Jay Mulder has been voted the recipient of the annual Ernie Maxwell Community Spirit Award for his service, dedication and devotion to removing litter from Highway 243, helping to keep it the scenic highway it is supposed to be. Photo by Jack Clark

Jay Mulder, a familiar figure on Highway 243, was voted recipient of the annual Ernie Maxwell Community Spirit Award. For all the years he has lived in Idyllwild, Mulder has picked up litter on route 243, a state scenic highway.

Mulder has lived in Idyllwild for 11-½ years. Prior to moving to Idyllwild (Stonewood), he lived in Fallbrook. A landscape architect by trade (he retired in 2008), Mulder began his community service of picking up and disposing of litter on country roads in Fallbrook. “When I walked, the litter on county roads really bothered me,” he said. “So I began picking it up and disposing of it, separating and recycling what could be recycled. I just continued the practice when I moved to Idyllwild.”

On any given day, Mulder can be seen on Highway 243, from Idyllwild to the U.S. Forest Service Vista Grande station beyond Pine Cove, picking up litter carelessly left by those using the highway, the roadside, and scenic pullouts and stopping areas. The litter problem became even more acute, with greatly increased refuse, during the last few years of onslaught by snow-play visitors.

“I work in 3-mile stretches and then dispose of what I’ve collected,” said Mulder. “The state park in Idyllwild has recycling bins and I use those.”

Asked why he does this with such regularity and dedication, Mulder replied, “I do it because it makes me feel better, and I encourage more people to do the same. I’m 68 and I don’t know how long the knees will hold out.” He’s hoping, by his model, others will begin and continue to preserve Highway 243 as a scenic highway and to retain Idyllwild’s reputation as having the “cleanest forest in America.”

The honor, now in its seventh year, is given to an individual or group who best represents Maxwell’s spirit of community and volunteerism. After a Town Crier committee determines the top three nominees from the community’s input, the community gets to vote on the final awardee.

Prior awardees, including the Mountain Communities Fire Safe Council, Dawn Sonnier, Robert Priefer, Annamarie Padula, Wendy Read and Janice Murasko/Robert Hewitt, demonstrated a tangible and salutary effect on the community providing a spark of volunteerism that mirrored Maxwell’s dedication to the community and his many volunteer activities that benefitted the community.

  “Volunteering is the spirit of this community,” said Mulder. “I truly do not do what I do for any attention. I do it because it needs to be done and it gives me satisfaction to do it. And Idyllwild has this mentality about helping and volunteering that I fit with. It’s an honor to receive the award.”

In nominating Mulder, Pine Cove Marcia Krull had this to say. “Today I saw him hitchhiking not far from Lake Fulmor, and although I almost never pick up hitchhikers [except for PCT hikers], I recognized him and pulled over to offer him a ride. During our ride, I learned that he has been picking up litter along the highway since he moved to the Hill eleven years ago. He does it for two reasons: for exercise and for community service … With no reward other than the satisfaction of doing a job that makes our community more attractive and more welcoming to residents and visitors alike, Jay is one of the quiet, unassuming angels that seem to gravitate toward our beautiful mountain village … By his actions, with no recompense or recognition, Jay has shown himself to be the kind of person who makes a difference in our community. For this reason, I am happy to nominate him for the Ernie Maxwell Community Spirit Award.”

Said Tim Doyle, Pine Cove resident, “After seeing the article in the Town Crier about the Ernie Maxwell award, my first thought was about this man, Jay Mulder, who has done so much for our community without recognition. I believe now is the time.”