Perfect Places, Great Events to Mark Earth Day

Chicago Tribune
Thursday, April 21, 2016
by Joan Dittmann, Post-Tribune
 
Earth Day is officially on April 22 but the celebrations have already begun and continue this weekend and beyond. These Earth Day events bring opportunities to enjoy the special aspects of spring, learn more about the environment, engage in environmental stewardship and learn ways to do more all year round to take better care of our “Mother.”
 
In Northwest Indiana there is, perhaps, no more fitting place to celebrate Earth Day than in the dunes and along the shoreline in Gary and Portage. The shoreline there, across just a relatively few miles, provides a perfect place to enjoy nature’s majesty, and to see the impact of industrial development…
 
The Student Conservation Association is teaming up with the National Park Service to celebrate the National Park Service Centennial with a series of service days at national park sites across the county, including one here in our backyard at West Beach of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.
 
“The Student Conservation Association is a national organization going on its 60th year. The SCA’s mission is to build the next generation of conservation leaders. We work primarily with young people from age 15 to about age 27, and connect them with conservation opportunities in parks and public lands across the country,” explained Lori Robertson, marketing and events manager for the Student Conservation Association.
 
But you don’t have to be within that age range to contribute to the service day at West Beach. All ages, including families with children, are welcome.
 
“The service project will focus on beach clean-up and removing debris, trail maintenance, and invasive species removal to allow the native biodiversity to thrive. These are all hands-on projects, with some suited to younger children and others more appropriate for those with some experience,” Robertson said.
 
Volunteers will be provided with trash bags, gloves and any other supplies and equipment that will be needed. SCA will also provide free breakfast and lunch for all volunteers, as well as a free Find Your Parks t-shirt to the first 500 volunteers who register. There will also be hands-on environmental education for the youngest “volunteers”, provided by SCA’s Urban Tree House Program.
 
Robertson said that many groups have already registered for this event including numerous scout groups, and school groups from as far as Northwestern University andPurdue University. Free shuttle buses from downtown Chicago and from the Portage/Odgen Dunes South Shore train station will be available, and parking will be free for volunteers arriving by car.
 
The event is from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., rain or shine, so participants should dress for the weather.
 
Registration is required. To register, or to get more information go online tohttp://thesca.org/find-your-park-earth-day-chicago.
 
Robertson added, “We like to think of every day as Earth Day, and work to host large scale events open to the community at large to experience and to give back. That is the spirit of this event, and part of a national initiative to celebrate the National Parks Centennial.”
 
Federal lands are underfunded, and these places need help to do the work to stay open and accessible to all. Today to do that, the parks rely on volunteers. Then, as you look to the next 100 years and see how America’s landscape is changing, we’ll need advocates to make sure these spaces and issues are in people’s minds. To do that, people have to be connected with these places to want to protect them. SCA is committed to creating those experiences.”
 
See the full story in the Chicago Tribune