Thursday, November 15, 2018
Environmental Resource Center Celebrates 25 Years of Changing the Mindset
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Debbie Mahan and Poo Wright-Pulliam, who’s led many a birding trip for the ERC, celebrate the organization’s silver anniversary.
 
Tuesday, November 6, 2018
 

STORY AND PHOTOS BY KAREN BOSSICK

Kingsley Murphy likens the Environmental Resource Center to good bacteria in the dirt.

You don’t pay much attention to it but without it the soil wouldn’t be nearly as productive.

“The ERC is like that. Even when you don’t realize it’s there, it’s doing its job,” he said. “There are so many little things they do in such a private way like keeping noxious weeds down and keeping the valley clean of pup poop. And the fact that there’s no garbage in this town can be attributed to them. As mundane as many of these thing seem, if we didn’t have them it changes the whole community.”

 
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ERC Board Member Mike Schlatter and Program Diector Alisa McGowan celebrate with the ERC’s new AmeriCorps program associate Lindsay Van Mieghem.
 

Murphy was among nearly a hundred supporters who feted the ERC’s silver anniversary this past week with wine and hors d’oeuvres at the Limelight Hotel.

The ERC was founded in 1993 to educate the community about recycling.

“I remember my friend Sandra hanging on to Alice Schernthanner as she went upside down in a garbage bin because people didn’t sort through their recyclables in those days,” said Ann Christensen, one of the founding members of the ERC.

As the county took over much of the recycling, the ERC expanded into other roles.

 
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Fifth-grader Reid Black waxed eloquent about ERC’s Science After School and other programs.
 

It promoted energy saving practices and tried to wean the valley off pesticides. It conducted environmental education programs for youth, trying to connect them to environment. And it installed some of the fanciest garbage cans on earth for its Pick Up for the Planet, or P.U.P program, to keep trailheads clear of dog waste.

That isn’t as straight forward, as it might seem. Something as simple as picking up dog waste involves seven agencies, noted Murphy.

When the ERC started its Clean Sweep program, volunteers filled three dump trucks full that first Saturday morning. When the program expanded to Bellevue, it took five trucks to haul off the loads of tires that were collected.

“I love helping community members fall in love with the beautiful environment we have here,” said the ERC’s Executive Director Hadley DeBree, who is in her eighth year with the program.

 
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Nick Parker and Christie Anderson were among the celebrants.
 

Tod Gunter, Wood River Middle School social worker, told how he turned to the ERC when funding shortages threatened the overnight Residential Outdoor Environmental School camp for sixth-graders.

 “We’ve been able to forget a wonderful relationship,” he said. “Now, we’re in a more stable position but the partnership we’ve cemented with ERC has continued. It shows me good things come out of trying times.”

Reid Black, a fifth-grade student at Hemingway STEAM School, has participated in several ERC programs.

“Eco Camp is the awesome,” he said. “It’s the perfect summer camp because it’s close to home and has everything a summer camp should have, including things like hiking. And in Science After School we get to learn awesome things about animals like bats.”

 
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Ann Christensen has a freezer full of dead mice, tarantulas and other critters, which she uses to teach youngsters about the natural world.
 

When the organization was founded, Kristin Fletcher and Teresa Grant worked on its bylaws. Len Harlig  kept it on the straight and narrow. And Greg Moore, Adam Pinkerton and Tom Blanchard were among those who took their seats on the first board.

Ann Christensen is still volunteering with the organization 25 years later, taking people on animal tracking outings and teaching pint-sized scientists about critters at Ketchum’s Community Library. 

With the recent addition of a new Americorps member, the ERC has three-fulltime staff for the first time in several years. And it’s now collaborating with more than 30 other organizations, such as The Advocates with whom it does a recycling program.

“They’re a very small organization trying to do big things, yet they’re a huge part of our community,” said Sabrina DeBree.

BY THE NUMBERS

In 2017 the ERC:

Reached more than 2,500  youth in 75 programs—35 more than the year before.

Offered 73 of those programs free of charge and provided $2,475 in Eco Camp scholarships.

Reached more than 500 people with its pesticide action programs.

Maintained the Wood River Bio-Control Insectary, mapped and monitored noxious weeds and orchestrated noxious weed pulls.

Conducted recycling at more than 30 events.

Diverted more than 3,500 gallons of glass, aluminum and plastic and 2,000 pounds of batteries and electronics from the landfill.

Enlisted 350 adults and children in cleaning up more than 1,200 pounds of trash at its 23rd annual Clean Sweep.

Diverted more than a hundred 33-gallon bags of dog waste from the trails.

Reached more than 900 people in more than 40 programs, including birding and tracking workshops, snowshoe tours, lectures, film showings and its Street Party for the Planet.

 

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