Press release by Shirley Heinze Land Trust:
Shirley Heinze Land Trust (SHLT) is excited and grateful to partner with NIPSCO and the NiSource Charitable Foundation in 2023 for a second year to continue the Activating Green Spaces initiative.
Shirley Heinze Land Trust introduced its Activating Green Spaces initiative at the beginning of 2022 with funding from NIPSCO through the NiSource Charitable Foundation. This program works with a variety of partners to connect communities that have been historically underrepresented in conservation with their local green spaces, which includes nature preserves, parks, greenways and waterways. The goals of Activating Green Spaces include increasing usability through site improvements, advancing environmental education in local schools, and providing programs that create a welcoming and inclusive environment for people to enjoy nature.
Last year, SHLT hosted eight Activating Green Spaces events and volunteer workdays, totaling nearly 200 participants. One of these events included a workday with NIPSCO employees for habitat and trail restoration. Other events included community clean ups, trail hikes and an outdoor watercolor program. Many of the Activating Green Spaces activities take place at Ivanhoe South Nature Preserve, a rare dune-and-swale landscape and is located at 750 Colfax Street in Gary’s Westside neighborhood.
Another success of the program has been environmental education at West Side Leadership Academy, where SHLT staff have worked with students to meet graduation requirements through the school’s Graduation Pathways. Students complete a service-learning activity at Ivanhoe South Nature Preserve and learn about career pathways in the environmental field.
“Thanks to funding from NIPSCO through the NiSource Charitable Foundation, we have been able to engage with communities in a whole new way,” said Mari Patis, Programs Coordinator for Shirley Heinze Land Trust. “Being able to see a student’s face light up when they discover tadpoles in the water or start to recognize bird calls is inspiring. We are working with NIPSCO and other community partners to provide better infrastructure at community green spaces and host more programs in 2023 and beyond.”
This year, through the NiSource Charitable Foundation, NIPSCO will continue to provide funding and staff support to both outreach events and restoration projects, particularly to increase accessibility in natural areas that currently lack amenities like adequate parking and walkable trails. The focus area of these projects will also expand to include communities in New Chicago, Hammond and Michigan City.
So far this year, Shirley Heinze Land Trust has supported events for Earth Day and National Trails Day, as well as expanded its reach at West Side Leadership Academy beyond Graduation Pathways and has engaged with science teachers at the school to further students’ understanding of biology, ecology and botany, as well as taken students on field trips to nature preserves.
A student from West Side Leadership Academy stated after a field trip that, “it would be great to have more of these experiences in nature in school, and now that I know these [nature preserves] are here, I hope to visit more often.”
Visitors can anticipate more regularly programming at Ivanhoe South as part of Activating Green Spaces, with guided hikes and programs offered at the preserve. Some upcoming dates include an event in support of the Plastic Free July movement on July 26 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. CDT, and Nature in the Arts on October 7 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. CDT. For all of SHLT’s upcoming events, please visit www.heinzetrust.org/events.
Since 1981, Shirley Heinze Land Trust has preserved and restored natural lands and waters in northwestern Indiana, including some of the rarest landscapes in the state. More than 3,000 acres in Lake, Porter, LaPorte, St. Joseph, Starke and Marshall Counties have been protected. The organization also strives to build connections between communities and nature by engaging people of all ages in its work.
For more information on the work and nature preserves of Shirley Heinze Land Trust, visit www.heinzetrust.org, call (219) 242-8558, or our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at @heinzetrust.