Third in series of 9
Collaboration is key for Kingsley Murphy, the Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber & Visitors Bureau's choice for Environmental Advocate of the Year. Murphy is chairman of the board for the Environmental Resource Center, based in Ketchum.
Murphy is originally from Minnesota, where he once worked as a set builder on the edge of Lake Minnetonka at the Old Log Theater, one of the oldest live theaters in the country that produces its own performances. As a man who gets immersed in the richness of his environment, he also sets the stage to help others see the benefits of their natural surroundings.
"I appreciate Kingsley's ability and willingness to collaborate with (other groups like) the Wood Land Trust and Wood River RideShare. I've come to realize (cooperation) doesn't happen on its own," said Craig Barry, executive director of the Environmental Resource Center.
The two environmental advocates took time out of their busy schedules to discuss the chamber recognition over coffee served by AmeriCorps volunteers, moonlighting at Tulley's to help make ends meet.
Murphy and Barry pointed out that much of what makes their work possible comes from people like the AmeriCorps volunteers and others who pitch in for everything from noxious weed eradication to operation Clean Sweep to composting and recycling education.
Barry explained that the ERC now has seven to eight speakers a year who work in the schools to raise students' environmental awareness, something that was new to county education just a few years ago.
"Education has become an integral part of the schools now. We never want to loose that," Murphy said.
Murphy has many irons in the fire in his effort to facilitate how citizens of the Wood River Valley learn to live in tune with their environment. Through the schools and his work with Janet Barton's 12-home NEST development in Bellevue that is setting new standards for building pedestrian friendly community housing, Murphy's involvement is as diverse as it is deep.
Barry describes Murphy as a hard worker, who puts his own back and equipment into projects, whether it is boosting recycling programs, Clean Sweep Day or winter ski explorations.
"We like to destroy people's lives (or at least their Nordic racing careers)," Murphy said, explaining how his organization's ski tours are designed to take a skier's focus away from technique and speed and turn it to observing the natural surroundings. "Our skiing programs give people better knowledge of what's within 20 feet of them."
As another example, Murphy spoke about the annual Farm Day visit, when bus loads of curious valley residents and visitors travel to the southern part of Blaine County to meet with farmers to learn what they do.
"Farm Day is a simple concept. You drive up and down the valley every day. Do you know what is going on in the fields?" Murphy asked. Barry added that through education people gain a better connection to nature.
"People are here to learn," Barry said. "By and large, environmental awareness strikes a chord in the community."
Murphy explained that from his perspective, as a leader of an environmental organization that receives thousands of calls from people seeking information, people are very interested in protecting their environment, Murphy said.
"When you see relatively what's happening in the West, this is a pretty special place," he said. "So, that's why we're trying to be good stewards. We're only here for a short time."
Barry and Murphy see their programs growing in the future. Environmental education in the schools is here to stay, Barry said and the ERC is looking to expand its naturalist programs.
"(Program director Ben Mackay) and AmeriCorps volunteers have cobbled the program together," Barry said. "We want to bring it to a whole new level."
NEXT: Blaine County Senior Connection, Non-profit Organization of the Year.
Make dinner reservations
The 8th Annual Community Awards Night will be held at the River Run Lodge on March 18. Social hour will begin at 7 p.m. and dinner and the awards ceremony will begin at 8 p.m. Local veteran entertainer Chris Millspaugh will perform "The Way I See It" after the awards ceremony. Tickets are $45 per person. Call Angela Shetler at 725-2103 or e-mail your reservation request to firstname.lastname@example.org.