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Jan Klippert, 1935-2008

Posted by Andrew Engelson at Jan 23, 2008 02:00 PM |

Sad news reached WTA yesterday.

Jan Klippert, a longtime supporter of WTA and the founder of the Olympic Coast Clean-up, passed away on Tuesday, his 73rd birthday.

Jan was an inspiration to all of us at WTA. And to many in the hiking community.

He wrote regularly for Washington Trails magazine, and served on the WTA board in the 1990s. He was one of the most positive, energetic people I've ever known.

Jan was probably best known as a founder of the Washington Coast Cleanup, which he started in April 2000 after he was shocked to see how much trash littered the wilderness coast of Olympic National Park. In the years since, the cleanup has taken on a life of its own. Last year, the cleanup brought out more than 800 volunteers picking up over 25 tons of trash.  This year's cleanup happens April 26. You can read more about Jan's involvement in the cleanup in this article in Sierra magazine. Jan was also nominated for a 2008 Volvo "My Hero" award in the Environment category.

Jan was a WTA board member in the 1990s, and was instrumental in organizing and starting WTA's annual event, TrailsFest, which he thought up while on a  backpacking trip in the Pasayten Wilderness with friends Greg Ball and Mark Boyar in August 1995. TrailsFest has grown to become WTA's signature outdoor event, with activities, gear booths, and demonstrations to introduce people to the joys of hiking.

But it was his work helping found and direct the Washington Coast Cleanup that Jan will be most remembered for. According to CoastSavers coordinator David Lindau, Jan was a "very inspirational figure. I only knew him for about a year, but I was impressed not only by his thoroughly infectious enthusiasm, but the fact that he continued to do all this in the face of such a difficult illness."

Jan was a frequent contributor to Washington Trails, and every time he came into the office, he perked things up. He was fascinated by the history and lore of trails, and wrote articles on place names, trail history, and Supreme Court Justice and activist William O. Douglas (Jan was an enthusiastic supporter of the new William O. Douglas Trail from Yakima to Mount Rainier, another of his many pet projects).

Jan was an enthusiastic hiker, too. When I first came to WTA in 2003, he and John Howell had been busy hiking (and bushwhacking) abandoned trails across the state and writing about that experience...all with the intent of protecting and reviving those trails.

To see a little snippet of the kind of person Jan was, watch this video about the coast cleanup, created by his granddaughter, Hannah.

The news of Jan's passing was something of a shock, I think because even though we all knew of his illness, Jan remained so active and enthusiastic until the end. He had just recently emailed us the latest info on the coast cleanup, and not long ago sent in a tip about how to make "cowboy coffee" for an article on coffee in the backcountry in the January 2008 issue. It was classic Jan:

"Just boil the water and put the coffee in the water. Jab in a flaming stick, which will settle the grounds. This works with varying success. Much of the flavor depends on the flavor of the flaming stick."

All of us at WTA will miss you, Jan.

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Jan Klippert

When he was not out hiking the Cascades, Jan was a regular with our Shoreline Seniors tennis group who play all year. He was famous for his nasty alley shots! Reading about his 'flaming stick' coffee making in WTA's January issue, I asked, as a devout New Englander, if I could use white birch. "That would be the stick of choice" was his rejoinder.
I am proud to have nominated Jan for the Volvo for Life award where he became a semi-finalist, (environment category) much deserved for his annual Olympic coast cleanups.

Posted by:

Nancy A. Gordon on Jan 23, 2008 05:33 PM

Jan Klippert

In 1999, Jan entered Greg Ball’s office and proposed the coast cleanup concept to Greg. It was inspiring to hear Jan’s thought process and motivation as his idea incubated into a grand plan. Greg offered his enthusiastic support. I have experienced great joy in participating in all these Earth Day events since inception. Thanks to Jan, and significant support from Sharon, the rewards are many and enduring.

He and I volunteered for an Ira Spring project to explore the Helena Ridge/Helena Peak Roadless Area as a possible addition to the Boulder River Wilderness. Jan and I explored and hiked every forest road and trail in the area with much enthusiasm. What a joy it was to experience and document potential Wilderness findings with Jan. Near the end of this project, Jan looked at one trail map and asked, “What are dotted-line trails?” “I don’t know,” I replied. “We have to find out,” he said. “No we don’t.” But of course we did, by spending the next two years hiking, researching and documenting these “other” trails throughout the state.

We enjoyed collaborating on a small part of Ira Spring’s “Roads to Trails” book, published by the Mountaineers in 2002.
Jan loved people and nature. He combined fishing and canoeing with hiking and weeklong backpack trips. During all of our outings, Jan would spot litter, put it in a plastic bag, and carry it out for proper disposal. Soon he had all of us doing the same. He set the standard in caring for the environment.

I will miss the humor, thoughtfulness, cribbage games and companionship of a very dear friend.
John Howell

Posted by:

John Howell on Jan 28, 2008 01:22 PM

Jan's Memorial

The family has announced that Jan's public memorial will be held at Haller Lake United Methodist Church at 13055 1st Ave. NE, on Sat. February 16 at 1 p.m. For more information, call 206-362-5383.

Posted by:

Andrew Engelson on Jan 28, 2008 04:31 PM