Illiana Yacht Club

Finally made the hike around the Indiana side of Wolf Lake today, starting from the trailhead off 129th Street, near the Indiana Toll Road. The loop is 5.5 miles and the first stretch took me past a place with a great Region history, one I didn’t fully appreciate during annual visits as a child during the 1980s.

Escaping the sound of jackhammers tearing into Interstate we were soon enough on a boardwalk over the water. Ahead of us, the Illiana Yacht Club. Or as we simply called it “The Yacht Club.”

Region people have the tendency to reduce place names to a simple definite article plus as terse a descriptor as possible. US Steel is The Mills. The Indiana Dunes National Park is The Dunes. Southlake Mall is The Mall. Therefore the Illiana Yacht Club is The Yacht Club.

This likely creates a notion of the place far fancier than fact. In fact, my wife pictured a young me mingling amongst men in ascots and sailor hats. Cut off jean shorts and tank tops with a beer can in hand was more the style here. The setting was transmission towers, trailers, and a rutted road from 112th Street that my old man dutifully told us was a dumping ground for dead bodies. I never ventured much to that end of the property.

No doubt this place formed my awe at the industrial vistas of the Calumet Region and the uncomfortable relationship between landscape and nature. The entire journey from Gary to this northwestern-most corner of Northwest Indiana brought the contrast to the forefront.

The Chicago Tribune ran a history in 2002, and more details are at the Illiana Yacht Club’s website. Dave Novak, who married my Aunt Sandi, recalled: “Ahhhhhh, the friendly confines, 1st came by that place when I was about 10, on a bike, with my cousin Ed. Didn’t know how special it would be.”

And I don’t suppose I did either at 10.

Below are a series of snapshots, many made by my grandfather Frank Roorda, from 1979-1987.

The Novak and Roorda families.

This set dates from autumn 1981, wherein I make my introduction.

Above: with my grandma Minnie. Below: chasing my cousin Amanda.My grandpa was keen enough to capture some of the flora along the road in.

Below, October 1986.

As I was the only boy in my generation my choices of playmates was limited to adults more interested in sailing and drinking beer or my sister and female cousins. Here we play some sort of fort game.

September 1987. My old man pushed my cousin Lauren a little too hard on the swings, sending her flying. They soon made up.

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Reinvest In Gary – Arts/Culture + Parks Engagements

Reinvest In… Gary

Phase One engagements
Arts/Culture and Parks committees
prepared by: Sam Love

Date/Event/Location/Attendance

Jun 16 – Mural unveiling, Gary Public Library, 75 persons
Jun 16 – Gary Gospel Fest, Gateway Park, 20 persons
Jun 16 – Multi-committee meeting at Steel City Academy, 25 persons
Jun 20 – Youth Services Bureau, Glen Ryan Park, 4 persons
Jun 24 – Miller Beach Farmers Market, 10 persons
Jun 27 – Youth Services Bureau, Borman Square Park, 21 persons
Jul 01 – Miller Beach Farmers Market, 10 persons
Jul 11 – Youth Services Bureau, Brunswick Park, 25 persons
Jul 12 – Youth Services Bureau, St Johns Lutheran, 10 persons
Jul 18 – Youth Services Bureau, Reed Park, 15 persons
Jul 25 – Youth Services Bureau, Tolleston Park, 12 persons
Sep 07 – Gary Homeschoolers Group, Douglas Center, 17 persons
Sep 08 – Aetna Manor block party, Aetna, 10 persons
Sep 11 – West Gary Quality of Life meetings, Brunswick Park, 25 persons
Sep 13 – West Gary Quality of Life meeting, St Johns UCC, 10 persons
Sep 15 – Steel City Academy, 20 persons
Sep 16 – Miller Beach Farmers Market, 12 persons
Sep 20 – LiveArts Studio, 6 persons
Oct 13 – West Gary Quality of Life meeting – Lighthouse Charter School, 10 persons
Oct 27 – Gary Green Link trail hike, 16 persons

Reinvest In Gary Plan – Arts and Culture, Phase I Report

Arts/Culture Committee Report
Prepared by Samuel Love, committee chair
15 November 2018

TOPIC: Arts and Culture

SUMMARY OF ISSUES:

Gary is a creative city with many creative people living and visiting here. There exists a great diversity of interests and talents. Yet we are not fully conscious of our cultural history and some tension exists around perceptions of ‘outsourcing’ arts opportunities at the expense of local artists. The closing of Emerson Visual and Performing Arts School and cuts to the public school system are a matter of enormous concern. Another frequently stated concern was lack of communication and disjointed/insufficient promotion of events. Respondents most certainly see a role for the city in hosting their own arts/culture events, promoting school and local arts/culture events, and generally helping local artists gain greater exposure.

NARRATIVE OF PROGRESS:

Gary has a long and distinct cultural history, and the past few years have seen a tremendous array of activity from groups like LiveArts Studio, Calumet Artist Residency, Decay Devils, Paint Gary, Square One Gallery, ArtHouse, the IUN Arts and Design program, Painted Board Studio, Lake Effect, Open House Gary, West Side High School and Theatre, Gary Historical and Cultural Society, Miller Beach Arts and Culture District, and other groups as well as individual working artists. These and other efforts have transformed the cityscape, especially in downtown and Miller. Ecological conservation, urban farming, and Green Urbanism projects add another dimension. Survey results show a citizenry highly interested and engaged with the arts, in the most broad, creative sense.

KEY FINDINGS:

Artists need multiple revenue streams, the city must support and sustain an environment for that possibility. (Meeting places, inexpensive restaurants, promotion of local arts, good roads and infrastructure.)

Most artists expressed their desire for independence, autonomy, and flexibility. But many expressed the need for help with permits, navigating bureaucracy, networking, and exposure.

Most frequently mentioned ways the city could support art: host events (block parties, festivals, showcases); bring greater attention to Gary artists, help them generate more exposure, show us off with mentions and postings on social media.

“Centralization” was a key idea that was expressed in different ways. This could be a central place for residents and guests to learn about upcoming events, an arts district, museum, or center where people could be guaranteed to meet/see/experience artists and their art.

Neighborhoods are key. Gary has distinct neighborhoods. The city can support exposure and better communication between communities.

Murals in downtown and Miller are very popular with young people and are a source of pride. Older residents have mixed opinions, especially with concerns about ‘outsourcing’ arts jobs at the expense to local artists or aesthetic concerns.

Allow the youth to lead the way. Listen to young people. “The kids are ‘up’ on what is good and their ideas are worth the ear.”

Perhaps the most frequently mentioned theme was supporting arts by supporting the schools, especially the public schools, and teachers.

Reinvest In Gary Plan – Parks, Phase I Report

Parks Committee Report
Prepared by Samuel Love, committee chair
15 November 2018

TOPIC: Parks

SUMMARY OF ISSUES:

Gary has 57 city parks but not enough staff or resources to maintain the majority of them. “Dirty” “depressing” “unsafe” were frequently mentioned terms. Conditions vary from park to park, but in general basketball courts featured broken boards and rims, were surrounded by weeds, and had cracked surfaces. A frequent complaint was about the lack of open swimming pools and the dangerous conditions caused by the unused pools. Litter was common at most of the parks. Recent park renovations have yielded mixed results, some successful (Marquette Park) and some not (Reed Park was frequently criticized). In some cases residents are tending to the parks themselves. Privatization of some parks features has been considered.

NARRATIVE OF PROGRESS:

Renovation and continuing improvements have made Marquette Park more accessible and attractive. Partnerships with the Student Conservation Association have gotten trees planted in unused park areas at no cost to the department or city. Partnerships with public and private conservation groups has led to ecological improvement at Brunswick Park. Ecological value of the parks acknowledged by leadership and many park users, tho residents near parks have concerns about safety, overgrown lots, aesthetics. Partnerships with arts groups has developed slowly, but has resulted in increased offerings to summer youth service programs. A National League of Cities program, “No Child Left Inside” provides additional support towards creating greenspaces within a 10 minute walk for all residents.

KEY FINDINGS:

Respondents want parks that are safe, attractive, serve multiple uses and users, and appeal to multiple age groups.

Exercise, sports, and playgrounds were the most popular activities, but respondents also appreciated parks as a place for quiet, reflective activities, or for their ecological value.

There is a need for some ecological training for the parks maintenance crew. In the case of Reed Park, workers were unsure what was a native plant and what was a ‘weed’, resulting in an unkempt park.

Continuing partnerships with ecological groups (SCA, Shirley Heinze Land Trust, Field Museum, Ecorealm). Find areas for tree planting but take care to preserve open space for play. Engage the community in this process.

Build relationships with local artists, streamline internal communication to make it easier for artists to use parks and pavilions for workshops and programs.

The Parks Department is conducting its own surveys and planning process. They have been extremely helpful to me during the Magic City planing process. Parks leadership is active, aware, involved, and possesses innovative ideas for change.

Gary Parks Survey
Magic City Comprehensive Redevelopment Plan 2018
out of 35 respondents
How often do you visit your neighborhood park?
1. Everyday 1.6%
2. Almost everyday 1.6%
3. A few times a week 20%
4. Once a week 11.4%
5. Rarely 37.1%
6. Never 20%

If you visit your neighborhood park, how do you get there?
1. Walk 45.7%
2. Bicycle 20%
3. Bus 0%
4. Car 45.7%

What are your favorite park activities (circle all that apply)
1. Art 28.%
2. Exercising 45.7%
3. Festivals/Parties 42.8%
4. Gardening 5.7%
5. Hiking 31.4%
6. Nature 34.2%
7. Playground 57.1%
8. Relaxing/Sitting 34.2%
9. Sports/Athletics 60%
10. Swimming 48.5%

Gary Magic City Plan – Arts and Culture survey results

The Arts and Culture Committee has reached our first 100 (and four) surveys! Still one more question to process and then a better presentation, but here’s the data.

updated: 6:43am // 4 Sept 2018

1 “Select one that best describes you”
Full Time Gary Resident 66
Part Time Gary Resident 16
Non-resident/lives in NW Indiana 22
Non-resident/lives outside NW Indiana 3

2 “How would you describe your interest in the arts? Please circle one:”
I love the arts and enjoy doing them 53
I love the arts but just enjoy observing 25
Casually interested in the arts 22
Not interested in the arts 4

3 – Which terms best describe you? Circle all that apply.
Art/Design Student 25
Collector 16
Curator 2
Dancer 23
Enthusiast 28
Musician 32
Painter 17
Patron 15
Photographer 17
Poet 9
Writer 25
Other:
Teacher 3
Actor 2

Singer, Singer w/ Chorus, Event Planner, Basketball, Promoter, Mentor, Film/Media, Me, Creator, Library Board Member, Extreme Hobbiest, Tech, Sports 1

4 – What are your favorite types of art? Circle all that apply.

Architecture 32
Comic/Illustration 26
Dance 44
Fabric/Textiles 17
Film 46
Graphic Design 29
Literature 25
Music 78
Painting 42
Printmaking 11
Sculpture 22
Theatre/Performance 38

Papercraft, Off the Cuff Writing, Mixed Media, Storytelling, Drama, Anime, Puppetry 1

5 In The Last Year Have You

Attended An Art Show 32
Attended An Arts Workshop 26
Attended A Concert 40
Attended A Dance Performance 32
Attended A Play 37
Attended A School-Related Event 27
Attended An Arts/Culture Event In Gary 27
Attended An Arts/Culture Event In NWI 18
Attended An Arts/Culture Event In Chicago 25
Read A Poem 45
Written A Poem 30
Written A Story 29
Written A Song 26
Painted, Drawn, Or Sketched Something 34
Performed Music 26
Danced 25

 

 

Forrest Woods and the Great Black Swamp of Northwest Ohio

An interview with Rob Krain, Executive Director of Black Swamp Conservancy. Forrest Woods Nature Preserve, outside Cecil, Ohio, 29 April, 2017.

Transcribed by Sam Love, 29 June, 2017

I spotted Rob Krain walking up the road leading to Forrest Woods Nature Preserve. To our west a field of recently planted trees, their immature trunks shielded by protectors and almost resembling a military graveyard, reaching the existing treeline on the horizon. One day this will all look very different. The woods will be closer.

Rob is holding a color-coded map of the preserve and pointing to different sections. “This is that restoration field to our west. We’ve got another similar kind on the bottomland here and then next week we’ll be putting more trees on both of these sites and reforesting both properties. This field we’re buying, that one we’re buying next year, so there’s a lot going on and more coming down the line.”

It began to rain and we got in the car.

My name is Rob Krain, I’m the Executive Director of Black Swamp Conservancy. I studied Environmental Policy and Analysis at Bowling Green and really at the tail end of that, towards the time I was getting ready to graduate, I took on a contract position to manage our farmland management program that year. I was pointed there by one of my professors. At the time I didn’t know what a land trust was. I thought I was going to go do policy work. Thank God that didn’t happen because I’ve been having fun ever since!

Do you recall your first impression of Forrest Woods Preserve? And how does your history and its history dovetail?

Yes, I do. This was the first piece of land I had the opportunity to manage, so it has a very special place in my heart. The first time I came out here it was winter, towards the tail end. I remember going into the woods and just being amazed by the resources that are there and then walking these fields. At the time we were renting these fields out for corn and soybean production. I have pictures that I can share with you that I took that day of just terrible erosion coming off the fields. You could see it. We’ve got this really precious resource in the middle and we’re supposed to be a conservation organization and we were just allowing soils and pesticides and everything else to dump right into it. So I kind of saw two angles: amazed at what we had and really concerned about how we were managing it. That would have been ten years ago. Ten years later you see what we’re finally accomplishing.

How would you describe the preserve and its significance?

Simply the fact that it’s a remnant of our natural history in the Great Black Swamp, but even beyond that this is one of the largest tracts of woods left in Northwest Ohio and we’re now working to expand it and build a larger tract of woods. It’s also home to thirty rare, threatened, and endangered species. The list is on our website.

Northwest Ohio used to be the historic Great Black Swamp. That was a one hundred square mile swamp that stretched all the way from Lake Erie to Fort Wayne, Indiana. It’s all been destroyed and converted into cropland. All of our farm fields are tiled here, so water runs off subsurface. If that drainage was not installed the land would revert to swamp very quickly. Forrest Woods is one of the very few true remnants of the Great Black Swamp. I always say that in my opinion there are three true remnants left. This is one of them. The second is a place called Goll Woods, it’s owned by the state. The third is the woods behind our office, which is also protected by our organization.

Just to experience that bottomland swamp forest that used to characterize this entire region really is something special. This time of year this is one of the best properties I know of for wildflower blooms. You can really see the wide diversity of wildflowers, and that’s what we’re gonna get wet doing today. And there’s also some massive, massive trees on this property. This site was never fully cut over so there are original, 300+ year old oak trees in there.

I’ve just recently learned about the tiles.

They’re still installing tiles. If it weren’t for them, the entire area would be a swamp. As you drive down the road you can see the outlets, look along the ditches and you’ll see the pipes coming out. Those are the tiles. That’s really why we have the water quality issues that we have. We’re moving the water from the land to the lake so quickly that we get that flash periods were there’s rapid delivery of phosphorous to our waterways.

How did Forrest Woods Nature Preserve come to be?

This was an unknown spot up until about the 1970s, just a private family property. In the 1970s the Ohio DNR was doing surveys of great blue heron rookeries and that lead them to this woods, which has always hosted rookeries. When they got in there they started to see a wide variety of rare plants and animals. Four toed salamanders, and even a couple of species of plants that had been thought to have been extirpated from the state of Ohio. Very quickly the DNR elevated this property to the top of their priority list. Then they spent twenty years or so unable to shake out the funding. They had a deal with the landowner, but every time they thought they had the funding to purchase it, one of their other priority parcels would come available at a critical time. They’d move to that one and it just never happened.

In 2002 the state of Ohio created the Clean Ohio Fund, which I think at the time was a 300 million dollar pot of money to do recreational trails, farmland preservation, greenspace and brownspace revitalization. The state cannot use that money for its own acquisitions, it is for non-profits and local governments. So at that point Black Swamp Conservancy just getting on its feet. DNR called us in and we, thank goodness, bought that first 80 acres.

Paulding County has had a park district on paper since I think the 1930s and the original plan was to help them get on their feet and transfer it to them. They are still working on getting on their feet and even when they do I’m pretty sure we’re going to keep this place because it’s so special.

What is your relationship with people around here? Do the locals appreciate it?

There are some very diehard people. We have one lady who comes out weekly, she’s doing a ten year survey of the wildlife she sees. The neighbors love this place. We allow them to hunt on the property and in turn. They watch over it for us and call if there’s any problems. Our office is about an hour from here, so maintaining those local relationships is really important. All in all we have not really engaged the broader community here, but are starting to invest more time and resources for public benefit. This parking lot was installed last year. You passed another one coming in on the other side of the river, that was installed last year. We’ve always taken the attitude that the deep swamp is too sensitive to allow unfettered public access, but these restoration areas allow more opportunities for public use.

We bought the property across the river just last year to open it up for public fishing and boating. We’re gonna put a boat ramp in. Putting a trail in was part of the restoration we did on this parcel, so we’re hoping to make it more a community resource but we’re just on the cusp of it now. Other properties where we’ve had the visitor amenities for some time have become very beloved. We have coastal properties on Lake Erie and on the islands that have had public access for years. We’ve got property in the Oak Openings region and we now have this site. It’s a lot of geography to cover, but it’s a lot to play in too.

My ancestors lived about a mile and a half up the road, in between Mark and Hicksville, and they were among the first settlers out here. I’m curious, what did this area look like then?

[Pointing on the map] This is Marie DeLarme creek, I don’t speak French so I can’t eloquently give you the full story but essentially however you would say “Ash-Elm Swamp” in French, Marie DeLarme is kind of a bastardization of that. This whole area was an Ash-Elm swamp. This time of year you would be up to your waist in water and mud, and it never really totally dried out. It was called the Great Black Swamp because the forest canopy was so thick that it was just dark inside the woods. Full of wildlife, a lot that’s not here anymore.

It sounded like a difficult place to live. They didn’t stay long.

The people that settled this area… I tell ya, I would have kept going into Indiana. They were a hardy lot.

Some of these higher areas over the river may have been dry, and maybe even this field here because it does dip down a lot when you get on the other side that ridge, but mostly this was just a continuous swamp.

I know the high areas were populated by the Natives because every time we do an archaeology study we find something. On any high ground. Mostly just pieces of arrowhead, and I also have a grinder stone we found. There’s a big pit down on the bottomland field that we’re about to buy. It has a just of ton of mussel shells. So we think they were using that area as a depository.

What are your future restoration plans?

The biggest thing is that we’re expanding wildlife habitat in one of the really critical natural areas that’s left in our region. But we’re also doing this for water quality benefits, and a lot of the funding is driven by that.

Could you one day connect remnants and fragments through greenbelts? Say, to Goll Woods?

Goll is probably a stretch. What my conservation manager and I are talking about is trying to build Forrest Woods into a thousand-acre property. We have been working with a group that’s establishing the Maumee River as a river trail and buying sites along the river. That’s one of the reasons we bought the riverfront property here. So from that sense; mobility, allowing people places to do multi-day excursions or where they can paddle the whole river and camp along the way. That’s the sort of thing we’re looking to support with this project.

What’s interesting about this preserve is it’s located at the confluence of Marie DeLarme Creek and the Maumee River. I look at that as “end of pipe”. So you’ve got a 1500 acre drainage area of farm fields that needs to pass through this property before it gets to the Maumee River. And this is our opportunity to slow that that water down, capture it in some of these pools we’ve created, and allow the vegetation to uptake nutrients before they reach the river and get in the lake and feed harmful algae blooms that have the potential to shut down our drinking water supply.

Did the algae blooms bring more awareness to the value of places like Forrest Woods?

I think so. I think it’s driving more public awareness and more funding. It’s allowed our organization a platform to communicate why wetlands are important. We need more balance. We’re out of equilibrium. But, we aren’t going after farmers. Our organization works to buy the appropriate land and restore ecosystem service that’s an opportunity for the conservation community and the agricultural community to work together. The interesting thing though is that I think people have short memories so while there is a lot more attention and a lot more focus we almost need another water crisis. The Cuyahoga River caught fire seventeen times. We always hear of it catching fire but it caught fire seventeen times before resulting in the Clean Water Act.