During the Jan. 22 to 24 weekend, Great Basin National Park hosted its annual Lehman Caves lint camp cleanup. About 25 volunteers from three states carried buckets, brushes and other cleaning supplies into the cave network.
Inside they focused on removing lint from hanging stalactites. If left uncleaned, the lint can become embedded in the formation. It can also serve as a food source for undesirable bacteria, which would in turn affect the cave’s ecosystem.
After a cleanup, “people notice that part of the cave looks brighter,” chief park ecologist Gretchen Baker said. “It’s a big concern.”
The volunteers also swept up and removed leftover fill dirt from construction of the footpath. According to Baker the team removed 2,700 pounds of material this year.
“It’s an ongoing effort,” she said. “The National Speleological Society convention is coming, so we want to make sure cavers coming from all over the world have a good view. The lint and debris have been building up for decades. Over 30,000 people go through the cave a year.”
Ben and Jeanette Ling drove from Salt Lake City with their 15-year-old son, Bryce, to volunteer. They are members of the Salt Lake grotto, or chapter, of the NSS.
“It’s kind of satisfying to dig the impacted dirt out of there and expose the formations,” Jeanette said.
“I like spending quality time in a cave that normally you have to walk through pretty fast,” Ben said. “I spent two hours next to the same rock. I know that rock now pretty well. You get to know the cave so much better.”
“We’re getting there,” natural resources chief Ben Roberts said. “We’re making progress. It’s a great opportunity. We couldn’t do it without the volunteers and people who care about the park.”