A recap of the 19th Annual Calumet Heritage Conference: Celebrating and Resorting the Calumet’s Living Landscape
On Saturday October 20th at Lost Marsh Golf Course in Hammond, IN, around 80 people that live and work in the Calumet region came together to explore the Calumet’s living landscape, asking questions about how to restore and sustain a balance among nature, commerce, and culture. The conference was presented by Calumet Heritage Partnership and included a full day of panels, discussions and breakout activities that allowed participants to connect with other cultural, environmental, and heritage organizations in the Calumet.
Field Museum is a partner of both organizations in this endeavor. The Calumet Heritage Area is dedicated to telling the story of the region’s nationally significant natural, industrial, labor, and cultural heritage assets, that are preserved and interpreted to enrich the lives of its residents and visitors from across the nation.
The conference kicked off with a panel titled “Challenges and Opportunities of Environmental Stewardship in the Calumet”, featuring panelists Paul Labovitz, Superintendent of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore; Brenda Scott Henry, Director of Green Urbanism and Environmental Affairs of City of Gary; and Benjamin Cox, Executive Director of Friends of the Forest Preserves and CHP Board Member. The discussion, moderated by Katherine Moore Powell, PhD, Climate Change Ecologist of the Field Museum, explored different perceptions of green space, whether or not these perceptions align with traditional conservation approaches, and challenges and opportunities surrounding healthy green spaces. Watch the full panel, here.
Katherine Moore Powell noted that “from non-profit to urban to national park, each panelist spoke about how more people need to discover a connection to nature. It seems our modern lifestyles have created distance between us and the natural world, and that creates unrealistic views of what a healthy green space is, and what role it plays in our own physical and mental health.” Panelists addressed this challenge with solutions in their respective communities.
"The value of our land must be based on more than tax revenue and short term profitability, that long term ecosystem services (clean air and water, recreation, culture and beauty, etc.) are equally if not more valid in determining the best use of that land, but this way of thinking will require a cultural shift in the way we see prosperity and success as a society” - Katherine Moore Powell, PhD, Field Museum
Paul Labovitz explained that the Indiana Dunes has unique habitats and high biodiversity, all within arm’s reach of Chicago, making it one of the most accessible National Park Service entities in the United States. Brenda Scott Henry spoke about the challenges surrounding Gary’s vacant lots, but community, regional, and national support together have created a vision for sustainability, such as developing some vacant lots into native gardens. Benjamin Cox expressed some concern; although there is great work being done around conserving high quality green spaces, there is a challenge around convincing policy makers and government officials of the value in not developing a parcel and keeping it as green space. An overall sentiment from the panel arose, as summarized by Katherine: “The value of our land must be based on more than tax revenue and short term profitability, that long term ecosystem services (clean air and water, recreation, culture and beauty, etc.) are equally if not more valid in determining the best use of that land, but this way of thinking will require a cultural shift in the way we see prosperity and success as a society”.
This panel was followed by a presentation from a new network of museums, galleries and local history centers in the region called Calumet Curators. Madeleine Tudor, Applied Cultural Research Manager of Field Museum introduced the Calumet Curators network, whose nearly 20 partners showcase the natural, industrial, and cultural richness of the Calumet region by connecting local interpretive centers and collections-based organizations that tell the region’s heritage stories. Madeleine also introduced a traveling exhibition currently being developed by this group, called “Calumet Voices, National Stories” (working title). This multi-sited, collaboratively-curated exhibit project will showcase the globally rare natural areas, the nation’s premier heavy industrial district, and the grit and passion of diverse communities that make up the unique Calumet landscape. The exhibit will open sequentially at three local venues across the Calumet region and end at the Field Museum. Each venue will be a unique display, created by a different team of local heritage partners with guidance from the Field Museum. The first site will be at the Pullman National Monument/Historic Pullman Foundation Visitors Center in mid-2019, followed by the Gary Public Library and the Brauer Museum of Art. Components from each venue will be displayed in the Field Museum's Comer Gallery in February 2021, and will include selections from the Field’s own collections from the Calumet region.
Julie Zasada, Executive Director of the Cedar Lake Historical Association (CLHA), gave a brief history of Cedar Lake and introduced the group to CLHA’s museum. Julie is excited that the Calumet Heritage Area boundaries extend far enough south to include Cedar Lake, as it is an important part of the region's history and the Calumet Heritage Area will provide a new opportunity to tell these stories.
Edward Sadlowski’s “Steelworkers Fight Back” campaign during his run for the presidency of United Steelworkers captivated the nation and was a key component in pushing the United Steelworkers to becoming a more democratic union. Stories about the Calumet’s people and heritage are part of what makes the region nationally significant, and these stories will be brought to life with the Calumet Heritage Area.
Following the resolution, Tom Shepherd, who has been a longtime advocate of the Calumet region via his participation in numerous societies and groups devoted to relating and preserving the Calumet’s history, gave a presentation on The Little Calumet Underground Railroad Project. Near the Little Calumet River lies the former Jan Ton Farm, a safe house for Freedom Seekers that would have traversed through the region escaping slavery. Tom spoke to how his group is working to improve the route with signage and monuments to tell the story of these Freedom Seekers and abolitionists like the Ton family. One of those monuments would be located near the Jan Ton Farm in Beaubien Woods.
The last panel was about The Lakeshore People’s Museum, with panelists Cassandra Cannon of the museum and Founder and CEO of the United Urban Network of Gary, Rhonda Cox of the museum and Executive Director of Artopia Arts & Crats Cultural Academy, and Willow Walsh, of the museum and a student at Valparaiso University. This panel touched on the importance of telling the stories of all people in the region, and how no one's story should be left out. The Lakeshore People’s Museum accomplishes this by allowing residents to bring in artifacts and arts that have preserved their cultural and familial heritage to their pop-up museums. These resident artifacts could range from dolls to quilts to letterman jackets that tell the story of their family’s heritage. Watch the full panel, here.
Before lunch, Brenda Barrett, the editor of the Living Landscape Observer, appointee to the ICOMOS Scientific Committee on Culture Landscapes, and former National Coordinator of Heritage Areas of the National Park Service, presented a fascinating keynote address on how to conserve culture and nature on a landscape scale. Brenda spoke to the importance of heritage areas, as they are one of the only vehicles that can connect a bi-state landscape and region like the Calumet, and heritage areas can improve surrounding communities by providing economic opportunity through tourism, environmental protection by connecting green spaces, and a platform for telling the unique histories of the United States. Brenda drew from examples from her work in Pennsylvania and touched on some key learnings from her work there, such as how important it will be to engage the community when starting to brand and manage the Calumet Heritage Area. Brenda also spoke about some key examples of other National partnerships that have similar visions as the Calumet region, such as the Network for Landscape Conservation. Watch the full address, here.
The working lunch included an engaging breakout activity surrounding management planning for the Calumet National Heritage Area. The Calumet National Heritage Area Feasibility Study has been approved by the National Park Service as it meets all 10 criteria for becoming a National Heritage Area. A significant next step in becoming a national heritage area is turning the feasibility study into a management plan that demonstrates how the Calumet National Heritage Area will run and who will run it. The breakout activity was designed to engage conference participants in thinking about how they might address the different priorities that would be activated on a regional scale with the Heritage Area.
After lunch, the group had planned to go on an afternoon group paddle on Wolf Lake, hosted by Wilderness Inquiry. Additionally, Michael Boos, Executive Director of the Association for Wolf Lake Initiative, would give a brief history and overview of Wolf Lake once on site. Upon leaving the conference, the weather took a turn for the worse, but those that did make it to Wolf Lake did learn some interesting facts about Wolf Lake from Michael Boos before calling it quits due to the weather.
Coming out of the conference, the next steps are to continue with management planning for the Calumet Heritage Area. The programming put together by Calumet Heritage Partnership that was highlighted throughout the conference will be key components to making the Calumet Heritage Area a reality. For more information on Calumet Heritage Partnership, visit calumetheritage.org, and for more information on the Calumet Heritage Area, visit calumetheritagearea.org.
one of the most productive conservation planning efforts to date and is key to maintaining the sustainability of the complex ecosystems in the Lake Michigan Watershed. However, even with the CELCP plan in place, some natural areas were missing conservation strategies, so a huge opportunity arose when funding became available for partners to collaborate on conservation plans for 3 "gap” areas. At the end of September, Calumet Collaborative and partners released a report for those gap areas that aligns with the larger CELCP plan. The Calumet Land Acquisition & Habitat Restoration Plan report details 5-year conservation strategies with actionable outcomes and next steps for the Calumet region
The 3 areas covered in this project are: Oak Ridge/ Hoosier Prairie (Lake County), Moraine/ Sunset Hill (Porter Country), and Ambler Flatwoods (LaPorte County). A number of diverse stakeholders in the region were involved to develop this comprehensive plan and report in just a 5-month time period, which speaks to the power of collaboration and collective action. These partners include, but are not limited to: Save the Dunes, The Nature Conservancy, Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission (NIRPC), the Field Museum, Shirley Heinze Land Trust (SHLT), Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Coastal Program and Division of Nature Preserves (DNP), and not to mention the number of local, state, federal and planning agencies in the region that attended the planning meetings. In all, the CAP process consisted of 9, 2-hour, in-person meetings over 3 months, with 27 people representing 16 organizations. After the in-person meetings, select partners spent another 2 months writing the report based on meeting outcomes.
The CAP process was facilitated by Joe Tutterrow, Director of Protection at The Nature Conservancy in Indiana. The meetings were interactive and adaptive, and used maps to help visualize strategies. The meetings focused on action-oriented outcomes to ensure all parties agreed with the strategies that addressed the various conservation targets, threats, and opportunities, as well as what would be measured to indicate each strategy’s success.
"It’s another example of how much more we can accomplish together than we can by ourselves!”
Joe Tutterrow said “I was pleased to represent The Nature Conservancy as a part of this regional planning process. The level of engagement and commitment by all of the local partners and participants was very impressive. To maintain their energy over the course of this 3-month process speaks to the importance of the topic and the likelihood of success. It’s another example of how much more we can accomplish together than we can by ourselves!”
The partners involved enjoyed this CAP experience, as it provided a platform to work together in a new and different way: by creating strategic conservation plans over common goals, and addressing that threats don't stop at jurisdictional boundaries.
".The impacts of invasive species, pollution, and development pressures don't stop at management boundaries, and we wanted to develop natural resource protection strategies that reflect that reality to better protect the system as a whole.”
“Working as a partnership on conservation planning initiatives allows us to blur jurisdictional boundaries and treat these three project areas as ecosystems, rather than individual, fragmented sites,” explains Cathy Martin, Program Manager at Save the Dunes. “The strategies developed through this process are centered on collaboration and cooperation; the impacts of invasive species, pollution, and development pressures don't stop at management boundaries, and we wanted to develop natural resource protection strategies that reflect that reality to better protect the system as a whole.”
The release of this report is just the beginning for increased conservation efforts in Northwest Indiana. Now that strategies have been identified, projects are being developed to achieve those strategies, and the Calumet Collaborative will continue to report out on these projects and related opportunities as they become available.
To learn more about the CAP project, please read the Calumet Land Acquisition & Habitat Restoration Plan report, or the summaries for each area in the plan: Oak Ridge/ Hoosier Prairie (Lake County), Moraine/ Sunset Hill (Porter Country), and Ambler Flatwoods (LaPorte County). To become involved on conservation initiatives in the Calumet region, please reach out to Ashley at firstname.lastname@example.org.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Calumet Collaborative is Named One of the Top 100 Finalists for the 17th Annual Chicago Innovation Awards
September 18, 2018
Chicago, IL— Out of 519 nominees, Calumet Collaborative of Chicago, IL has been selected as one of the Top 100 Finalists still in the running for the 17th annual Chicago Innovation Awards. The awards celebrate the most innovative new products and services in the Chicago region across all organization sizes, sectors and industries. 1500 business and civic leaders will come together to honor the winners when they are announced on October 29th at Chicago’s Harris Theater.
The Calumet region is bi-state, spanning southeast Chicago, south Cook County and northwest Indiana, and boasts proud and diverse communities, important natural ecosystems, and a powerful industrial heritage. It’s a region that struggles with social equity, economic prosperity, and environmental restoration and justice issues. Calumet Collaborative’s vision is to advance a thriving Calumet region through transformative sustainable development, with collaboration and collective work being unique and main drivers of this transformation. There are 39 member organizations and countless partners who are involved in the Collaborative's work. Calumet Collaborative aims to achieve inclusive regional prosperity and improve quality of life by engaging diverse stakeholders in on-the-ground work that integrates community, economic, and environmental values.
Each of the Top 100 Finalists is also in the running for the annual “People’s Choice Award,” selected through online balloting at https://chicagoinnovation.com/peoples-choice-award-voting/
“Chicago continues to rise as a global hub of innovation due to the breadth of organizations in our region that introduce a stream of new products and services into the market each year,” said Tom Kuczmarski, co-founder with Chicago journalist Dan Miller of the awards. “This year’s nominees generated a combined total of $3.44 billion in revenues through their new products and services alone.”
As one of the Top 100 Finalists, Calumet Collaborative will receive a $2,500 scholarship to attend The Practical Innovator, a day-long executive education course on September 26th led by top faculty who teach innovation at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management.
Out of the Top 100 Finalists, the judges will select 10 winners of the Chicago Innovation Awards, as well as 10 winners of the Up-and-Comer Awards representing innovation in the start-up community, the Social Innovator Award, the Collaboration Award, and 3 Neighborhood Award winners, which will showcase innovation occurring in Chicago’s diverse neighborhoods. The winners will be invited to ring the NASDAQ Bell in New York City, invited to separate meetings with Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Governor Bruce Rauner and Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle, and receive widespread media recognition.
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After all, there is a “difference between being IN the community and being PART of the community”, a sentiment driven home by Mr. Harris, and this public meeting was just one example of how the Port District supports the community and will continue to do so moving forward.
The meeting was organized around 3 topics: 1) Where the port has been, 2) Where the port is now, and 3) Where the port is going. In the 2 years since Mr. Harris has been Director of the port, it is true that a lot has been accomplished. In 2017, the port increased revenue by 11.6% while simultaneously decreasing debt by 61.6% - no small feat. Reducing the debt with the help of the Illinois General Assembly and receiving $2.3 million in grant funding contributed to these numbers. Additionally, a 2017 combined economic impact study on the Port concluded that the Port is responsible for 6,381 jobs and produced a total revenue of $1,186,986,000. The Port has also received a Local Technical Assistance (LTA) grant from Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) to help develop a Master Plan for the Port. This momentum, combined with the constant outreach to understand international port best practices and to educate others about opportunities in Chicago, is advancing the Port in ways we have not seen before.
When it comes to where the Port is now, the State of the Port address showed us how the momentum from 2017 has started to materialize into concrete projects and actions. In 2018, the Port received over $17 million in grant funds to start work on the much-needed infrastructure repairs that will not only help make the port more functional but also improve appearance and perception. Infrastructure repairs focus on improvements at Butler Drive, the backbone of the Port, as it connects water-bound cargo to trucks and trains, and includes 1.2 miles of road improvements and 1.7 miles of rail improvements. One of the Port’s major goals is to become the region’s transportation logistics leader by increasing all port activity and focusing on multi-modal aspects including barge, ship, rail, and truck. Improvements at Butler Drive is a first step towards this goal.
The Port is committed now, and in the future, to support the surrounding community. Some examples include housing bees for the honey production of Sweet Beginnings, a local social enterprise that sells raw honey and honey-infused body care products, working with The Nature Conservancy to identify ways to remediate and restore Square Marsh, and collaborating with Active Transportation Alliance on ways to connect the bike park and trails at Big Marsh to Pullman. When it comes to bringing development to the Port, community feedback is highly valued, so there will be a public meeting on September 15th regarding a request for proposal (RFP) for a hotel and boat house to be built near Harborside Golf Course. A hotel would provide local jobs and many other community benefits, and Mr. Harris wants to make sure the community has an opportunity to share their ideas and give feedback prior to the RFP release. Details on this meeting can be found at IIPD.com.
Another big goal is to make the Illinois International Port District the nation’s greenest port by investing in renewable energies, and leading in conservation efforts and environmental practices. The Port has already released an RFP for solar panels to be mounted on the port’s transit sheds, pictured to the left.
There have been concepts put forth for wind turbines and thermal energy as well. The Port has the potential to produce more renewable energy on site than it consumes, so the Port would look into power purchase agreements that would allow them to share excess energy with the surrounding neighborhoods of Hegewisch, Pullman and Riverdale – another example of being PART of the community versus just being IN the community.
Finally, a framework called E.R.I.C. was introduced that will help guide the Port’s future work.
Putting these values at the center of the Port’s upcoming projects and Master Plan will ensure the Illinois International Port District stays true it’s tagline: The Greatest Multimodal Facility in North America.
All numbers sourced from the first annual State of the Port address, which can be downloaded at IIPD.com.
One of the major challenges in the Calumet is how to work with the patchwork of underutilized land, or Brownfields, in the region. While many see Brownfields as a liability, the Calumet Collaborative and partners recognize that with the proper approach, Brownfields can be an asset. In January, the article “New Partners & Projects for Brownfield Redevelopment” introduced a semester long project run in partnership with the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) Institute of Design (ID), called “The Future of Brownfields”. In this project, masters and PhD students helped us change the way we think about landfills, vacant homes, abandoned industrial sites, and contaminated natural areas.
The course produced two reports: “The Future of Brownfields” and “Brownfields: Critical Paths for Regional Redevelopment”. With these reports, students introduced an array of strategies and solutions at various levels: micro (ecosystem of products and services), meso (platforms and infrastructures), and macro (system dynamics). Andre Nogueira, project manager during the “Future of Brownfields” course and PhD Candidate, Adjunct Faculty at IIT ID, has learned “that if Brownfields could be redeveloped by involving local residents, leveraging existing assets, strengthening local economies, and empowering science, then new sustainable futures can be explored.” Andre further explains that “new types of infrastructures will be required to regenerate the region” because all strategies and solutions should be implemented together for the greatest regional impact.
The semester long project was supported by a portion of a grant from Chicago Community Trust to support Calumet Collaborative’s work on Brownfield redevelopment, and IIT ID leveraged this support to find funds to continue the project into the summer. In addition to the reports produced during the course, students created four prototypes with the purpose of engaging Calumet residents in Brownfield redevelopment. With the help of the newly secured funds, three versions of these prototypes are being tested this summer in local communities throughout the Calumet region.
As academic projects are tied to semester long time-frames, a great opportunity arose by being able to continue this project into the summer months. Community engagement is key to understanding how those that live in the Calumet will respond to these “new infrastructures” described by Andre, and with IIT ID being able to find funding to continue this project, time constraints were lifted in order to properly start engaging residents with IIT ID’s work.
"An insight that has struck me during this work is how much residents of the Calumet Region actually want to be responsible for the upkeep and preservation of the region.” - Christopher Rudd, Founder of ChiByDesign
Christopher Rudd, the founder of ChiByDesign, is originally from the Calumet region, and joined this project to assist with community engagement. “The biggest reward that I have experienced working on this project is to see youth and community members from many different walks of life show interest in one another and the natural world. An insight that has struck me during this work is how much residents of the Calumet Region actually want to be responsible for the upkeep and preservation of the region.”
Andre explains some of the prototypes being tested with the community: “We have created game simulations, sensor-based public installations (fusing art, technology, and science), and new digital platforms for civic empowerment.” These prototypes are: 1) Mini Calumet- a simulation tool that uses educational programs to reconnect local youth with the environment, 2) Flag Calumet- a modular installation structured on the intersection of art, science, and sensor technology that serves as a facilitator between local residents and the environment, and 3) Value Calumet- a digital platform for civic empowerment that matches demand and supply while mediating efforts to optimize local resources.
These prototypes aren’t typically what one would imagine when thinking about Brownfield redevelopment, but that is the point of the IIT ID project. “The Future of Brownfields" report is intended to introduce new ways of thinking about Brownfield redevelopment in the Calumet region, based on design methods, systemic approaches and asset evaluation.
After the summer portion of community engagement is completed and the prototypes are refined, the staff at IIT ID hopes to further advance the work on these prototypes into three micro-pilots in the coming year.
To learn more about this project, read both “The Future of Brownfields” and “Brownfields: Critical Paths for Regional Redevelopment” reports. If you have further questions or would like to become involved in this initiative, please reach out to Ashley at email@example.com.
This month, there has been significant progress in one of Calumet Collaborative’s core initiatives of advancing a Calumet National Heritage Area. National Heritage Areas are lived-in landscapes where natural, cultural, and historic resources combine to form a nationally important place. A Calumet National Heritage Area tells the story of the resilient people and nature that call the region home and embraces the region’s industrial innovation and transformation. Telling this story unifies the Calumet, and a positive, cohesive perception of this region will bring an abundance of opportunities to residents and visitors alike.
The Calumet Collaborative and Calumet Heritage Partnership have established a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and formed a coordinating committee that aims to gain national designation for a Calumet Heritage Area by the United States Congress. This committee will advance on the ground efforts as a Heritage Area even if no national designation is received. A Calumet Heritage Area will bring a sense of pride to the residents, make visible the rich natural and cultural assets so they can be enjoyed, and create economic opportunities for the region through job creation and contribution to local economies.
In mid-May, the Calumet Heritage Partnership submitted its final revision of the Calumet National Heritage Area Initiative Feasibility Study to the National Park Service (NPS). The feasibility study makes the case for legislation to be introduced to the United States Congress, who ultimately designates National Heritage Areas (NHAs). The Park Service advises Congress on NHA designations; in the case of the Calumet region, whether to create what would be the nation's 50th such entity. In 2014, the feasibility study process was initiated, and a draft study was released for public comment in 2016. The formal feasibility study submission to the NPS in July 2017 included public comments and their responses, along with nearly 80 letters of support.
“The National Park Service's response to the feasibility study submission was very positive. It also opened an opportunity to think more deeply about the study, and to incorporate their suggestions into this revised version. We look forward to their response to this version,” says Mark Bouman, who is the Chicago Region Program Director in the Keller Science Action Center at the Field Museum. Mark serves as the Co-Chair of the Calumet Collaborative Board of Directors, and as a board member and Past President of the Calumet Heritage Partnership that has advocated for the area for nearly two decades. “To be clear, the Park Service's response is advisory, as it's Congress who ultimately decides whether a National Heritage Area is to be created or not. But one thing the very process of working on a study like this has pointed out: in many ways we already have a Calumet Heritage Area, with nationally significant stories and partners ready to tell them. We're all eager to move forward with these on the ground efforts, and the partners are doing that now.”
The story of the Calumet Region is beginning to be captured in a regional Identity and Branding exercise. A brand that unifies the region will be key for the Calumet Heritage Area. “Creating a unified brand for the bi-state Calumet area will have tourism and economic benefits for all of us,” said Mandy Burrell Booth, communications senior, Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning. “We hope it will draw more visitors to the region and raise awareness among locals about the many incredible places and stories our region has to offer.”
This May, Mandy Burrell Booth helped lead an Identity and Branding exercise with the Calumet Collaboration’s Communications Committee. Over a course of 3 informative and productive meetings, the Communications Committee identified available resources that tell the story of the Calumet. The committee also determined work that needs to be done to create the Identity and Branding for the Calumet region. The output is a roadmap that will be used to bring the Identity and Branding of the Calumet to life. This includes community engagement on a proposed identity and brand, wayfinding products and design specifications, and a toolkit for wayfinding implementation.
Telling the stories of the Calumet region creates a sense of place, which is crucial for the transformation of the region into a thriving place to live, work, and play. If you are interested in being a part of this effort, there are many opportunities to add your voice to the Calumet National Heritage Area and Wayfinding initiatives. Please reach out to Ashley to find out how you can become involved at Ashley@calumetcollaborative.org.
In mid-March, the Collaborative kicked off the first Conservation Action Planning (CAP) meetings for identified “gap areas” at three sites in northwest Indiana: Oak Ridge/Hoosier Prairie in Lake County, Moraine/Sunset Hill in Porter County and Galena/Ambler Flatwoods in LaPorte County. During the first round of meetings, the groups for each focus area shared their knowledge and expertise to collectively decide on boundaries and conservation targets. Over the course of the next two meetings in April and May, targets will be solidified and their related threats and risks will be evaluated. At the end of the process, a report will be written with suggestions for partnerships and opportunity areas for conservation work.
Calumet Collaborative is serving as project manager and stakeholder convener throughout the CAP process. Leading the charge with the Collaborative is the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (Indiana DNR) Lake Michigan Coastal Program. Coastal Resources Planner Kaitlyn McClain says this project is a “natural partnership” between organizations.
“The coastal program has always sought out opportunities to support sustainable development. We knew going in, Calumet Collaborative’s major strength is in convening partners. This project will not only greatly improve conditions in these gap areas, but will advance both of our organizations’ missions and enhance cooperation and connectivity throughout the region.”
The sites were selected after preliminary conversations centered around existing conservation efforts on managed land; These “gap areas” have not been covered by previous planning efforts.
The goal is to advance land and wildlife conservation in the Calumet region, while restoring and/or maintaining biodiversity and high-quality habitat. It takes into consideration prior efforts by Chicago Wilderness Green Infrastructure Vision, Calumet Land Conservation Partnership, and the Indiana Dunes Ecosystem Alliance.
The plan will use The Nature Conservancy’s (TNC) Conservation Action Planning model, which helps guide conservation teams to develop focused strategies and measure success.
“This planning pulls together partners and helps build a more cohesive approach to conservation across the Calumet to move between high level landscapes and smaller sub-geographies,” northwest Indiana regional director for the Indiana chapter of The Nature Conservancy Paul Labus says. “Places like these gap areas are the last examples of the natural history of the Calumet region. Protecting, restoring and managing these resources gives people an opportunity to connect with nature in close proximity to where they live.”
The CAP process will also help to identify species of interest and their most critical threats, recognize the social, economic, political and cultural factors involved, and monitor outcomes to adapt and learn throughout the life of the project.
The Collaborative is taking on the role of convener and project manager for this project because it plays an important part in achieving one of the organization’s main initiative goals of developing integrated, comprehensive bi-state conservation strategies for the Calumet region.
Along with Calumet Collaborative, Indiana DNR and TNC, additional partners include: The Field Museum, Shirley Heinze Land Trust, Save the Dunes, Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission (NIRPC), Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and ArcelorMittal Foundation. Other stakeholders from municipal, county and state land managers, National Park Service resource managers, active watershed and conservation groups and members of the Calumet Collaborative Conservation Work Group will be invited to participate in upcoming planning meetings in April and May.
If you’re interested in participating in this project or want to learn more, contact Emily Prisuta at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This past December, Calumet Collaborative achieved a major milestone in its work to become an independent nonprofit organization. It received its official 501(c)(3) status from the United States Internal Revenue Service.
For the past year, Calumet Collaborative has been building a thoughtful, inclusive organization focused on transforming the Calumet region through sustainable development. They have been developing and convening a robust group of decision makers and stakeholders, narrowing in on its focus areas, and starting their work on four initiatives: brownfield redevelopment, comprehensive regional wayfinding, advancement of the Calumet National Heritage Area and integrated bi-state conservation strategies.
The new status will give the organization an opportunity to apply for grants and seek funding from larger corporations, foundations and individuals to support its financial and long-term sustainability.
“We are an action-oriented organization focused on creating public private partnerships to advance resiliency in the region by catalyzing innovative projects through collective action. This will only help us make additional progress as we can seek sources of funding otherwise unavailable to us,” Calumet Collaborative acting executive director Sarah Coulter says.
Mark Bouman, Calumet Collaborative co-chair and Chicago region program director in Keller Science Action Center of the Division of Science and Education at The Field Museum adds, “Calumet Collaborative is the first of its kind in the Calumet region. An official 501(c)(3) status poises Calumet Collaborative to take a real leadership role in sustainable development in the region.”
In early 2018, the organization will partner with two research institutions, Illinois Institute of Technology Institute of Design and University of Illinois Chicago’s Natalie P. Voorhees Center on two different brownfield redevelopment projects. It will also be leading efforts related to conservation action planning for gap areas in northwest Indiana through the Indiana Department of Natural Resource Lake Michigan Coastal Management Program.
Underutilized vacant land has long been a challenge in the bi-state Calumet region but there are many that believe they are assets waiting to be developed. Many of these vacant or underutilized sites have an additional complication of being a brownfield. Together with several partners, Calumet Collaborative is working on a systemic approach to not only change that impression, but to develop innovative strategies and tools to reuse these areas in a way that’s never been done before.
Calumet Collaborative’s advisory council recognized both the potential and need for collective action around brownfields. As such, the advisory council determined bi-state brownfield redevelopment should be one of Calumet Collaborative’s four initiatives.
A brownfield is defined as a property that the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse is complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant or contaminant.
Calumet Collaborative will be utilizing a portion of a $50,000 Chicago Community Trust grant to support the work of the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) Institute of Design. A diverse group of masters and PhD students with varying academic backgrounds will take on a semester-long project to create solutions and regional regeneration strategies that focus on brownfield redevelopment through multi-system integration while engaging those not previously involved in this work.
Michael Davidson, Calumet Collaborative board member and Chicago Community Trust senior program officer in sustainable development says, “Calumet Collaborative can invest research dollars to elevate the discussion and determine why it’s been so difficult to make changes in this space and determine how we can improve the process. This project is a chance to conduct sustainable development in a unique way and reframe brownfields discussion from liability to asset, threat to opportunity.”
Associate Professor in Design, Carlos Teixeira, along with his colleagues, Associate Professor of Environmental Management and Sustainability, Weslynne Ashton, and adjunct faculty and PhD student Andre Nogueira, will be coordinating the IIT students’ efforts.
Dr. Teixeira adds, “Instead of seeing brownfields as a problem, we can see brownfields as the point of reference where new development can happen. They’re idle assets that are underutilized. They’re enhancers, not constrainers.”
The design project will run concurrently with a brownfield mapping and inventory project that is being led by experts from Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago and assisted by faculty and students from the University of Illinois at Chicago Nathalie P. Voorhees Center for Neighborhood and Community Improvement as part of their work as an EDA University Center. These coordinating efforts will be overseen and further directed by the Calumet Collaborative brownfields work group made up of advisory council members and other subject matter experts.
“By mapping existing assets, we can determine how they can be leveraged through brownfields with the end goal of building sustainable solutions,” Dr. Teixeira says.
The IIT team indicates pursuing brownfield research will provide the chance to scale up their existing tools to deeply impact the Calumet region.
“Brownfield redevelopment hasn’t seen a lot of innovation in a long time. We can provide stakeholders with a new set of lenses to work from,” Dr. Ashton details. “We don’t pretend to be brownfields experts, but can provide a proven platform for stakeholders to co-create.”
Davidson explains it’s important to note this new approach will be an aid to those already involved in brownfield redevelopment work.
He says, “It will not invalidate those efforts, but bring capacity to other organizations’ efforts to help them succeed.”
Gary resident Dereeka Rollins, a new mom who works for Gary’s Redevelopment Department, says she wants to see “businesses in Gary grow and offer more employment. So many people here are not employed.” To help achieve that goal, she’s working on a project with other residents to support a business incubator/co-working space for people in the city’s Miller Beach community. Known as The Stage, this repurposed building is bringing business to The Steel City.
Gretchen Sipp, another Gary resident, is The Stage Manager at the space. "I am a die-hard Gary citizen. I grew up in Gary. I've been in Gary for 30 years. It is my home. I've left, I've come back. I've left, I've come back. This is where I'm planted. So, for me, I want to see the true essence of what a Gary citizen looks like," says Sipp, adding, "…I think we are on the verge of something big."
Their effort is one of many in northwest Indiana to revitalize communities through the input and collaboration of local organizations and people who work and live there. For 25 years, the Legacy Foundation, which is based in Merrillville has been supporting this work through a wide variety of grants for programs and initiatives in Lake County communities. (The county is the second largest in the state). In the course of a year, the foundation typically gives out more than $800,000 in scholarships and between $1.3 and $1.8 million in grants, which range from about $2,000 to $25,000.
The foundation is not locked in to funding one particular issue but responds to community needs in a wide variety of areas. For example, the foundation funds a first of its kind medical-legal partnership for northwest Indiana between Indiana Legal Services and HealthLinc, which provides no-cost, civil legal aid to HealthLinc patients who are in need of legal services for issues related to their health. In Hammond, a Legacy Foundation grant expanded a youth career program to include training and internships in high-growth industries such as healthcare, IT and construction. In Gary, the foundation supported the state’s second fully ADA compliant canoe and kayak launch at Marquette Park. The Legacy Foundation donated $25,000 to help construct the launch, which provides access to Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.
“The Legacy Foundation has focused on building philanthropy in Lake County,” says foundation president Carolyn Saxton. “What we’ve seen is that community foundations can promote philanthropy where they are located and make a difference that can hopefully be sustained over time.”
The foundation’s work is about more than making individual grants. The Legacy Foundation also encourages Lake County residents to consider how they might be more philanthropic in their long-term estate planning. As a result, over 300 charitable funds have been established that are financially managed by Legacy and support the charitable interests of individuals and organizations. This type of long-term philanthropy provides support for charitable projects identified by the donors not only for today but for years to come.
Legacy manages and promotes the local Donor Advised Fund for the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which funds a wide range of organizations and projects in Gary.
The foundation serves as a resource center to nonprofits, providing training for staff and board members on fundraising, organizational issues and other topics. In addition, the foundation offers scholarships to Lake County students as motivation to graduate high school and complete college.
In recent years, the foundation has been more proactive about how it reaches area communities. One prominent example is its Neighborhood Spotlight program, which was created in 2013. Through this program, residents from Hobart, Griffith, and Gary’s Miller Beach and Emerson communities identify and address key issues. “People in these communities determine what their priorities are,” says Saxton. “The Spotlight program is a catalyst that encourages community involvement and action.”
The foundation funds a “community builder” in each neighborhood – a person whose job is to engage residents in this process. (It’s similar, Saxton says, to what community organizers do.) “The idea is to get existing stakeholders – people who live here – at the table,” says Jessie Renslow, community builder for the program in Miller Beach, where issues identified by residents have included transportation, jobs, education and economic development. Renslow, who grew up in Gary, describes herself as a “multi generation Gary-ite” who lived in California before moving back to the area.
Renslow says, “The Legacy Foundation realized the importance of doing a community plan in our communities. When you have a community choose attainable goals, it can happen. People really buy into the process.”
Brenda Burch has been a community builder for the program in Gary’s Emerson community. The Gary native and former pastor says the Spotlight program supported a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis of Emerson. One major priority identified by residents, she says, is revitalizing Emerson School, which was closed in 2008 and, she says, could be reopened as a community center.
Meanwhile, Gary resident Zully Alvarado says the new canoe and kayak launch in Marquette Park reflects the community’s priorities – and is already affecting people on a personal level.
Alvarado has been an accessibility issues advocate for many years and uses a wheelchair. “I love what we’ve been able to do,” she says. “As a woman who is a wheelchair user, I never imagined that this would be available to me. People see me first as a paddler, not just as someone who’s in a chair.”
“The Neighborhood Spotlight program,” she adds, “is a model we can showcase for other communities.”
For more about the Legacy Foundation, click here.