News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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May 16, 2012

Group working to promote Wabash River

2013 designated as ‘Year of the River’

TERRE HAUTE — Most people only get a glimpse of the Wabash River when they drive across a highway bridge.

Even just standing along the mighty river’s well-tended banks in Fairbanks Park can’t give a full appreciation of the state’s longest waterway.

“You want to get people on the river, and let them know why we’re doing this,” said Joe Hoopingarner on Tuesday to organizers of the 2013 Year of the River celebration.

Sure, Hoopingarner has an economic interest in his suggestion — he operates Joe’s Airboat Rides out of Fairbanks Park. But, he said, the river takes on a new beauty for the people who have their perspective changed by traveling on the waterway.

The river is not navigable for large boats, however, so a suggestion to bring in riverboats for public rides did not float far with a committee meeting in the Vigo County Public Library to plan arts and environmental events for next year’s celebration.

Mary Kramer, executive director of Art Spaces Inc., was joined by Jon Robeson, executive director of Arts Illiana, and Steve Letsinger of the Rose-Hulman arts program, to encourage various organizations to link their upcoming activities to the yearlong celebration.

A new logo for the celebration has been selected, and is being distributed for organizations to use on print material as well as their own websites. Art Spaces administrative coordinator Ariane King said a 2013 Year of the River website is under construction, and should be rolled out in October.

Terre Haute native Brendan Kearns agreed with many at the planning session that the river is a peaceful place for people to enjoy via canoe or kayak, and it’s hard to appreciate the Wabash River without being at water level with it.

Access to the river is limited, he said, and unfortunately, a boat ramp built in 1992 near Tecumseh has fallen into disrepair, Kearns said, noting that another way to increase on-river traffic would be to develop a safe haven for kayakers who want to camp along the river.

City Planner Pat Martin said the city is now developing a riverside walking trail running south from Fairbanks Park to the former International Paper property. City leaders are definitely interesting in giving more positive attention to the river, and will also be directing attention the new Maple Avenue Park developed in a backwater area of the Wabash River.

The river will be the focus of a Healthy Rivers INitiative celebration on June 12 when the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and The Nature Conservancy highlight conservation efforts in the 43,000-acre floodplain set aside in 2010 as a protected wildlife corridor.

For now, the committee is coordinating a calendar of events of area arts and environmental programs that draw attention to the river. Kramer said the committee is also open to other communities along the Wabash River who want to tie their communities to the Terre Haute effort.

“It will be nice to have it grow as big as it wants to,” Kramer said.

Anyone wanting more information about the Year of the River can contact Kramer or King through the Art Spaces website at www.wabashvalleyartspaces.com.

Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at (812) 231-4254 or lisa.trigg@tribstar.com. Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.

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