Many groups and organization have used the center for various meetings or training sessions, including Kosciusko Leadership Academy, Duck Unlimited, Indiana State Department of Health, Indiana Master Naturalists and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.
“We like people to use the facilities who have common goals,” said WACF Executive Director Heather Harwood, adding, “We really see a lot of use this time of year through August, and we keep it ready.”
However, there are an equal amount people who, according Judy Shoemaker, development officer for the WACF, don’t know about the property and “what it’s here for and how they can participate.”
Besides the education center, the WACF property includes wetlands, habitat, remediated wetlands, shoreline and a new dock, which will serve as a demo area for the healthy shoreline initiative. The highlight of the property, which WACF is hoping the public will take advantage of, is its trails.“Over the last three years, we’ve used grants from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, DNR and the Kosciusko County Community Foundation to remove invasive plants,” Shoemaker said. “We’ve really cleaned up this property and created trails.”
The trails are open to the public; people are just asked not to use motorized vehicles on them.Meanwhile, work continues on invasive plant removal. Harwood said, “We are in phase two out of three; phase three is getting ready to start.”
The new dock allows people to come by boat to enjoy the property. No matter how people arrive, WACF hopes to educate them on what makes a healthy shoreline: namely, native plants or glacier stone.In order to draw more people out to the property, WACF hosts events, including its Lake Talk and Eats program. It is informal and has hands-on activities with topics like native plants, the popular water bug catch and invasive/exotic species. Lake Talk and Eats runs from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on the first Saturday of each month running from June until August. The last one of this year is invasive/exotic species, Aug. 1.
Also throughout the summer, WACF offers canoe trips every Friday morning from June to September. Harwood said would-be participants can register by emailing Al Campbell at firstname.lastname@example.org.
WACF recently worked with the Syracuse Parks and Recreation Department to host one of the department’s events, the Mudtastic Classic. Harwood noted WACF land manager Jeff Herdrich and two volunteers, Doug Yoder and Roger Symensma, helped mow the course that was taken by around 90 participants who came out despite the cold and rainy weather. Harwood said they hope to host the event annually for the parks department.
Through its trails, programs and hosting of events, both Harwood and Shoemaker aim to get people to visit the WACF property and learn how they can get involved and help the watershed.
“Our goal is to let people know what’s out here,” Shoemaker said, adding, “We are 100 percent donor supported. We get so much support from the community … having this here, this is our way of saying ‘This is what we are doing for you.’”
For information, visit wacf.com or stop by its property off S.R. 13 and enjoy the trails. Additionally, WACF will hold its annual public breakfast at 9 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 22, at Ruddell Pavilion; it will feature a free buffet, a quick update and speakers Nathan Bosch, Director for the Center for Lakes & Streams at Grace College and Jed Pearson of the Indiana DNR fisheries.