The 2020 pandemic has proven how much we need wild, outdoor places. But I sensed a trend in my 2021 columns, linked in this online article: the need to conscientiously care for these resources.
When state legislation was developed to remove protections from “isolated wetlands,” I considered six creatures that need wetlands to survive, from the fairy shrimp that lives in puddles to the four-toed salamander, which, at two to three inches, is the smallest in the state. House Bill 389 was passed after widespread opposition.
In July, I accompanied the naturalists of the Sarett Nature Center for their count of an endangered butterfly, Mitchell’s satyr, in one of nearly 20 sites on the planet where they are known: a wetland from Sarett to Benton Harbor. Good thing for the rubber boots, as I got up close to the Eastern Massasauga rattlesnakes twice.
In the spring, as South Bend expanded the invasive species ban, it planted native trees and information signs to create a “tree trail” at Pinhook Park. In the fall, wet conditions made for abundantly colored mushrooms in many woods.
We discovered how many sushi (raw fish) and other creatures that bald eagles eat in St. Patrick’s County Park Nest in South Bend, thanks to researchers at the University of Notre Dame who counted meals using an aerial camera.
A fire in a homeless camp in the woods next to Portage Manor in South Bend came to the attention of County Commissioner Derek Dieter and volunteers who cleaned up hundreds of bags of garbage that had accumulated for years. Dieter still wonders if the tiny ravine and the county’s 33 acres of land could become a park.
Director of the Center for Underwater Science at Indiana University helps create the second Lake Michigan Underwater Nature Reserve, near Mount Baldy, where a freighter sank in 1911.
The trails are growing
The trails have developed in significant spurts. Entrepreneurs finally installed the first concrete on the South Bend Coal Line Trail, leading from Lincoln Way to Portage Avenue. They plan to complete the connection to the Riverside Trail in 2022.
But parts of the East Bank Trail has been closed (and still are) because Indiana Michigan Power is installing a new underground transmission line.
Efforts to extend a trail from Niles to Berrien Springs get bogged down in the details of the route definition near private property.
Mountain bikers have mapped out a new trail and, therefore, launched a new Marshall County Parks Department.
I probed the Michigan City Singing Sands Trail, four miles and growing. This is a segment in perhaps the biggest news: Marquette Greenway, a series of connected trails from Chicago to New Buffalo, won an $ 18 million federal grant. That’s $ 5 million less than the effort required to pave the last 26 miles of the 60 mile trail.
The pandemic and a snowy winter feeds the Swiss Valley to Jones and other downhill trails with one of their busiest years.
The cross-country ski trails were also lively, but that pushed some boundaries. I looked at the label of winter trails after Madeline Bertrand County Park staff in Niles erected a fence at the border with St. Patrick County Park, annoyed by people walking on groomed ski trails and skiers who entered without a pass paying. the the closure returns this season with little effect apart from forbidding you to ski in both parks at the same time.
A kitesurf instructor swirled above me and my skis one day in the snowy dunes.
I also explored which communities clear snow and which do not along the trail from Mishawaka to Niles. Since then, St. Joseph County Parks has purchased a tractor and devices for snow removal on its portion of the LaSalle Trail.
Matt Meersman, often seen speeding his skinny canoe down the St. Joseph River in South Bend, and a teammate won the grueling AuSable River Canoe Marathon, traveling 120 miles in the dark of night in northern Michigan.
But paddling just got easier for the rest of us when Elkhart installed two handicap accessible kayak canoes on the Saint Joseph River while LaPorte installed one on Stone Lake. Zully JF Alvarado, a paddler who uses a wheelchair, told us why they are so important.
the The Dowagiac River has gained a rudimentary access ramp on the site of an old dam in Niles, but for now, the fast, difficult water and branches of the nearby sections of the river should only be reserved for expert paddlers.
The very first Eastern Running Whitewater Festival In early June, many kayak racers took to the foamy waters of South Bend, as well as people on pool floats.
At what price ?
Luxurious glamping tents opened to a new location near South Haven, and area KOA Campgrounds have expanded their cabins.
Indiana Dunes National Park officials asked for comment on a possible new entry fee to pay a backlog of more than $ 30 million in maintenance.
And Greg Compton from Plymouth did 260 miles across Indiana, Michigan to Kentucky, to raise funds for Riley’s Hospital for Children. He remembered his father, who wouldn’t have had a life and children without Riley.