CHICAGO | BP is donating $1 million to the Student Conservation Association for projects on the Calumet River and at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, project partners announced Tuesday.
“Every single person in the city and in the region loves that lake and they want to protect that lake and that’s what this project is all about,” said John Minge, chairman and president of BP America, while pointing to Lake Michigan.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel agreed.
“That is our Grand Canyon,” Emanuel said, pointing to Lake Michigan. “That is our Yellowstone.”
Minge, Emanuel and project partners gathered on the shores of Lake Michigan on the grounds of the South Shore Cultural Center for the announcement.
The eight-week program will place 125 young people in restoration and remediation projects along the Calumet River in Illinois and at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. When students return to school in the fall, military veterans will take over the projects as part of a job-training program, organizers said.
Emanuel said he was a lead sponsor of the Great Lakes Restoration Act when he was in Congress.
“I’m going to ask the mayor to come over to do a ranger program,” joked Paul Labovitz, superintendent for Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. “I had no idea he had this great connection to Great Lakes restoration, and I thank you for that.”
Labovitz, a native of Philadelphia, said he understands the importance of getting urban youth out into nature.
“I come to you an example of a city kid who was able to get out of the city and connect to the natural work and make a living doing something I really love,” Labovitz said.
Labovitz said he is looking forward to seeing South Shore trains fully of Chicago kids “who want to play and learn at the dunes.”
Jamie Berman Matyas, president and CEO of Student Conservation Association, said the students will remove exotic plants from the banks of the Calumet River and continue ongoing watershed and habitat restoration efforts at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore