By David Hazledine
SYRACUSE — The Wawasee Area Conservancy Foundation held its sixth annual Earth Day Festival on Saturday, April 30. Participants of all ages engaged in a wide range of demonstrations and informative activities despite the scattered rains.
The event has “grown every year,” noted WACF education manager Pam Schumm. “It’s a chance to bring people outside to enjoy nature and learn more about how to protect our watershed.
Schumm added that the festival is also an opportunity to showcase WACF’s Levinson-LaBrosse Lakes and Wetlands Education Center located on 40 acres of wetlands, woods and shoreline near Syracuse on the lake. Wawasee. “It’s a wonderful place to walk and relax… We just want to give people the opportunity to understand different things and experiences related to nature.
One of the first tents attendees encountered was the Kosciusko County Soil and Water Conservation District’s “Kosciusko County in a Box”, a large scale model/diorama of the county divided into cubes in which the families were looking for conservation items as part of a scavenger hunt. Participants received blue spruces for future planting. “This is popular,” commented Tashina Lahr-Manifold of KCSWCD, who oversaw the exhibit, which was surrounded by adults and children.
Another tent housed a large map of the Lake District covered in multicolored arrows pointing to places where visitors pledged to do their part to protect the lakes by doing one or more of the following five activities: using phosphorus-free fertilizers, promote a natural riparian habitat, properly maintain septic tanks and septic fields, keep grass clippings and raked leaves off the lake, and plant only native plants.
“It’s my favorite charity,” enthuses George Nill, who grew up in Syracuse and now spends his summers on Lake Wawasee with his family. “The water quality is huge.”
Speakers were featured in the amphitheater by Lake Wawasee, including Dani Tippmann, a citizen of the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma and director of the Whitley County Historical Museum, who displayed furs, shells and bones of lake and wetland animals while explaining the importance of plants, animals, and water to Miamians who lived in the Lake District before Europeans arrived in North America.
Hot dogs and refreshments were also available, as well as geocaching, face painting, leaf painting and demonstrations of flint cutting, fly tying for fishing, promotion of key plant species to attract bees, planting a butterfly garden and many more.