I’m raising a toast today to a truly unique individual – Charlie Bartsch. Charlie is one of the pioneers in America’s brownfields reuse and sustainable communities movement. They certainly broke the mold when Charlie Bartsch came into the world. The mold was irretrievably smashed when he departed last week.
It’s still hard to believe he’s not bouncing around the planet. I know his spirit still is.
Charlie certainly is worthy of a 450,000 to 600,000-word policy reflection on his inestimable contributions. I’ll keep this ode much briefer.
From his seminal brownfields research and Congressional testimony in the early 1990’s, to the first EPA brownfields pilots, to the passage of the Brownfields Amendments to CERCLA, to the natural extension of brownfields reuse into the climate resilience+smart growth+sustainable communities conversation—Charlie was there and instrumental to framing the policy solutions and implementing on-the-ground improvements.
He was an indefatigable champion for better laws and policies that promote public health, environmental protection, and equitable economic opportunity. He was not only an astute scholar and policy wonk, but also one who was grounded in the practical realities that could find common ground in the interests of community organizers and the business world. He brought to the effort his unquenchable thirst to acquire and share knowledge, his prolific ability to make connections and inspire partnerships, and his joyful spirit. Most renowned change agents aren’t as generous or fun as Charlie.
Charlie had many nicknames around the brownfields family – all insufficient attempts to categorize his pivotal role in the brownfields movement. Many called him the father, godfather, or uncle of brownfields. Thou, those nicknames caused too much awkwardness to the various female pioneers in the movement to stick. The ‘guru’ + ‘energizer bunny’ of brownfields always seemed most apt to me.
My time with Charlie and the brownfields family will always be among my proudest professional accomplishments and most treasured personal memories. Charlie and I shared a love for my home state Oregon, its magical coast and wines, and the western brownfields community. There are too many memories and road trips to re-count, but among the highlights:
I wish I could be there for the services & celebration of his life this week in DC and Chicago. I know they’ll be blowouts. I will be there in spirit! Thanks to Mike Slater, I have a very special bottle of Oregon Pinot Noir earmarked for Wednesday night here in Portland.
It couldn’t be more fitting that he kicked the bucket on his way to Paris for a brownfields workshop. Sums up so many of his passions. We should all be so lucky. And, we are – for having shared some of the journey with him.
Here’s to you Charlie, King of the BFDs (with all due respect to Seven). Thanks for the memories.
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Hi. I'm Colleen, Corporate Sustainability Advisor's founder and owner. Blogging about corporate sustainability trends, benefits, and best practices.