Handmade benches honor ecological pioneer

2013-03-16T19:00:00Z Handmade benches honor ecological pioneerSusan O’Leary Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
March 16, 2013 7:00 pm  • 

PORTER | Nature lovers gathered Saturday to prepare for warmer weather and to honor the legacy of a famous ecologist.

The annual Leopold Bench Workshop at the Indiana Dunes State Park paid homage to Aldo Leopold, the “father of modern-day ecology,” said Brad Bumgardner, the park’s interpretive naturalist.

In 1949, Leopold, an American naturalist, authored the environmental classic "A Sand County Almanac," a book many consider to be the “bible” of the environmental movement, Bumgardner said.

“There are Leopold weekends all over the country during March to celebrate the writings and land ethics of Aldo Leopold,” Bumgardner said.

He said Leopold created the Leopold Bench, which incorporates 2-inch-by-6-inch lumber in a “simple and easy to put together” design.

“He loved to go out at dawn with his pot of coffee and binoculars to record that dawn song,” said Bumgardner, demonstrating the use of the bench.

As background, Bumgardner showed a 12-minute trailer of a documentary chronicling Leopold’s life and teachings.

Workshop participants then assembled the pre-cut wood, donated by the Friends of Indiana Dunes, into their own Leopold benches — and dreamed about using them in warmer weather.

“I can always use an extra bench to look out over the lake,” said Roger Carnell, of Porter Beach.

Steve Powalski, of Michigan City, is planning a raised bed garden this spring.

“I thought this would be a good idea to make some benches for my garden,” said Powalski. “I’m going to stain mine.”

Mary Ann Crayton and her grandson Aiden Blanco will use a wood burning tool to carve their names, the date, and “maybe some kind of design” in their bench.

Crayton has been a long-time Aldo Leopold fan.

“We love Leopold,” said Crayton, of Chesterton. “We think 'Sand County Almanac' is about the best book we’ve ever read.”

Crayton said Aiden is a budding ecologist and “expert fossil collector,” as he’s collected about 1,000 crinoids from the beach.

“They are a water plant with a lily on top that lived long ago,” said Aiden.

Workshop participants also received a copy of "A Sand County Almanac."

“If you haven’t had a chance to read it, read it on your bench,” Bumgardner said.

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