By Eve Wierzbicki
Last week I was invited to attend the Grand Calumet River Celebration. Thanks to Susan Mihalo of The Nature Conservancy, I was able to take part in a guided van tour to view remediated sections of the Grand Calumet River and adjacent nature preserves. I felt extremely lucky to be a part of this small group of VIP’s. Some who had been a part of this project since 1993!
This was a celebration of an 83 million dollar project to revitalize and clean up about a one mile section of the river. What I saw was beautiful. It was hard to believe that this was once a dumping ground for nearby industry.
Chris Korleski, USEPA Great Lakes National Program Office Director spoke about how expensive a project like this is. Dredging and pulling up contaminants that have been around for over 100 years takes lots of time and money. 2/3 of the money came from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. GLRI has only be around for five years, but has already raised 2 billion dollars to give to projects such as this.
Others spoke of the reason to celebrate. Mark Lopez, Congressman Visclosky’s Chief of Staff, was thrilled at the reclaiming of the river. He spoke of how the river will once again bring revenue to the area with fishing, kayaking, canoeing and hiking. State Representative Donna Harris talked about her late husband’s mission to see this restoration happen. She had tears in her eyes as she spoke of his passion to see the area become a destination for outdoor activities and beauty.
We continued our journey to Seidner Marsh where others spoke. They expressed their excitement for things to come. More trails, waterways, fishing, wildlife and native flora. The sun peeked out through the clouds as we walked along an old railway path back towards the river. I listened as others talked about all that had been done and what was still ahead. I look out from behind the lens of my camera to see an egret fly by…and knew it was all worth it.
Interested in seeing the project yourself? Enter 5606 Kennedy Avenue, Hammond IN into Google Earth. Drive east along frontage road north of the toll road (90). Park on the right side of the road before the gate to the Seidner nature preserve. Prepare to hike about 1/4 mile along a gravel road to see part of the progress at the river.
For more information on this project, visit www.greatlakesmud.org