26th annual Tim McClure benefit honors local environmental pioneer | SummitDaily.com

26th annual Tim McClure benefit honors local environmental pioneer

Tim McClure founded the Summit Recycling Project, which is now the High Country Conservation Center. A conservation pioneer, McClure died with friend Steve Field in an avalanche in Little French Gulch in 1985.
Special to the Daily |


What: 26 annual Tim McClure Memorial Benefit

When: 6 to 9:30 p.m. Saturday, March 7; music starts at 7

Where: the Village at Breckenridge, Tenmile Room, 535 S. Park Ave., Breckenridge, CO 80424

How much: Tickets cost $25 in advance and $30 at the door and includes food, beer, live entertainment and silent auction. Children under 12 years old are free. Advanced tickets can be purchased online through Friday, March 6, at highcountryconservation.org, as well as over the phone, (970) 668-5703, or in person at 518 E. Main St., Frisco.

From throwing Saturday-night parties in his recycling garage to trying to mine the landfill for aluminum cans, Tim McClure embodied an environmental ethic in the 1970s and ’80s that has since flourished in Summit County.

Before the conservation pioneer and avid skier died in an avalanche near Breckenridge in 1985, McClure founded the nonprofit Summit Recycling Project.

He started in 1976 with a small group of friends and one truck, and they collected materials and drove them to recycling centers in Denver and Boulder. Over the years, the experimental project he fought for transformed the way Summit County handles its waste and became the High Country Conservation Center (HC3).

Longtime Summit locals remember McClure fondly, and newcomers learn about his legacy every year through HC3’s largest fundraising event in McClure’s name.

“He was just a true visionary in Summit County,” said Jen Schenk, HC3 executive director.


After years of hard work and appealing for government funding, McClure stopped his recycling project in 1983. A few years after his death, locals Bob and Rose Wentzell revitalized McClure’s efforts, and in 1989 they held the first memorial benefit.

This year, the 26th annual Tim McClure Memorial Benefit will be at the Village at Breckenridge on Saturday, March 7, from 6 to 9:30 p.m.

Schenk said she expects the event will attract about 200 people, and she loves that it draws all sorts of community members interested in sustainability, including longtime residents and Colorado Mountain College students.

“It’s a really laid-back event,” Schenk said. “There’s no dressing up involved.”

HC3 ran the county’s recycling efforts until 2006, when Summit County government took over the operations and started funding part of the nonprofit’s budget in exchange for public education about waste reduction.

The Materials Recycling Facility, or MRF, became known as the Summit County Resource Allocation Park, or SCRAP, and HC3’s mission expanded to include energy efficiency, sustainable food and green business.

Proceeds from the benefit will go to HC3, which hopes to bring in $25,000, mostly from business sponsorships and a live auction.

Schenk said the HC3 employees are excited about a trip to Punta Mita, Mexico. Other auction items include skis from local companies Skilogik and Faction, season passes to local ski areas, lift tickets for Aspen Ski Area, rounds of golf at three Summit courses, punch passes to the Breckenridge and Silverthorne recreation centers and rafting for a group of four.

Jewelry and gift certificates to local businesses will also go to the highest bidder.

The entertainment this year will include a local belly dancing troupe as well as live music from High Five, a local jam band with bluegrass, reggae, folk and rock influences.

For the first time this year, Schenk said, HC3 will announce the winners of its annual Green Scene environmental awards at the benefit. Five winners will be recognized in volunteer, business and youth categories.

Event tickets cost $25 in advance or $30 at the door and include a beer and food.


A Colorado native, McClure came to Breckenridge with an education degree and occasionally worked as a substitute teacher, remembered Scott Yule, who became friends with McClure through cross-country skiing.

In the late ’70s, McClure and his wife were heavily involved in the community, said Yule, 59, now manager of electrical distribution for Breckenridge Ski Resort and Keystone Resort. McClure managed a condo complex and was especially active in the early telemark scene.

Right before he died, he was working with two friends to start up a backcountry touring business.

“Traveling with Tim you spent most of your time looking for a phone booth because he always had to talk to somebody about something,” Yule said, adding that friends joked that McClure was an undercover agent.

While he worked locally to establish Summit Recycling Project, McClure helped begin a statewide recycling movement and found the National Recycling Coalition.

At home, his passionate ideas weren’t welcomed as warmly.

“He was a force to be reckoned with,” said Anne Ojennes, a friend who worked with McClure on the project. “He was very fervent about recycling at a time when nobody cared.”

The organization received some state and federal grants but little local support. When local officials refused to fund the project and didn’t want to take the McClures’ recycling equipment, he told them they were being short-sighted and ruining the environment.

“He was before his time,” said Ojennes, 58, owner of Health Massage Center in Breckenridge. “He would basically get everybody really angry.”

McClure surely left his friends on earth before his time as well, when he died young in an avalanche with friend and colleague Steve Field and Field’s dog, Jackson.

Yule said he remembered friends assumed the pair spent the night in a hut when they didn’t return from backcountry skiing in Little French Gulch.

The next morning a group on skis followed the men’s tracks and searched with probes.

“We were just joking and having fun until the shovel exposed the dog,” Yule said, “and there was no more joking.”


Yule described how much the community lost that day in McClure, whose life was more than the Summit Recycling Project.

“His vision was everything, everything on this planet can be reused or recycled,” Yule said. “None of us really fully understood in 1977.”

McClure decided Saab 99s were the perfect mountain car, so he fixed up old ones and resold them to his friends. Later, he helped popularize mountain bikes in Summit, and the same people who bought the cars also bought the bikes.

McClure thought everyone should be using bikes instead of cars, Yule said. “And sure enough, can you imagine today without mountain bikes?”

Everything McClure did, Yule said, tied into his environmental passion while also being a lot of fun.

He regularly invited people on Saturday nights to the garage where he baled aluminum to listen to live music, drink beers and add more cans to the crusher.

Once, McClure convinced authorities to let him move a house slated for demolition more than 30 miles after Green Mountain Reservoir construction crews using the housing finished their work. The house still stands in the Farmer’s Korner area, Yule said.

Another time, to make a point, McClure and friends filed a mining claim to recover aluminum in the landfill. He told government officials the amount of common metal sitting there as trash was worth more than all the gold mined from the county nearly 100 years before.

Now, McClure would have been overjoyed to see his ideas realized at the local landfill, Yule said.

“If he were here today,” he said. “He would be so proud of what HC3 has done.”

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