New book takes on history of EPA in Leadville
LEADVILLE – In a town where characters are as important to an issue as the facts, Gillian Klucas gets the characters right and her book is not short on facts. Her characterization of our local characters has an unmistakable ring of truth. When she quotes the players, it sounds like something Jim Martin, Doc Smith, Ken Chlouber, Carl Miller or the long list of others would say.”I certainly didn’t want to turn them into caricatures,” Klucas said in a phone interview.Not only is the portrayal of the characters accurate, the cast is quite large. Klucas talked with numerous sources and solicited many points of view in her quest to understand the epic history of the EPA in Leadville.
Against this backdrop of people, history and conflict, Klucas focuses frequently one man. Jim Martin’s long dealings with the EPA are used as an example of the changing attitudes in Leadville. In the book we see Martin first as a miner, then mayor and finally as a county commissioner who deals with the EPA for the majority of the 20 years covered in the book. Klucas said her main question when starting research was historical preservation.
“It didn’t turn out like I thought,” Klucas said.Klucas first heard about Leadville and the struggles with identity and environment in 1998. Klucas said when she came to the town in 2001, she didn’t find the rancor she had heard about earlier. She became intrigued with how the animosity moved towards cooperation. She spent a short time in Leadville in 2001 but later moved to the town in 2003. She stayed a year to learn more about the people and the issues. Klucas starts from the perspective that the mining industry fouled a pristine mountain town. To Klucas’ credit, she digs deeper and finds out that the mining industry created and supported this mountain town. Klucas doesn’t let the mining industry off the hook, but she doesn’t make the locals into dirt-eating dupes either. She acknowledges that there are many shades and sides to this issue. She recognizes the pride many in Leadville feel about the town’s mining heritage. She also notes the mis-steps made by regulatory agencies.
Klucas doesn’t just chronicle the events that shaped the current landscape of preserved mine tailings, capped mine tailings (the infamous wedding cakes) and holding ponds. She also questions if standards agreed on in the mid-nineties will satisfy an increasingly health-conscious public.”Leadville: The Struggle to Revive an American Town” will no doubt be added to the shelf of historical reference books about this town. Thankfully, the book comes complete with a strong index. The index is likely to become a favorite passage in the book; partly for reference and partly to compare against the gentle reader’s friends and foes list.Debate about issues keeps Leadvillelites warm in the chilly evenings, and Klucas’s book will no doubt generate debate. It might even get some steamed. Of course, as the book points out, we wouldn’t be Leadvillelites if we quietly agreed to anything.