citation or ban someone from re-entering if any big rules are broken.


Why Do People Still Litter?

It might seem common sense to most people that littering in nature is a pretty foul move. However, the National Park Service picks up roughly 100 million pounds of garbage each year in protected areas.

Man collects used food cans and trash that's been left behind on Mt Everest

Source: @Interestingasfuck/Reddit

Laziness and carelessness have bred bad habits and allowed a culture of littering to run rampant in the country. Despite providing common and proper receptacles, the U.S. seems to have a bit of a bad attitude toward trash.


How To Stop the Public From Littering in Nature?

When left to their own devices, people will either do the right thing or the wrong thing. Putting up additional signs and trash cans will be redundant as the people who read and respect signs already throw their trash out properly.

A sign in front of tropical trees reading "Please Take Nothing But Pictures Leave Nothing But Footprints"

Source: Florida Guidebook/Unsplash

Some studies show that the best way to deter littering is to write small fines for those responsible.