GARY | A call to green urbanism and water-centered festivities brought several hundred people out to Marquette Park Saturday for the 9th annual City of Gary’s Clean Water Celebration.
In addition to environmental vendors providing information and an array of products, the celebration featured free paddle boat and canoe rides on the Marquette Park lagoon, games, arts and crafts as well as raffles for items including rain barrels.
Among the sponsors and vendors were the Indiana Department of Environmental Management Beach Program, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, the Gary Sanitary District, Indiana American Water and the Water Institute at Purdue University Calumet.
City, county and state agencies, officials and staff members also joined in the celebration, which took place on the Lake Michigan shore. Unlike the hot weather of previous days, Saturday saw a steady wind off the lake and cool temperatures that created a mist on the lagoon.
Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson kicked off the festivities, calling the event “an opportunity to highlight our city and green urbanism” and “promote the importance of clean water.”
Drinking clean water is a choice that everyone should have “now and in the future,” the mayor said.
The annual celebration also raises awareness “that we need to protect our environment at all levels,” Freeman-Wilson said, adding that those efforts include recycling, determining what goes into the water and sweeping the streets.
Kyle Allen, president of the Gary Common Council, welcomed guests during the celebration’s kickoff and challenged everyone to be part of the solution rather than the problem.
“We should not take our environment for granted. Our resources are finite,” Allen said. “We are one of the few species on the planet that pollute our environment.”
Transitioning to a green economy will include using cutting edge technology and practices that help sustain and protect the environment, said other officials, including Lauren Riga, director of the Gary Green Urbanism Department, who helped organize the celebration.
Lake County Surveyor George Van Til brought along five staff members to man a booth and talk with participants about protecting and sustaining the environment.
“Gary has been at the forefront of this effort,” he said. “Other communities such as Hobart and Crown Point are participating.”
Making the environment a personal responsibility will help the movement and save taxpayer money, Van Til said.
“We personally need to make decisions about what kind of fertilizer we use on our lawns and how we wash our cars,” he said. “If we don’t (take personal responsibility) government will do it, but it will spend taxpayer money.”