I first introduced you to our growing “blueways” network back in 2011. Since then a tidal wave of progress has swept over the Calumet region, and as our warmer days approach, it’s high time to highlight the great progress in water trail development in Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties.
Leading the blueways revolution are the hearty folks at the Northwest Indiana Paddling Association, or NWIPA. This nonprofit organization boasts more than 400 members since its founding in 2009.
They are dedicated to developing the region's paddling resources and opportunities, providing environmental stewardship of the region's waterways, education, and to being a link between the region's paddlers.
NWIPA has sponsored several events that have bolstered long-needed awareness of protecting and enjoying our under-appreciated waterways. In addition, they have logged countless volunteer hours in helping to clean up our blueways, and provide access for canoe and kayak enthusiasts. They have mined plenty of hidden treasures in the process.
Chief among these is Lake Michigan, which is a source of tremendous pride and enjoyment for our region residents. For years, the focus has been either sailing or swimming, but thanks to NWIPA, Lake Michigan, along a 75-mile coastline from the north end of Chicago to New Buffalo, has been designated a National Recreation Trail. With the help of Arelor-Mittal, NIRPC released a map of this route in 2011, detailing points of access and caution for sea-kayakers seeking to navigate the lakeshore.
On the southern end of our region is the historic Kankakee River. NWIPA is working with officials from LaPorte County Parks to develop the first public camping sites. Similar efforts are also moving forward in Lake and Porter counties, as well as an Illinois location along the river.
Within the region a two-mile section of the east bank of the Little Calumet River has opened for paddlers in Porter. Further expansion of this route is planned east into Chesterton, thanks to a 38-acre acquisition by the Shirley Heinze Land Trust. Going west from Porter, NWIPA is partnering with the National Park Service to help identify funding sources to aid in opening up a section of the river within Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore's boundaries.
On June 22, NWIPA will celebrate the opening of a section of Deep River from the Lake George dam in Hobart into Lake Station. This is being done in conjunction with the Urban Waters Federal Partnership of NWI. Another major blueway highlight involves the first boat launch fully accessible by people with disabilities along Trail Creek in Michigan City.
Clearly, NWIPA is advancing a new ethic on enjoying and protecting our regional waterways.