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October 28, 2013

ISU coach leads cleanup of Wabashiki

Efforts continue in revamping of riverside trail, wetlands

TERRE HAUTE — Indiana State athletes and some community members joined forces Sunday morning near the Wabash River to combat a common enemy: trash.

Sycamores — including those on the track and field, cross country and basketball teams —  were among the volunteers of the cleanup effort at Wabashiki Trail, which was spearheaded by John McNichols, track and cross country coach at ISU and a leader in the wetlands movement.

Wabashiki Trail runs along the Wabash River and surrounds the exterior of the Wabashiki Fish and Wildlife Area, protected wetlands west of the Wabash River beginning south of U.S. 40 at West Terre Haute.

For years, the area served as a place for illegal dumping.

The teams were joined by community members and volunteers from the Wabash Valley Riverscape, a “brainchild” of the Wabash River Development and Beautification Inc, which organized the cleanup. Wabash River Development and Beautification Inc. is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the riverfront.  

McNichols is also a Riverscape board member.

“We have conducted two cleanups per year for the past three years,” one in the fall and one in the spring, McNichols said.

“There had been a lot of illegal dumping on the property over the years, and the cleanup was needed,” he added.

And the students had an important role to play.

“I have used the area for workouts for the cross country and track distance runners, and while in the area looked at the mess … and decided we should do something about it,” McNichols said.

This year’s target was the river bank from Dresser to Interstate 70.

“The water level is low so it will be a good time to get as much trash up as we can,” he said.

The two-hour cleanup was a way for students to get community service hours as well as “just to help and give back to the community,” McNichols said.

Armed with bright-colored vests, work gloves and trash bags, the students and other volunteers went to work.

Track and field and cross country team members Taylor Head, John Mascari, Blake Hale and David Timlin stood amidst weeds, trees and plants as they worked together.

They found a variety of things: baby food jars, a pipe filled with dirt, a car tire, a spray can and plastic bags and bottles.

A minute later, Hale found a big, metal piece, the “biggest piece” he had found.

And he was not quite sure what it was.

“Good question,” he responded when asked what the piece was.

He said he is not surprised by the trash that he found on the site.

“It’s just another place where people throw stuff away,” Hale said.

But it’s important to clean the place up.

“I run this trail four times a week. … We use it [probably] more than anybody,” Hale said.

“It’s nice to give back and show our thanks by coming [and] helping keep it clean,” he added.

Another volunteer, Michael Tingley, came with his wife, Susan, “just to help clean up.”

But in addition to helping the environment, the artist also has another reason for participating.

“I also scavenge art supplies for my sculptures,” Tingley said.

His recent sculpture, which will soon open at Swope Art Museum, was made up of items he found.

“So I’m always looking for more stuff to use,” Tingley added.

At Sunday’s cleanup, he found a roll of duct tape, a potential item for a future project.

“I always use things that are intact,” he said.

As he reached inside his trash bag for items he can use for his art, he found a headlight from a vacuum cleaner.

“That will be a nice little piece that I can use for a sculpture,” Tingley said.

Tribune-Star Reporter Dianne Frances D. Powell can be reached at 812-231-4299 or

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