Posted by: Denise Ottoson, Volunteer Historian
The wilderness and the idea of wilderness is one of the permanent homes of the human spirit.
– Joseph Wood Krutch
At 2:30 in the afternoon of September 30, 1979, eight people gathered at the venerable College Inn, the celebrated organizers watering hole in the University District of Seattle, Washington. The eight were Ken Gersten, Karen Fant, Harold Wood, Janet Stuhr, Dean Fischer, Bruce Folsom, Audrey Newman, and Jon Alexander.
Ken Gersten and Karen Fant were the organizers. They were both young environmental activists. Early activist Polly Dyer had recruited mountain climber Gersten, and Fant was a protégé of both Patrick Goldsworthy and the legendary Hazel Wolf, with eight years of volunteer experience already under her belt. Fant had just finished a stint as President of the Federation of Western Outdoor Clubs, and Gersten had just become Vice-President of that group. They had recently met with Jim Monteith of the Oregon Wilderness Coalition, who had urged them to set up a coalition of local activists in Washington and had promised help with the formalities. This Sunday meeting was to discuss the feasibility of the proposed coalition.
When the discussion was done, the group formally decided to form the Washington Wilderness Coalition and declared their gathering its first board meeting. All except Bruce and Jon were put on an interim board; Ken was declared Chair and Karen Treasurer.
The purpose of the group was declared to be “a support system of the ‘front line’ wilderness and wild rivers groups and to publish a newsletter covering topics of interest across the state.” The new board decided that Ken and Karen would be the volunteer staff. And before they adjourned, they reached into their pockets and began the Washington Wilderness Coalition’s treasury with a collective donation of seven dollars.