For the summer solstice this year, the party at the Clark Cabin was a little different than parties past. There was still the famous campfire, and people ate, drank and caught up with old friends. Butch shared the magical history of Midsummer’s Eve, explaining its significance in Nordic culture.  But this year, the celebration was for Butch himself. A humble and quiet man, Butch was the center of attention, and the honor was well deserved. 

Butch, with his late wife Judy, created the Valley Housing Fund in 2010 with a legacy donation resulting from two separate land swaps involving the U.S. Forest Service, the Trust for Public Land, Homestake Mining Co. and the CB Land Trust. The Clarks wanted the proceeds from the swaps to go towards their vision of creating affordable housing. They were committed to preserving access to public lands, while also recognizing that the valley’s housing likely wasn’t going to be able to keep up with demand. In a recent interview Butch describes his and Judy’s desire to be leaders on this issue: “A lot of our success as a community will be based on being exemplary as a valley. An example to others of what can be achieved.” 

At the celebration this year, Butch told stories of the history of the cabin, which was donated to VHF as part of the land swap. As he spoke to those gathered around the campfire he said, “My wife Judy and I started Midsummer’s celebrations here in the mid-70’s at this cabin. We loved this place and it was inspirational to us and to others.” He explained the Germanic roots of solstice celebrations dating back “many thousands of years ago”.  

After Butch spoke, founding board member Jim Starr shared how the Valley Housing Fund has been supporting housing, explaining that “We’ve been able to help partners like the municipalities, towns, and Habitat for Humanity build new housing using the seed money from the land swap.” Starr then described efforts to plan and fundraise for the future, continuing, “VHF has purchased a piece of property called the Wilson Parcel just north of Gunnison. We’ve applied for grants to help us create a plan for the 3.5 acres, and we definitely want to build affordable housing there.” 

The Valley Housing Fund intends to continue our focus on three main strategies: to identify opportunities to work with the private sector on workforce housing, to provide financial support to our partners’ affordable housing developments, and to advocate for the people most impacted by the housing crisis and the programs and policies that achieve valley-wide housing goals. There is momentum around housing right now and we are committed to seeing projects succeed. 

VHF Executive Director, Lauren Koelliker ended the evening’s remarks, saying “We are grateful to Butch and Judy for giving us this story to tell, and we’re excited to continue building on the momentum in housing that the Clarks set in motion. Our board has identified creating new housing as VHF’s main priority through 2025.”

To read more about the cabin and VHF’s origin story, click here.