As warm weather arrives, colorful flowers bloom and people can finally start to shed their winter coats, Wabash Valley residents will have plenty of opportunities this month — Earth Month — to celebrate nature and help clean up the community.

While April 22, is officially “Earth Day,” Terre Haute and Vigo County offer plenty of events in both April and May, at locations that include Indiana State University, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods and Wabashiki Fish and Wildlife Area.

Many of the events involve trash/litter cleanup. Jane Santucci, a community environmental activist, said she is “ecstatic at all of the cleanup events taking place. The increase in organized cleanup events is a sign that litter/blight is a community issue that needs to be addressed.”

Both are important in attracting new people, and businesses, to the community, she said.

One of the newer efforts involves the 12 Points Revitalization Initiative, which has conducted several trash pickup events. Jennifer Mullen, a faculty member at Indiana State University, has been a key organizer.

While she doesn’t currently live on the north side, she grew up there. “I thought it would be cool to make mom and dad proud of their town again,” Mullen said. “I’m trying to help gain some steam and get people excited about cleaning the community.”

The city doesn’t have the resources to keep up with all the trash, she said. “Rather than being the person who says ‘Someone needs to do something about this,’ I want to do something about it,” Mullen said. She, too, hopes a cleaner community will encourage economic development and “people will want to come here.”

Commenting on the many events underway for Earth Day/Earth Month, Santucci said, “As the snow melts and we become more accustomed to going outside in warmer weather, we seem to have a natural instinct to clean up our earth and educate others in the process. The month of April is special because it holds Earth Day on April 22 each year. Earth Day is a day for us to reflect how we are treating Mother Earth and what can we do better.”

April is filled with educational opportunities, many at ISU, she said. The majority of the events in April and leading into May take folks outside. “We have been cooped up inside our temperature-controlled houses for too long and April is a great time to stretch your legs and experience Mother Nature first-hand,” she said. 

Emily’s Walk on April 27 “is a great opportunity to explore the Wabashiki Wetlands ... Then, when you’re done, refuel at the Earth Day celebration in Saint-Mary-of-the-Woods. If you have time, go home and rest and then make plans to attend Replay Runway,” Santucci said.

Replay Runway, an environmental awareness fundraiser for reTHink Inc., features international food and local celebrities modeling designs made from recyclables. reTHink encourages sustainability and environment-friendly practices.

Earth Day at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods

On April 27, the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods will conduct their 21st Earth Day celebration. The Earth Day Festival and Craft Fair will take place from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

This year’s celebration will offer exhibits, a children’s activity zone, craft fair, food vendors, pony rides, garden and horse barn tours, alpaca shearing demonstrations, a nature trail hike and cooking demonstrations provided by The Maple Center. Also, there will be fiber arts demonstrations throughout the day which include weaving, spinning and felting with alpaca fiber. Candace Minster, garden manager and fiber projects coordinator for the White Violet Center for Eco-Justice, will also conduct an “Ask the Gardener” pop up event.

Back this year will be Mark Booth’s Take Flight! Wildlife Education program. Based in Indianapolis, Booth’s program will stress the importance of the natural world while using a handful of birds of prey.

The Sisters of Providence will have a bake sale and the Congregation’s Climate Change Task Force will conduct  bingo.

This year the craft fair will be held inside O’Shaughnessy Dining Room. Admission to Earth Day is free, but donations are welcome.

In 2017, the Sisters of Providence [SP] adopted the environment, especially global climate change, as the focus of its justice efforts. The Climate Change Task Force then created a goal of reducing the Sisters’ collective carbon footprint by 2 million pounds by June 2019. Using the Low Carbon Diet handbook as a guide, the Sisters and Sisters of Providence associates and anyone who will join them have committed to changes in their personal and work lives to meet the goal by signing the Providence Climate Agreement.

“As I speak to groups and individuals, I’ve noticed a shift from climate change skepticism ... to climate change acceptance but skepticism of humanity’s role in causing it ... to an acknowledgement that climate change is happening and that humans are the cause,” said Lorrie Heber, director of the White Violet Center for Eco-Justice.

“Unfortunately, many newly-awoken folks have merely thrown their hands up and said, ‘but there’s nothing I can do.’ There is plenty that we can do and we need to start now,” she said.

“Necessity is the mother of invention, and many really smart people are developing and perfecting renewable forms of energy, better transportation, solutions to single use plastic use, carbon mitigation, sustainable agriculture, and the list goes on and on. This is exciting. And it represents the economy of the future. Rather than digging our heels in to support practices that are literally killing us, we should embrace the future,” Heber said.

Kids Day at Dewey Point

Something new this year, in conjunction with Emily’s Walk, will be a Kid’s Day at Dewey Point. The idea is to create a free, fun group of activities for kids to experience the beauty and natural wonder of Dewey Point and the Wabashiki Fish and Wildlife Area.

The event is sponsored by organizers of Emily’s Walk.

It will take place April 15 [subject to weather] and will involve third-graders at West Vigo, Sugar Creek Consolidated and Fayette elementary schools. Eight West Vigo High School students have organized five “stations” that fit into the third-grade science curriculum: protozoa/water cycle; plant life; frog life cycle; ecosystems and physics in motion. Students also will participate in a program organized by the West Branch of the Vigo County Public Library.

The project creates leadership opportunities for West Vigo high School students and it’s a way to get children involved with Wabashiki at Dewey Point, said Ryan Easton, West Vigo High School principal.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or at sue.loughlin@tribstar.com Follow Sue on Twitter @TribStarSue.

Sue Loughlin has been a reporter at the Tribune-Star for more than 30 years. She covers general news with a focus on education.