The 1977 Committee to Save the Earth students. Courtesy photo

Islanders invited to participate in community forum | On History

In 1969, Mercer Island High School student Bob Liberty founded The Committee to Save the Earth (CSE).

“The very first recycling event consisted of picking up cans and bottles and some cardboard from along the roadside,” Liberty wrote.

From collecting litter, CSE turned to focusing on recycling. By 1975, these dedicated students, mentored by their teacher Harry Leavitt, had envisioned, planned, funded and helped to build the Mercer Island Recycling Center. In 1976, then-Gov. Dan Evans awarded the CSE the state’s Environmental Excellence Award, accepted by MIHS student Bill Hochberg on behalf of the group.

Over the years, the center saved millions of pounds from landfill and raised thousands of dollars that were used for school and community environmental projects. However, by 2010, curbside recycling cut into the income earned through the center. It closed on Feb. 28, 2010.

The City Council decided to repurpose the building and commissioned the Bainbridge Graduate Institute (BGI) to lead a community-wide process to determine the best use for the building. BGI conducted a community survey and a stakeholders’ meeting and presented a 42-page report to the council on July 12, 2010. However, the council postponed action on the report and neglected to follow through on repurposing the building as the stakeholders envisioned.

This weekend, Concerned Citizens for Mercer Island Parks (CCMIP) welcomes Islanders to a community forum to update the BGI report and to provide citizen input to the council, to carry out the goals articulated by the 2010 council for re-purposing the building — focusing on “uses that will address Mercer Island’s ongoing commitment to economic, environmental and social sustainability.”

The forum “RENEW, REUSE, RE-PURPOSE” will be held from 1:30-3:30, Sept. 23 at the Mercer Island Library. A reception to honor former CSE members and celebrate the 42nd anniversary of the opening of the Recycling Center will kick off the forum. A brief DVD about the history of the center, “Saving a Piece of the Earth” (1991), will be screened, followed by a working session to generate ideas and strategies for realizing the council’s goals in 2010.

Commemorative booklets and DVDs will be given to attendees while supplies last. To reserve your copy in advance, email protectmiparks@gmail.com. More information at www.protectmiparks.org.

Meg Lippert is a member of Concerned Citizens for Mercer Island Parks, a group of Mercer Island residents dedicated to protecting parkland from development.