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Old bins (middle) and new (right)

Old bins (middle) and new (right)

Recently, the city of Fort Collins adopted changes to ordinances that, among other things, require trash haulers to offer new, larger recycling bins. This as part of a larger plan to meet “diversion” goals that will send 50% of our city’s waste to recycling rather than the landfill.

Great idea. But what do we do with the old, smaller recycling tubs?

“I have 15,000 tubs out [in the community],” says Mark Glorioso, from Gallegos Sanitation. And while many customers are choosing to keep the old tubs for storage containers as they upgrade to the newer bins, plenty are sending the old ones back.  Glorioso estimates he currently has between 100 and 200 on hand.

The old tubs are, themselves, recyclable. But not really. “They’d have to be shredded or pelletized before a recycling facility would accept them,” Glorioso says.

So, that leaves potentially thousands of excess plastic recycling tubs as a byproduct of our new and better recycling policies.

But let’s talk about solutions.

Gallegos has at least one: The hauler is talking to Poudre Schools about donating the tubs for worm compost bins.  The repurposed tubs would house worms who would eat your food scraps. The resulting worm poop is as fine a gardening amendment as anything from a pricey nursery. I think it’s an excellent idea.

Although I will say that worms can’t take the Christmas and summer off. And that might mean that instead of babysitting Otis the Turtle during school vacations, families can expect to foster the 3rd Grade Worm Farm.

But that’s just me speculating. Glorioso says that if you’ve got a great re-use situation for a stack of has-been recycling tubs, contact Gallegos Sanitation at 484-5556.

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Cunningham Corner is a condo complex on the corner of Horsetooth and Shields in Fort Collins. It’s also the name on the barn that sat at that corner before the condos (the barn has since been declared a historic landmark and moved elsewhere).

And in the early 1970s, it was the name of one of the hottest bands in Fort Collins.

Kevin Donnelly, founding member of Cunningham Corner, the band, sent the Lost Fort Collins blog the story. With pictures:

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Cunningham Corner plays CSU

I was the only band member who lived on the [Cunningham Corner] farm, but the band rehearsed there all the time and it became a haven for the local artistic community which at the time consisted of painters, [such as the legendary “Gorpf”], musicians, sculptures, poets and writers.

I don’t know if “hippies” would be the right word to describe the group of people who lived there.  We were just young kids, mostly from the city, who discovered a new way of life in Colorado.

At night, at that time, the area was very quiet and peaceful and all our musician friends would sit around the campfire in the garden and play music into the night.  The area is not quite so isolated nowadays, is it?

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625 Remington

In later years, the band all moved into the same house together along with various other artists and musicians.  We built a recording studio there …

There was a “Der Weinerschnitzl” across the alley and we lived off of those dogs! There wasn’t a lot of money, but all we really needed was to make sure that our guitars had new strings on them by opening night!

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Outside 625 Remington Street,2005

Early band days at CSU

Scott Galbraith and I  started playing our acoustic guitars in the common area at the Student Center.  That was the beginning of Cunningham Corner.  There used to be this area where students could stretch out on couches and tables. It became an area where musicians could just bring in their instruments and play for everyone.

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Playing at CSU

The sound, the scene, and the Jade Urn

It was the time the Flying Burrito Brothers, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Poco, Randy Meisner, Pure Prairie League, John Denver, Michael Nesmith and Michael Martin Murphy. Cunningham Corner had 4 part harmonies but the band was more than that.  It was more like an experimental orchestra.  We played many instruments and all original music that crossed over from jazz to rock to country rock and rhythm and blues and to funk and to even classical and show tunes.

A good friend of the Cunningham Corner band at the time was the poet and musician Charles John Quarto who was a mainstay in Fort Collins and who wrote the lyrics for  “Geronimo’s Cadillac” for Michael Murphy.  Charles was kind of a spiritual advisor of the band and even used to read poetry before our sets at the old Jade Urn coffeehouse.

…I have great memories of playing all night at the Northern Hotel in Fort Collins and then walking home in the cool evening to 1625 Remington Street.  Fort Collins was at the time, and I understand still remains, one of the best places to live in the country.

Cunningham Corner [toured throughout the southwest and] was the only non-recording act to headline multiple times at the Armadillo World Headquarters in Austin, Texas, which was one of the best music venues at the time. [The home of Willie Nelson].  We also played various fund raising and charity events in Fort Collins.

There were other popular hometown bands as well, and twice a year we would all rent out a couple of ballrooms at the student center and hold a big concert where all the bands would play on stage together.  It was a very tightly knit community of musicians.

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Publicity for Spring Jam

After the Spring Jam, we all gathered at “The Town Pump” which was then owned by our good friend Ron Heard, and played music all night.  Ron also had an ownership interest in the Rams Inn.  Back then, if you wanted a really good hearty breakfast the Rams Inn was the place to go.  I don’t imagine it is still in business.

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Ron Heard at Town Pump

Where are they now?

The members of Cunningham Corner eventually landed in Los Angeles and pursued musical careers.  There were many successes and countless stories.

As for myself, I developed an interest in the law.  I have been practicing law for the last twenty-five years in Los Angeles.  In 2000, I married the love of my life and we now reside in Redondo Beach CA.

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Jimmy Davenport, David Fuog, and me

We lost some friends along the way.  Our original drummer, Gary Brittingham, who is seated next to me in the Cunningham Corner barn photo, was accidently electrocuted while working at the old pickle factory in Fort Collins about 1972.

Our  piano player, Rod Seeley, who I understand remained a musical staple in the La Porte and Fort Collins areas until
recently, passed away a few  years ago.

Another great singer and songwriter who lived in Fort Collins at the time and a good friend of the band, Scott Bruning, passed away some twenty years ago.

Peace, Kevin

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Final version of the band. 1973. Chester Terwey, David Fuog, Jimmy Davenport, Scott Galbraith, Richard Lee and Kevin Donnelly.

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Beet Street, an enterprise formed to bring tourist dollars to downtown Fort Collins, recently announced a “Homegrown Fort Collins” event for late September.  It has something to do with eating local. And by that they mean eating at local restaurants, or eating from local farms, or drinking local beer.  But among its partners for the event it lists  a Greeley public radio station and a Texas organic grocery chain.

Why not KRFC, the Fort Collins community radio station? And why not the Fort Collins Food Co-op–our first natural foods market and now one of downtown’s oldest businesses?

I’m sure Beet Street has its reasons. KRFC and the Co-op are community-run outfits that probably can’t manage the scale of commitment or contribution that the NPR affliliate and Whole Foods can. And let me add that I applaud Beet Street for these efforts at doing more to celebrate who we are rather than who someone thinks we ought to be. To say nothing of its generous underwriting at KRFC. Cheers Beet Street.

But at the same time, I worry that “local” will soon become as meaningless as “green” as national corporations get on the bandwagon and somehow co-opt another grassroots movement. Especially the local food movement.

In this new landscape, will there even be a place anymore for the Fort Collins Food Co-op?

To answer that, you have to know where the Co-op came from, and why it ever mattered. It’s a story that starts with one of our earliest grassroots organizations, the Point.

The Point

In 1970, Bear Gebhardt started The Point in Fort Collins because he didn’t want to go to Vietnam. It was a choice the Federal judge gave him when he blew off his draft notice–2-5 years in jail or community service.

The Point, says Gebhardt, was his community service. And he stayed with it for 9 years.

It started as a nonprofit to provide drug counseling for teens. “Heroin was getting popular on the coasts, and everyone was worried about it coming to Fort Collins,” he says. Working loosely from early Dr. Andrew Weil writings, The Point encouraged kids to be more reflective. “We would say, ‘look, you’re obviously searching for something…” he says, and then trails off. “We did it all rather clumsily.”

But that didn’t stop him from trying. Over time, the Point housed several community efforts from its old brick mansion at Mulberry and Remington:

A small legal service opened, because drug use is a legal issue.

And a medical clinic, because drug use is a also health issue. The clinic offered prenatal and well-baby care as well.

It was all rather open, from what I can tell.

“I don’t recall that financial need had to be demonstrated as a condition of receiving services,” says John Gascoyne, now host of KRFC’s Imagine Action. “I had some minor medical service performed one night and swept the upper floor of The Point offices as payment. ”

Ya, and it just got more and more hippie from there.

They collected newspapers and hauled them to Denver for recycling–because no recycling existed in Fort Collins.  And they got the City to put up these thumb signs,  along College Avenue,  where you could solicit a shared ride during the first gas crisis. Hitchhiking with the City’s blessing.

Some of these programs fell flat (hitchhiking signs) and others blossomed (legal and medical services were picked up by bigger nonprofits and governments).

Begatting the Food Co-op

Activists were naturally drawn to The Point, forming what Gebhardt calls a tribe. A brown rice-loving tribe, apparently. Because they soon noticed that while  weed and alcohol were abundant in Fort Collins, you couldn’t buy a sack of unmilled rice anywhere.

So, in the Winter of 1971, 30 of them each kicked in a dollar and sent a driver to Erie to buy the first bag. Within a year, an active buying club took up more and more floor space at the Point. It soon outgrew its closet. Then one room and then two. Gebhardt says they thought about moving operations into the garage behind The Point, but the Health Department thought otherwise. The tribe would need to start a proper store.

And so it did. In 1974, the club incorporated and opened a shop at the old West Side Market at 700 W. Mountain. It proved a good location and the business made money. In fact, it soon outgrew the building.

Next, the Food Co-op moved to the current building on 250 E. Mountain in 1978. But things didn’t go so well there. Honestly, the Food Co-op seems to have mostly struggled ever since.

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Do we still need the Food Co-op?

Over the years, the Food Co-op tried to draw in more customers, more seniors, more students. It struggled to address its inadequate parking.  Even keeping track of money proved challenging. And most recently, it’s had to compete with bigger and better organized organic commercial markets, like Whole Foods, Sunflower, Vitamin Cottage.

To make matters worse, it built a reputation as being unconcerned with shoppers. Members couldn’t agree on a management structure; staff with unwashed hair hardly looked up from their magazines as you shopped; food rotted in the produce bins. Maybe that didn’t used to matter. But with the Seattle coffee house lights, generous parking, and perky helpers of Whole Foods just down the street, the Co-op came to symbolize everything outdated and stuck about hippies.

So why not just shut it down?

Here’s why.  Here’s my 5 reasons why the Food Co-op still matters:

1. The Co-op is doing its damnedest to turn around right now. It’s cleaned up nicely. With an impressive new manager, the produce, layout, and the help is now pleasant and fresh.

2. It’s focused on buying local in a way no organic supermarket can. “We can buy from a farm that’s only an acre large,” says Chad Chriestenson, Co-op outreach and education. “The bigger markets can’t.”

3. It’s flexible enough to partner with other downtown businesses. While I was in the back room, management talked about splitting a shipment of apple cider with another small store. Soon after, Co-op manager, Lynn Chriestenson, held up a pile of checks she’d written and said, “I’ll only mail about a fourth of these.” Another fourth she’ll walk around town, paying downtown businesses with whom the Co-op has established partnerships. “The rest I’ll pay out at the Farmer’s Market this weekend.”

4. It’s ours, it’s local, and we have a history.

5. Meanwhile, Whole Foods is having a Wal-Mart effect on small towns all over America, says Every Kitchen Table. Once vibrant community-supported agriculture and food co-ops are buckling  everywhere, and the smallest farmers are losing out.

And maybe we’re losing out too.  I’m not sure. But I think it’s time to try the Food Co-op again and see if we can make it work–before “local” in Fort Collins is little more than a loosly defined label at a just-like-the-next-town-over strip mall organo-market.

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Credits and post script

The idea for this story came from Allison Fink last February. Thanks Allison!

Bear Gebhardt still lives in Fort Collins. After he left The Point, he became a stock broker. He’s author of the book Enlightened Smokers Guide to Quitting and lists his current profession as “Monk” on his Facebook page.

bear

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Chris, musician and anarchist, near the corner of Mulberry and College 3/29/2009

I’ve known about three kinds of anarchists in Fort Collins.

1. Those who break windows anonymously and then claim responsibility anonymously .

2. Those who use  the principles of anarchy for personal gain. But then invoke the legal system as soon as the collective votes them off the island.

3. And those who think gardening and chicken keeping may be key to unhooking us all from government dependency.

Resistence is fertile!

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“See the man in the mountain?” this old farm boy asks me.  I am at a party at his childhood home and I don’t know anybody.  So I stand outside looking at Long’s Peak, and he comes up and says that. “With his arms outstretched. Do you see?”

I can kind of see, maybe in that inverted pyramid patch of snow just beneath the top of the mountain.  But not really.  It’s a man like the man in the moon who doesn’t look like a man at all, to me.

“We used to watch the arms, and that’s how we knew how much irrigation water we had left for the year,” the farmer says. “The arms get shorter, and the water runs out.”

The Big Thompson Project created a system dams and diversions in the late 1940s. It brings water under the divide and averages our rainfall and snowpack.  So if there is a man in Long’s Peak, he’s defunct.

But still I can’t help but check for him every time I look West.

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Imagine you build a house out of local and renewable materials. And you build it only 500 square feet for the whole family, in walking distance of your job. The yard is big enough for a significant garden, and you raise chickens and hang your own laundry on a clothes line.
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Nobody gives you a tax credit or even an energy star.

You don’t ask for one. You grow up with your neighbors, know each other’s kids and grandparents, and for the most part keep to yourself.  Although once in a while you’ll ask for a school or paved roads long after everyone else gets them.

It goes like that for generations. 

The factory closes. A new factory comes to the neighborhood. A craft brewery that draws national attention for it’s feel-good business practices. But when you walk through the front door, it’s clear none of these workers have ever topped a sugar beet. 

Another big employer tries to come to the neighborhood, a SuperWal-Mart.  But from the other side of the tracks they  scream “corporate domination!!!” and fight like hell to keep the jobs away.

The sustainability fair raises its tent just next door to show the city about living in harmony with the earth–although ironically nobody notices you’ve been treading lightly since the beginning. Amy Goodman comes from New York City to wring her hands about injustice on the other side of the world. 

You don’t say anything.

The crowds grow as everyone wants to throw world-class parties in your backyard. And when you complain, they whisper, “Maybe you should just move to Greeley.”

—–

I’m not Mexican, and I have no business pretending to know how it feels. But I do know there’s more to this town than bicycles and breweries. And I do think our neighbors in Andersonville, Buckingham, and Alta Vista want you to know who they are.  

The Museo de las Tres Colinas in Andersonville is open on the third Saturday of each month from 12:30-3pm, and every Saturday in April from 12:30-5pm.

Also

Lost Fort Collins now has a Flickr page for additional photos, some related to posts, some not.  See the Beyond the Blog link at right.

You can see a snapshot of Betty Aragon-Mitotes there. This post came as a result of my conversation with her yesterday.

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The milk man took the corner too fast and a crate of full bottles flew off his truck–right onto my street.

Some neighbors came out to help clean up. Some just came out to take pictures for their blog.

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