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Ask Eartha Steward

High Country Conservation Center
High Country Conservation Center

Summit County, CO Colorado

Each year at the end of February, the High Country Conservation Center (formerly called Summit Recycling Project) hosts a fundraiser called “The Tim McClure Memorial Benefit.” This year is the 18th consecutive year of the event. Even with many of Tim’s friends still in the community, people often ask me this time of year, “Who was Tim McClure?”

I am among those who never met Tim, but I do feel as though I know him very well.

You see, when I reveal my association with High Country Conservation Center (which he founded under the name of Summit Recycling Project in 1976) I am often met with a smile and the comment “oh, I knew Tim!” And then I am usually graced with a funny or inspiring story about him. And that is how I have grown to know this man.

He was a dynamic personality. An important figure in Summit County’s recent history.

He was something of a rousing character it seems. One of those people that everyone knew or that everyone, at least, wanted to know. And Summit County folks wear their association with Tim proudly, whether they knew him in life, or as I have, in spirit.

In 1976, Tim created the Summit Recycling Project. He rallied a group of volunteers to collect and recycle newspapers, magazines, paper, aluminum cans, glass bottles, cardboard and used motor oil from residents of the county. With his enthusiastic nature and drive, the program flourished for seven years with several drop-off centers located around the county and recycling equipment and a warehouse in Breckenridge.

Tim really pushed for local support of conservation issues by writing sometimes confrontational and always passionate letters to the editor, and lobbying for government assistance and funding. And funds to run the fledgling nonprofit were often collected through bake sales outside of local stores. It doesn’t get more grassroots than that!

To gain a bit more notice for the effort to recycle in Summit, Tim and his compatriots, under the business name of the Wastenot Mining Association, filed a mining claim on the Summit County Landfill in 1980, in an effort to prove the value of the materials we throw away every day.

While working locally to establish Summit Recycling Project, Tim was working with other innovative folks to begin a statewide recycling movement and the state’s first recycling association. Tim was also working as a founding member of the National Recycling Coalition where he was active in establishing the first conference of the organization in California in 1982.

Unfortunately, back at home, not everyone found Tim’s efforts to be of value and he determined that he was fighting a losing battle to gain support from local governments for the recycling program. When the county commissioners again refused to accept responsibility for the program, Tim closed the doors on Summit Recycling Project in 1983. He signed his final letter to the editor “Retiring Coach.”

Wouldn’t our Coach be overjoyed to see that his dream of the county overseeing recycling operations was realized in January of 2006? Tim had commented in that last letter to the editor that “it remains to be seen if Summit County is ever to become a recycling community again.” Well it did. And we celebrate that fact- ” and Tim’s spirit ” each year at this time.

I encourage you to join High Country Conservation Center in celebrating Tim’s vision and our “recycling community.” Since Tim’s death in an avalanche in 1985, many coaches have picked up his whistle and driven the local recycling movement forward.

People like Bob and Rose Wentzel who re-established Summit Recycling Project in 1989. We wouldn’t be where we are today, with our county supported recycling program, without any of our coaches, players and fans.

The High Country Conservation Center may have expanded its focus to include efficient building, renewable and efficient energy and other resource conservation topics, but waste reduction is always at the core of what the organization stands for.

So join the celebration of recycling, grassroots efforts, Tim’s life and the work of so many others in our community at the 18th annual Tim McClure Memorial Benefit on Friday at 7 p.m. at the Bergenhof Restaurant on Peak 8 in Breckenridge. We have found through years of practice that there is no better way to celebrate these things than through good music, good food, good folks, a little beer and wine, and some good old-fashioned belly dancing observation. See you there!

Eartha Steward is written by Carly Wier, Holly Loff, and Beth Orstad, consultants on all things eco and chic at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation in our mountain community. Eartha believes that you can walk gently on our planet, even if you’re wearing stylie shoes.

Submit questions to Eartha at with Ask Eartha as the subject or to High Country Conservation Center, PO Box 4506, Frisco, CO 80443.

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