Creating a connection
MICHIGAN CITY – Fourth graders from three area schools wrapped up Trail Creek Week on Friday at Hansen Park, where they paddled down the creek in 25-foot, handmade, wooden Voyager replica canoes.
When they weren’t on the water, the kids rotated stations to learn about water safety from the Northwest Indiana Paddling Association, fish and invasive species from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, water chemistry and bugs from the Urban Waters Federal Partnership and how Trail Creek and Lake Michigan led to the establishment of Michigan City from the Barker Mansion & Civic Center.
Nicole Messacar, of the La Porte County Soil and Water Conservation District, said the Trail Creek Watershed Partnership hosts the annual event with the help of Wilderness Inquiry, a nonprofit out of Minneapolis whose mission is to provide all people with accessibility to their local waterways.
Taking the kids canoeing becomes an exercise in teamwork, trust, confidence and more.
“For me, the event is long-term thinking,” Messacar said. “When I bring these kids out here, I want them to have fun and I want them to learn. But, at the end of the day, what I really want them to do is have some sort of connection to Trail Creek and Lake Michigan so that down the road when they’re adults and we say, ‘Hey, we need to implement a stormwater fee to help protect our water,’ or some other example like that, then they go, ‘Oh, I know Trail Creek. I love Trail Creek. I paddled on Trail Creek. And I learned about the fish that live there and I care about those fish.’
“I can’t ever expect somebody to protect something that they’ve never connected to. So, to me, it’s all about forming that connection. That’s the most important thing.”
Rebecca Wellinski, a fourth grader at Queen of All Saints School, said that even though it was slightly difficult, she enjoyed canoeing on Trail Creek and would like to do it again in the future.
Gabby Patino, a Joy Elementary School fourth grader, said, “Today I learned that you should always wear a life jacket when you’re by the water so that you don’t fall in and drown. And don’t throw stuff in the water, like garbage and recycling stuff, because that’s going to hurt the animals and our environment.”