TERRE HAUTE —
Flipping tires took on new meaning for university athletes and students around the Wabash River this weekend.
Sunday morning, Indiana State University students and volunteers hit the trails of Wabashiki Fish and Wildlife Area, hauling out trash by the truckload. Volunteers expressed disbelief at the sheer number of old tires dragged out of the marshy wetlands.
Ellen Lamb, a junior finance and insurance risk management major, headed a team of students from that department who earned credit for their community service there that morning.
Among the class members, the university’s track team and other volunteers, more than 130 people pitched in to help.
“It’s a very large number. We were shooting for 60 and we blew that by double,” she said on the trail, just outside Dresser.
Located along the Wabash River just south of West Terre Haute, the Wabashiki Fish and Wildlife Area serves as a protected wetlands operated jointly by the Vigo County Parks and Recreation Department and Indiana Department of Natural Resources. As officials continue to purchase more land along the flood plain, it serves as one link in a chain of such developments north through Parke County.
Lamb said Sunday morning was her first trip to the trails that run inside the area.
“I think it’s really beneficial. I had no idea West Terre Haute had a place this expansive and beautiful,” she said.
Meanwhile, ISU president Dan Bradley and his wife, Cheri, were tossing bags of trash into roll-off dumpsters while university trucks and off-road vehicles hauled more from the trails. Mattresses, toilets and old chairs all came up from the long stretch between Dresser and Interstate 70, an area long abused as a dumping ground.
Brad Adams, a junior business major, said he’s participated in multiple cleanups as a member of the university’s track team. But as a large gas station sign advertising Camel cigarettes rode by him in the back of a campus vehicle, he said that was the most unique thing he’d seen there yet.
“I run here pretty much every day,” the 800-meter specialist said, estimating he totals about 60 miles per week, about eight miles at a stretch.
Dozens of tires continue to fill the containers each visit, but Adams said there’s been marked improvement over the years.
“I’d say it’s definitely getting better,” he remarked, adding that usual clean-up events draw about 30 volunteers compared to the more than 130 who showed up Sunday.
ISU track coach John McNichols said the turnout was the best to date by far, crediting the work of Adams, Lamb and the professors who offer credit for community service.
“They’re good guys,” he said of his athletes, many of whom have helped in the four cleanups organized prior to Sunday. The team tries to go out twice a year, spring and fall.
“Slowly but surely, we’re starting to knock it out,” he said of the dumped items.
McNichols said his athletes use the trails in Wabashiki four or more times per week, and over time it has become one of the best running spots to be found.
“This trail is now as nice as any place in the country,” he said, happily comparing it to those in Oregon.
Community service is something he and others hope students will continue after graduation, and getting the exercise from a different kind of tire workout doesn’t hurt either, he said.
Brian Boyce can be reached at 812-231-4253 or firstname.lastname@example.org.