Letters to EcoNews: Mt. Trashmore, Birding, Recycling and Poker

Mt. Trashmore, Birding and Recycling

My father taught me his love of nature and the outdoors. As a busy ob/gyn doctor in the Bay Area, his idea of vacation was packing into the High Sierra for two weeks. No phone calls or babies unexpectedly due.  He and his friends rode rugged horses, and led a few pack mules with supplies. They camped, often without tents, day hiked and fished. In those days you made a real fire to cook your dinner, and sang a few songs afterwards.  My brother and I joined him on a number of these trips, and learned to camp, hike, and appreciate wild nature. 

When I moved to Humboldt County in 1972, I embraced the natural environment, hiking and exploring the beaches, rivers and redwoods.  There was lots of open space to get lost in. I taught modern dance at Humboldt State, and bought my house for $13,000 in Blue Lake.

I was aware of the NEC, Tim McKay and their environmental work.  Occasionally I went into the cluttered office, and talked to the staff. I made a few minor donations.  One day Tim called and wanted to show me Mt. Trashmore near Arcata’s sewage treatment plant.  He explained the City of Arcata’s innovative plans for its waste water ponds and wildlife sanctuary. The idea was bold.  Integrate sewage treatment ponds with a pleasant recreation site ideal for walking and birding.  I had participated in a few of Tim’s bird watching trips, but knew little about birds.  He knew so much, both by sight and song.  I was struck by the variety of birds on the North Coast, and his enthusiasm.  I took up the study of birds.

After completion of the first phase of the Marsh project in the early 1980’s, Tim thought it appropriate to offer Audubon guided birding tours on Saturday mornings.  For several years, I helped organize docents for these trips, and also for school groups.  Although not an expert birder, I also led trips.  With the birth of my son in 1988, I retired from this volunteer position,  Friends of the Arcata Marsh (FOAM) would be created in 1989, and the Interpretive Center followed a few years later.

During this time I became a member of the Arcata Community Recycling Center board.

ACRC advanced recycling, struggled to pay its bills, and sponsored the initial research for Fire and Light glass products. (How do you transform recycled glass into a usable, aesthetic product?) ACRC also helped develop and promote the California Bottle Bill.  Many states have now adopted Bottle Bills.

Tim was an inspired leader of NEC.  He worked tirelessly.  He was both intelligent and passionate about saving the local environment.  His early death was a shock.  More trees needed to be saved, more wilderness preserved.  For the sake of healthy salmon runs, the Klamath dams still needed to come down. Sadly, I was unable to attend his memorial due to a long planned family reunion.  That was a bitter disappointment. Today when I pick up my binoculars to check out a bird, I think of Tim.  These days I hike the local Sierra mountains.

Susan Dunn

Grass Valley, CA.

Skyhorse Saddle Company

We became involved in NEC about 40 years ago. We were the owners of Skyhorse Ranch, a completely independent alternative energy 45 acres just outside of Westhaven. For over 20 years in the 1980’s-90’s we ran the ranch on wind, water and solar, without even a backup generator. We also raised horses and our most successful contribution to the fundraising auctions were loads of horse manure…..the highest bid won a truckload and then we offered more truck loads at the same price. They were real crowd pleasers!

Our fondest memories were the “unofficial” poker games every single week. Every Wednesday we would gather at Sid Dominitz’s house in Trinidad with Tim McKay and other NEC members. We would play until early morning – laughing, sharing information, pontificating about the health of the planet, and betting nickles, dimes and quarters. We did this for over 15 years and it sure made the long winters enjoyable!

It was (and is) a true community of like-minded members and a huge gift to the county and the planet. We still love and appreciate everyone involved for their dedication.

Much love,

Lisa and Loren Skyhorse

Do you have memories of the early days of the NEC that you’d like to share? We are collecting stories, photos, and memorabilia to display at our 50th Anniversary celebration. Send your recollections (or questions) to carolinenecmail@gmail.com