Married to the Movement

by Chris Jenican Beresford


My involvement with the NEC is quite different from others in that I was married to Tim McKay from 1976 through 1988.  Our lives revolved around the environmental movement in those days.  The NEC was housed in what is now the bike portion of Adventures Edge, or ATA to us old-timers.  From there it moved up a few doors to 10th St., then to the corner of 11th and H where we even had a portable crib in the back for our daughter, Laurel. Finally, we purchased a building in the early 80’s thanks to Scott Sway and Felicia Oldfather, a building that we thought we would never fill up because it had so much space!  

EcoNews production in those days was done with typed (by a volunteer) 3” wide strips, the size of columns, on which we rolled melted wax to adhere the columns onto each layout page, cutting them as needed to fit.  We read the entire EcoNews backwards to catch any errors.  To make corrections, we had to often retype portions of the copy (not just the word itself) so that it would fit correctly and then line it up so it was straight.  We used zip line to designate between the stories, press on letters for the headlines, and graphics that we had to find in file folders for white space. We became quite adept at using exacto knives. Those of us doing layout lived in fear of EcoNews editor Sid Dominitz’s reaction to our page.  If Sid didn’t approve of our layout, he made it quite clear, and we would take everything off the page and start over again.  

Chris and Laurel in the Trinity Alps.

In 1976, the NEC received funding for Tim’s and John Amodio’s positions through the Comprehensive Employment Training Act (CETA) for two years.  When it came time to extend those two positions, their funding was not supported by the Board of Supervisors due to lobbying by the timber industry. Those two positions were the only ones not funded again in the entire County.  When that funding stopped, John went to work on lobbying for the expansion of Redwood National Park and Tim took over the role as Executive Director.  While the NEC had a strong base of support, we had to start doing more active fundraising.  

The NEC used to have spaghetti dinners after the North Country Fair. These evolved into the All Species Ball.  I would often spend the entire day making spaghetti sauce, salad, and garlic bread for 200 folks as well as getting ready for dinner service, while Tim worked the NEC booth on the plaza. The event would end with us cleaning until  2am.  

In addition to the art auctions and plant sale, I also participated in the NEC Birdathons with Tim, even pregnant with Laurel. We would sleep in the infamous green Datsun station wagon (which I got from my folks) and get up in the early morning while it was still dark to start owling up above Smith River and end up in Arcata at the community forest for varied thrushes at dusk.

When I think of all the things that I have done in my life, participating in the Siskiyou Mountains receiving a wilderness designation is what I am most proud of.  Just the fact that a bunch of kids who had no idea what they were doing helped to get this accomplished still amazes me to this day.  We also worked against the completion of the Gasquet-Orleans, or G-O, Road, a road that was intended to connect Orleans and Gasquet, built from both ends to access timber but never finished in the final section.  Tim and I went to Washington DC to lobby for both, even getting to meet with the infamous Phil Burton, who told us that he could not support completing the GO Road as he had already promised the timber to the MacNamara Peepe mill in Crescent City.  I testified before a House sub-committee in Weaverville for a wilderness designation for the Siskiyous in the wilderness bill, quite pregnant with Laurel, which was commented on as I, literally, waddled up.  

After many years of political work on the Democratic Central Committee, I stepped down in 2012 and joined the Board of Directors of the NEC becoming the organization’s treasurer, a position that I still hold as well as resident bureaucrat, occasional historian, and general worker bee.  Not long after I joined the board, we found ourselves without any paid staff, other than two work study students.  With the help of Jen Kalt and our work study students, I figured out how and when to pay the bills, make bank deposits, bill the member group pages, bill for member group mailings as well as EcoNews advertisers and all the other administrative tasks that needed to be done, including training new staff.  Quite the learning curve! It seemed as if Jen and I were in the office everyday dealing with keeping things running.

Currently, with the NEC once again staffed, I have been able to step back from many of the administration and daily operations. Now, I oversee the budget, monitor expenses, provide back-up and assistance as needed, help out with hiring staff, all related personnel issues and at NEC events. 

I look forward to my continued participation.