Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore has spent a century protecting and restoring the diverse network of ecosystems that keeps our region healthy, and they will continue to do so with the partnership of the Northern Indiana Public Service Company (NIPSCO). Monday’s planting event with Dunes Learning Center campers celebrated the union of a dynamic team.
“Because of the nature of the industry we are in,” said Nick Meyer, NIPSCO’s Director of External Affairs, “It is important for us to do what we can to improve air and water quality. A focus on the environment is a commitment to us. We’ve had a number of initiatives with [the Park]. This project is a great way to provide a fun and engaging experience while protecting the environment.”
The Good Fellow Club Youth Camp Landscape Restoration Project, the first of the official NIPSCO and Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore partnership, taught kids age 9 to 13 about ecology, stewardship, and the role each of us plays in the environment. Campers, counselors, Park personnel, members of the National Park Service, and NIPSCO employees all pitched in to plant a rain garden in the previously overgrown front corridor of the Dunes Learning Center.
NIPSCO donated a $50,000 check and volunteered the use of its nearby 100 acres of property so that restoration of the Dunes would continue. Together, the organizations maintain more than 200 acres. When the Landscape Restoration Project is finished it will expand the Dunes Learning Center's outdoor classroom, and thereby its educational value. It will play a vital role in preserving local species.
“We’re teaching the kids to be a part of a larger ecosystem,” said Sandi Weindling, the Park’s Director of External Relations. “Everything they do impacts something else. It’s a web. We are conscious of what we do and what we waste because it all impacts the world around them.”
The program leads into National Pollinator Week, and recognizes the importance that bees and other pollinators play in the food supply and natural ecosystems. Part of the project is a rain garden, which will impact the region’s environment in a few different ways. The plants, donated by NIPSCO, were chosen specifically to promote pollinators like bees and butterflies. Their roots will clean pooled water when it rains, which will then flow into the Little Calumet River. The half acre of land will soon be a prairie with grasses, sedges, and wildflowers that will sustain its own ecosystem.
“This project is a model of what we want to do with the rest of park,” said Dan Plath, the Chief of Resource Management for the National Park Service. “Having an intact, diverse ecosystem gets to the core of being a human being. Stewardship is taking ownership and responsibility for our ecosystem. This partnership is a great example of a business stepping up to do that.”
Camper Shayna Tepper, 7th grade, said, “Many of our animals have gone extinct. We- humans- are the biggest threat to the planet. Being good to nature is important. Honey bees are endangered but this garden will help them. It makes the place more beautiful.”