Preserving the environment

Oak Creek teen does her part to make South Routt a cleaner place

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— Residents in South Routt have always seemed to grapple with the idea of recycling.

Should residents pay an extra cost? Will the community accept it? Can it be successful in such a small market?

While those questions are still being considered, one Soroco High School student has taken a more-action, less-talk approach to recycling in the area.

For the past two years, junior Kaylie Corrigan has organized a recycling program at Soroco schools, taking the materials to the recycling center in Steamboat Springs every other week or so.

"I just load it up in my truck and drive it to Steamboat," Corrigan said.

The 17-year-old came up with the idea last year when she had an extra class period to fill. She asked her principal if she could earn a class credit for helping the school recycle.

It was approved, and Corrigan dropped off a few boxes for recyclables in the high school, collected the materials and drove them to the recycling center.

The program has grown since then.

This year there are boxes in all of the high school and middle school classrooms.

Next year, Corrigan wants to get a recycling program in Yampa's elementary school.

Last year Corrigan organized a fund-raiser, selling Green Team T-shirts, that helped support her recycling in South Routt.

"Once that (money) comes through, I'm going to get (plastic) recycling bins for every class," she said.

Corrigan even has expanded her recycling efforts into the town of Oak Creek, picking up materials at the Oak Creek Town Hall, Pisa's and at her parents' workplaces, TimCo and Upper Yampa Realty.

That's not all.

Corrigan organizes a group of friends called the Green Team, which coordinated a day to clean up the trash on the banks of Oak Creek.

"In our community right now, not many people are aware of what recycling can do," she said.

On Thursdays during her second-hour class period she uses to do the work, Corrigan was standing in the old photo lab, which has now become the recycling room.

It is packed with newspapers, cans, bottles, paper and cardboard boxes.

"I just pick up all the different stuff each day," Corrigan said.

She sorts through the material, separates it out and prepares it for her every-other-week drive to Steamboat.

Spanish teacher Beth Faris is Corrigan's sponsor for the class.

She grades Corrigan on her efforts and helps when she needs it.

"She's my hero," Faris said. "She is so committed personally to the issue. You could never force someone to do something like this."

In the past two years, more people have become interested in recycling and the students have become more conscious on what they are doing with their trash.

"Just the fact that she's doing it sets an example. She is getting people more interested in it," Faris said.

That also means a lot of stuff to haul.

Corrigan, her parents and Faris hauled three big loads of trash to the recycling center last week.

"It's just that everyone is doing it right now," Faris said.

Corrigan's next big goal is to help the town of Oak Creek get its own recycling center. Mayor Cargo Rodeman asked Corrigan to speak about her work at a town meeting Thursday night.

At the same meeting, the trustees will discuss a plan to raise residential trash prices by $1 to help get a rollaway Dumpster for recyclables and put it behind town hall.

Waste Management has yet to present a contract.

"We are just trying to be part of the planet," Rodeman said.

Corrigan and the Green Team have agreed to monitor a future recycling site to make sure it stays clean and items are sorted correctly.

"She is just amazing," Rodeman said of Corrigan's drive.

For Corrigan, the work has given her some hope on finding what she wants to pursue after high school.

"When I graduate, I probably want to go to college and do something along the lines of environmental politics," she said.

But what will happen to the recycling program after Corrigan graduates in 2004?

As it turns out, Corrigan may leave a recycling legacy behind her. Faris said she already has had students ask to pick up where Corrigan left off.

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