Man on a mission to clean Yosemite
YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, CA (KGO) -- About 3.5 million visitors pour into the park to worship the natural beauty, but what they leave behind isn't so pretty. But a man is not only cleaning the place up, he's also giving back to the community.
Ken Yager loves Yosemite. He's been coming to the park since 1972 and has scaled the notorious El Capitan so many times, he's lost count.
"Through climbing I explore various parts of the park, I'd pull out on a turnout - an obscure area on the road, and as I walked up to the climbs I noticed that there was toilet paper, and baby diapers, and garbage just piled out," said Yager.
Now, Yager is a man on a mission -- to clean Yosemite National Park of the thousands of pounds of trash that visitors leave behind each year.
"I was getting really upset, and I was getting really tired of picking it up and I was getting mad at people for doing it," said Yager. "I just could believe that people would do that. I decided I could be really negative about this, or I could turn this into a positive thing."
He started the "Yosemite Facelift" as a way to improve the image of the mountain climbers who converge on the park's granite peaks.
"We started cleaning the stuff up and it's gradually grown larger and larger every year," said Yager.
The first year 365 people turned out to help. Last September, nearly 3,000 volunteers collected 42,000 pounds of garbage from 132 miles of roadways and 80 miles of trails, corridors and river ways. The five-day facelift has now become an annual event.
This year's clean up is from September 24th to the 28th.
"Most of the hard work is cigarette butts and bottle caps and toilet paper and micro trash, you know like candy bar wrappers, or pieces of potato chip bags, or you find soda cans and beer bottles," said Yager.
Yager isn't just volunteering his time for the cleanup.
"A huge part of our history is climbing, and the climbing community brings a lot of money and a lot of visitation and a lot of knowledge to this park," said Yosemite National Park ranger Kari Cobb.
Yager has also lent his personal collection of hiking memorabilia to the park service for an exclusive exhibit. His "Granite Frontiers" exhibit at the Yosemite Museum tells the story of mountain climbing from the earliest days with artifacts he's accumulated over a lifetime.
"I have artifacts from 1869 all the way up to the present day," said Yager.
Some 600 people a day pour through this exhibit every day.
"All this gear they made themselves, I got a couple of their hammers here that they used on the first descent," said Yager.
The exhibit ends November 9th. Park rangers say that Yager's contribution to the park is invaluable.
"The park is extremely grateful, this is great for the park, ken is a great guy - he does a lot for the park," said Cobb.
Yeager hopes his generosity will inspire others work with the park.
And he says the Yosemite Facelift should inspire others to not only clean up parks, but their communities as well.
"I just got to the point where I couldn't stand it, so anyways, it was the best way I could tackle it and also feel good about it," said Yager.
So ABC7 News salutes Ken Yager for giving back to one of our nation's greatest national treasures.
To get some information about the Yosemite Facelift or to get information send an email to YCA@INREACH.COM
Written and produced by Ken Miguel.
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