CHICAGO | Area leaders are energized by the recent designation of the Pullman National Monument and believe it can spark projects to tell more of the Calumet region's story.
"There's a global interest in Pullman and what's going on in Chicago," Sue Bennett, park ranger at Pullman National Monument, said Tuesday at the Calumet Summit. "... Don't underestimate the ability we have to create the buzz about the Calumet National Heritage Area."
About 175 people gathered at Chicago's South Shore Cultural Center for the biennial Calumet Summit, a two-day event focused on connections within and across the Calumet Region, with a special emphasis on environmental education, outdoor recreation, natural restoration and the region's identity.
Many of the presenters discussed how to connect the recently designated Pullman National Monument on the city's South Side with Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. The Calumet Stewardship Initiative aims to connect the two with the Calumet National Heritage Area, which would require approval from Congress.
The area would celebrate the region's natural, industrial and cultural history.
Mark Bouman, president of the Calumet Heritage Partnership and associate director of the Science Action Center at The Field Museum, said the Calumet Region's role in the labor movement, industrial development and natural history needs to be shared with its residents and visitors with an emphasis on, "the two national parks and the landscape and the people in between."
Michael Kelly, general superintendent and CEO of the Chicago Park District, said the stewardship needed to spark action starts at home.
"If people don't connect to nature where they live, land managers and conservationists can not expect people to act globally," Kelly said. "People invest in places they care about and places they care about are places where they have made memories."'
Kim Swift, education specialist at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, said she is working with high school debate students as part of the National Park Service's 2016 centennial celebration with the goal of answering the question,"How can the National Park Service and parks be more relevant for the next 100 years?"
"We know where we've been, but where do we need to go to be vibrant and relevant to new generations?" Swift said.
Meghan Forseth, Mighty Acorns partnership coordinator and urban environmental educator at The Field Museum, discussed the program, which brings students into nature throughout the Chicago region. The students visit the same area three times during the school year for environmental education and stewardship activities.
"In order to have a relationship with nature, students have to have the opportunity to know it, experience it and then they can love it," Forseth said.
Forseth sad the partnership between The Field Museum, Dunes Learning Center and Shirley Heinze Land Trust is a model for others. In 2014-2015, the collaboration brought 3,549 students from 140 classrooms in 32 schools out to natural areas managed by Shirley Heinze Land Trust through a grant provided by ArcelorMittal.
Nicole Barker, executive director of Save the Dunes, praised the success stories in the region.
"There's clearly more work we have to do here, but I believe we're building some wonderful foundations," Barker said. "