TERRE HAUTE —
We are the Wabash.
Such a statement isn’t a nostalgic twist on Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie crooning “We Are The World” a generation ago.
This is science.
With rare January sunshine gleaming on the Wabash outside, organizers of the 2013 Year of the River initiative unveiled a yearlong celebration of the famed waterway that gives local residents myriad opportunities to recreate, learn and simply enjoy themselves along its banks. Plans include something for everyone. Plays. Prayers. Hikes. Excursions. Concerts. Art exhibits. Storytelling. Picnics. Motorists on highways bisecting Terre Haute will see billboards promoting the river activities.
“Lots of people will learn about Terre Haute and the Wabash River,” said Mary Kramer, executive director of Art Spaces, co-organizer of the project with Jon Robeson, executive director of Arts Illiana, and Steve Letsinger, art curator and professor at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. The trio, and Mayor Duke Bennett, described the breadth and potential of the Year of the River effort at a Wednesday morning kickoff news conference in the Girl Scouts Building adjacent to Fairbanks Park.
There is one primary lesson all local residents should receive — even if they choose not to experience any of the dozens of events scheduled this year by more than 75 participating outdoors, arts, education and environmental organizations.
We all contribute to the Wabash. Literally.
Approximately 75 percent of river pollution comes from “non-point-source” pollutants. A point source pollutant, explained Angie Tilton of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Healthy Rivers Initiative, would include those large pipes spilling wastewater from cities or industries into the river. Someone kayaking on the river would “point” to those outlets. As visually obvious as they are, point-source pollutants aren’t the dominant culprit.
It’s us. Yes, we are the Wabash.
Folks who wash their cars in paved driveways near a street-side storm sewer contribute. So do those who park a car with a chronic oil leak in a similar driveway. Or someone who tosses trash or cigarette butts on a street near a storm sewer. Or a homeowner who uses salt to melt ice on a driveway or sidewalk. Or somebody who dumps household chemicals near the curb or in the yard. Or a dog owner who leaves the critter’s poop near the roadway. Or a landowner who mows the lawn and empties the grass clippings, tainted by fertilizers, insecticides and weed-killers, by the storm sewer.
“All of that drains into the Wabash River,” Tilton said.
“As far as pollution goes, with the Wabash River,” she added, “everybody contributes.”
With the spotlight shining on it, thanks to the Year of the River, 2013 would be the ideal moment for local people to think twice about their contributions to the community’s most significant natural resource. For years, college students and outdoors groups have routinely rolled up their sleeves to haul away mattresses, meth-lab components, tires and garbage dumped by humans on the conveniently secluded banks of the river and its tributaries. In the year ahead, we could give those students and activists a hand by the less-strenuous task of simply cleaning up our own acts.
Tilton offered a few ideas.
Wash your car in your yard, instead of the driveway. The grass and soil filters the detergents and cleaning agents. Clean up after your dog and put its waste in a trash bag, so the waste can be disposed in the landfill, she said. Get the oil leak in your car fixed. Shovel the snow from your sidewalk or driveway, or get a neighbor to do it. Properly dispose of household chemicals and old motor oil.
Meanwhile, check the 2013 Year of the River events calendar (distributed through the Tribune-Star in December and available at the newspaper offices) or the project’s website www.2013yearof
theriver.com, and participate in one or several of the activities. Find an outdoors group of kayakers or canoeists, or contact Joe Hoopingarner’s Airboats, and actually get “on” the river. (Stick with skilled, safety-minded folks if you do so.)
Then, when you encounter the Wabash — up close, or through the scenic backdrop of Fairbanks Park or Merom Bluffs — you’ll know you played a role in making the river better, not worse. You will have taken action.
That’s what local Girl Scouts are doing. At Wednesday’s news conference, Girl Scouts leaders displayed an “enviroscape” — a contoured panoramic miniature community, depicting a farm, a factory, a subdivision, bridges, roads, storm sewers and, finally, the river. The device gives the kids a visual idea of how their daily behaviors affect the Wabash. Using colorings (or, sometimes, Kool-Aid) for the pollution sources, the girls then spray clean water (like rain) on the model, watching it all flow toward the river.
Diana Keely, director of programs for the Girls Scouts, and Alicia Martin, the program development manager, explained how the replica neighborhood educates the Scouts — and their parents — about pollution.
“When a kid visualizes throwing trash out the car window, they don’t realize how that’s going to get all the way down in [the water],” Keely said.
“It opens their eyes,” she said of the Scouts, as young as age 6. They’re urged to “take action,” Martin said.
In this Year of the River, we grownups should do the same thing. Enjoy, view, visit, clean up, and, yes, be the river.
Mark Bennett can be reached at 812-231-4377 or mark.bennett@
TERRE HAUTE —
We are the Wabash.
- News Columns
MIKE LUNSFORD: ‘The mind is a dark forest’
If you hadn’t noticed by reading this newspaper or hearing me crow about it myself, I have another collection of stories out in print.
MAUREEN HAYDEN: Hoosiers’ priorities vs. legislators’ agenda
Every year at about this time, Statehouse reporters like me ask lawmakers what their priorities will be for the coming year.
MARRIAGE EQUALITY: Cheneys’ feud hits Indiana
Oh, it’s on.
If there was any doubt that the coming fight over the same-sex marriage ban amendment in Indiana was going to be elevated to the national level, it’s gone.
Chamber: Repeal ‘smoker’s bill of rights’
When Indiana lawmakers return for the 2014 session in early January, they’ll step into the highly charged issue of marriage equality as they debate the proposed amendment that would lock into the state constitution a ban on same-sex marriage and civil unions.
MIKE LUNSFORD: Inching on toward a cold winter?
I’m not ready for snow and ice and the daggers of a north wind, but I have finally accepted the fact that winter is nearly here.
MARK BENNETT: Words, and what they mean, is what we remember
I remember scanning the granite wall at the grave of President John F. Kennedy in Arlington National Cemetery, looking for those words.
Citizens fight for school funds
Never underestimate the power of high school band parents.
MARK BENNETT: Tommy John getting another shot at Baseball Hall of Fame
Go ahead, circle Dec. 9 on your calendar.
Pence eyes reducing infant mortality as key legislative goal for administration
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence opened the state’s Infant Mortality Summit last week by sharing a personal story: He and his wife had struggled with infertility issues early in their marriage, so the eventual arrival of their three children was met with deep gratitude and appreciation.
Filling our void: Terre Haute artist Bill Wolfe poured his heart and soul into the project of a lifetime
Bill Wolfe thumbed through a series of photographs documenting his sculpture of basketball legend Larry Bird.
MIKE LUNSFORD: Pumpkins: Good for the fork and the (carving) knife
My wife and I are fairly frugal; we are budgeters and planners. In the fall, we set aside what we’ll need to heat the house and pay the doctor and buy sensible shoes for school. I think we’re going to have to open an account for pumpkins, too.
MAX JONES: Fight for public access among Dave Cox’s legacies
A group of Indiana newspaper editors who advise the Hoosier State Press Association on issues related to access to public records and meetings had the opportunity to meet new Public Access Counselor Luke Britt last week.
MARK BENNETT: Indiana’s Donnelly part of ‘The Middle’ that got deal done
Hanging out in the middle isn’t cool.
Its occupants don’t attract a captivated circle of listeners at parties, their comments don’t inspire hell-yeahs on Facebook, and they don’t pretend to always be right.
MIKE LUNSFORD: Déjà vu, courtesy of violinist prodigy
It’s been said that the longer married couples stay together, the more they begin to think alike. I can’t refute that, although, for my wife’s sake, I hope a similar theory — that they begin to look alike, too — is far from true.
America, falling behind global peers
As Congress was descending further into dysfunction last week, this discouraging piece of news emerged: Despite how we Americans insist that we’re the best and brightest people on the globe, we’re not.
MAX JONES: Ernie Pyle’s IU legacy should be preserved
As an alum of Indiana University-Bloomington, where I received a bachelor’s degree in journalism many moons ago, I’ve been watching with keen interest the ongoing discussion about merging the School of Journalism with other areas of communications, such as PR and filmmaking, inside the College of Arts & Sciences.
MARK BENNETT: ISU professor’s book on Churchill to be TV period drama
Somewhere, Winston Churchill is lighting a celebratory cigar in Michael Shelden’s honor.
MIKE LUNSFORD: The beauty, spirit of a ‘lonely’ bridge
It was the best kind of day a few Saturdays ago: not quite 70 degrees, a slight breeze from the northwest barely pushed flat-bottomed white clouds around in an otherwise blue sky.
B.J. RILEY: Special Progress sections spotlight growth in Wabash Valley
Inserted in your Tribune-Star today is our annual Progress edition, “Community Update 2013.” This is the fifth year we have put together this type of publication, an effort months in the making.
MARK BENNETT: ‘The voice of the Democratic Party’
The ad stands as a campaign classic. Its scenario is part of history. Its narrator would be familiar to millions of Americans, yet anonymous, too.
Debate: Investing in early-childhood education
Should Indiana children wait until they are 7 years old before they step into a classroom?
Health care costs Hoosiers either way
In the war over the Affordable Care Act, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence won a policy victory when the Obama administration gave him a temporary pass to continue with the Healthy Indiana Plan, a high-deductible health insurance program that covers only 37,000 low-income Hoosiers.
MARK BENNETT: Even Marty McFly wouldn’t want to go back to those paydays
Reliving the 1980s may sound tempting.
Ah, simpler times. Then again … hair styles as big as mushroom clouds, “Miami Vice” jackets, the trickle-down theory, New Coke, Yugos.
OK, “Back to the Future”-style nostalgia obviously has its limits.
Same-sex marriage ban tests ‘Hoosier hospitality’
In a recent column I wrote when I visited Washington, D.C., as the city was preparing to host the 50th anniversary of the historic March on Washington, I asked the questions: “Will we see diversity as a threat to our seemingly secure world? Or will we embrace it as a strength?”
MIKE LUNSFORD: It isn’t the end but it is the beginning of the end …
I had every intention of writing about Labor Day today; it has become a tradition of sorts for me because it seems as though my column and the holiday have an annual convergence. But as I thumbed through a number of other stories I’d written on the subject, I felt I had nothing new to say.
MARK BENNETT: Hoops film focuses on life of ‘Slick’ Leonard
Many Americans connect basketball with Indiana.
Anniversary of March cause for introspection
Many years ago, when I was a high school senior visiting college campuses, I met with an adviser at Indiana University whose job included recruiting new students to campus.
MARK BENNETT: Rose-Hulman bridge design would let people walk, run, ride across Wabash River
Four months, 500 miles and 18 towns.
In the course of compiling the “500 Miles of Wabash” series, which concludes this Sunday, Tribune-Star photographer Jim Avelis and I heard valuable insights from dozens of people who live, work and recreate along Indiana’s state river. One comment seems particularly relevant to Terre Haute, especially as the ongoing 2013 Year of the River celebration stirs ideas. The quotation affirms the potential of a stellar proposal this community ought to consider.
MIKE LUNSFORD: A long day’s journey into night
We arrived at the sprawling hulk of a motel well after dark, the parking lot pitch black except for a few spots illuminated by flickering blue lights that hummed a monotonous tune.
MARK BENNETT: When did athleticism surpass skill in sports?
Baseball has gotten too athletic.
- More News Columns Headlines
- MIKE LUNSFORD: ‘The mind is a dark forest’