Warsaw Community High School freshmen who participated in the Water Drop river rafting experience on Grassy Creek and Lake Tippecanoe last fall participated in a writing contest to share what they learned on their field trip.
Their directive was: “Using the facts you have learned about the threats and dangers to our watershed, create a document to share your knowledge with others. Let people know what the dangers are and what we all can do to help protect our watershed and our water resources. Think creatively about solutions to create an interesting vibrant document!”
Cash awards were presented to the top entries in three categories of flyer, brochure and essay. The contest is sponsored by the Tippecanoe Watershed Foundation through the Mary Price Education Fund, and it is supported by the efforts of the Kosciusko County Soil and Water Conservation District and the Warsaw Community High School English Department.
“The entries were really fun to read. The students did a great job researching threats to water quality and the health of our lakes and streams. They provided accurate and manageable solutions to protect and improve water quality. Many of the essays included poems or songs. I was impressed with their creativity,” said Lyn Crighton, executive director of the Tippecanoe Watershed Foundation.
Visit the TWF website to view all winning essay, brochure, and flyer entries – go to the news section.
The winning essay, “Protecting Our Refuge,” was submitted by Grace Garret and is featured below:
Protecting Our Refuge
By Grace Garrett
Warsaw Community High School
I walked across an empty land
I knew the pathway like the back of my hand
I felt the earth beneath my feet
Sat by the river and it made me complete
These lyrics from the song “Somewhere Only We Know” by Keane remind me of the pure joy I felt playing by the water throughout my childhood. The words also evoke feelings of responsibility, because future generations’ experience with water depends on our actions today.
Lakes are not the only bodies of water that bring joy to youngsters. The yard of my childhood home in Michigan backed protected wetlands. It feels like yesterday when I recall how we kids played near the water’s edge.
I came across a fallen tree.
I felt the branches of it looking at me.
Is this the place we used to love?
Is this the place that I’ve been dreaming of?
These lines from “Somewhere Only We Know” always bring tears to my eyes, because they describe our wetlands perfectly. While playing there, we created intricate games of make-believe about the courts of the Woodland Queens and Kings. We acted out stories in which the smallest ripple in the water meant the “bad guys” were soon to arrive. Even winter couldn’t prevent us from spending the majority of our time at the water’s edge. The warm lights from the houses across the frozen wetlands were beacons from the other villages, and our detailed maps on the ice led us home after our adventures.
I would spend entire days reading — yes, reading — nonfiction books about the wildlife that surrounded us.
I was fascinated by the animals that called the wetlands their home, and often spent my time wondering what it would be like to be a muskrat, a blue-spotted salamander, an oriole, a deer, or a mallard. The wetlands became a second home for all of us, a refuge we could depend on. Looking back on the hundreds of hours I spent near the water, and the thousands of memories created there, I simply can’t fathom what my childhood would have been without the wetlands.
After attending the Water Drop, I have a renewed passion for protecting wetlands. The trip reminded me of the anger and guilt I felt whenever I saw innocent animals swimming alongside litter.
I also learned that wetlands play a vital role in filtering contaminants, the most dangerous being urban runoff. Urban runoff is largely created by chemicals draining into storm drains. Storm drains are not filtered, which causes a plethora of issues. Urban runoff can occur from washing your car in your driveway and letting the soap flow into the storm drain.
Fertilizers also contribute greatly to urban runoff especially after a heavy rain. The easiest solution for this problem is a natural one: wetlands. Wetlands are Earth’s very own filtration system. Yet as housing developments intrude on what little wetlands are left, the problem of urban runoff becomes more prominent.
Since I have become particularly intrigued by the conservation of wetlands, I decided to look into what I could do in my community. The EPA (United States Environmental Protection Agency) encourages wetland clean-up programs, which can be as simple as cleaning up litter, but can make a big difference.
Oh, simple thing, where have you gone?
This phrase from “Somewhere Only We Know” illustrates all too well what we will be thinking if the wetlands are not protected. Our wetlands must be protected. For the summer days spent on the water. For the promise of new discoveries. For the adventures of future generations. And for the health of our planet.