"Openlands and partner organizations in the Chicago region have been working for years to improve the enjoyment and quality of local rivers.That work includes designating more than 500 miles of “water trails” on the Calumet, Chicago, Des Plaines, Fox and other rivers, and creating an online guide to canoeing or kayaking on those waterways.
Now, Openlands and regional friends are making its first attempt at creating a historical tour on a waterway: the African American Heritage Water Trail along the Little Calumet River and the Cal-Sag Channel on the Far South Side. The trail takes in important people, places and events in local Black history going back more than a century.
The launch of the heritage trail this year fits with Openlands’ goals of educating people about local waterways, encouraging them to get out in canoes or kayaks, and, hopefully, making them more interested in cleaning up rivers and creeks." Read the full article by WBEZ's Jerome McDonnell.
One of the positive developments coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic has been an overwhelming surge in outdoor recreation, and the lived realization of the astonishing health benefits of spending time outdoors. As social distancing measures increased, people throughout the country have turned to nature as a source of healing and comfort, the Calumet region included.
In a recent article in the NW Indiana Times, Mitch Barloga, the active transportation manager for NIRPC stated that “Nationally, the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy has estimated usage up about 200% over last year. In Indiana, the Department of Natural Resources reported a 108% increase in March and another 45% increase in April over similar counts in 2019.” Illinois has seen a similar surge in outdoor trail use. In a recent NPR article Audrey Wennink, director of transportation for the Metropolitan Planning Council stated “Biking is really on fire right now”, adding that “many cities are expanding bike-share programs to accommodate the pandemic-related increase in walking, with new trails, sidewalk improvements and safety enhancements.”
The Indiana Dunes National Park has also seen a massive surge in visitation. As the lakefront path and beaches closed in Chicago, massive crowds flooded the National Park in search of some outdoor solace. “Now, largely thanks to COVID-19, every day at Indiana Dunes National Park is like the Fourth of July.”
This new surge in outdoor recreation is not only a fun way to spend a weekend but is also good for our health. This connection between nature and human health is highlighted within SHIFT’S Health & Nature Webinar Series. This series tackles an array of subjects surrounding the theme of health and nature, with topics such as Nature as Medicine, Stress and Nature, Conservation and the New Civil Rights movement, and many more. One of the panelists, Suzanne Bartlett Hackenmiller, MD stated “I have been recommending and prescribing nature to my patients for last 4-5 years, there is tremendous mental and physical healing to be found in nature.”
Expanding on these national and local trends, the Collaborative saw the need to create a bi-state natural area and active transportation map to highlight the many outdoor recreation opportunities in the Calumet, using the power of nature to improve health by connecting residents to their community green spaces. Many of these resources exist but none incorporate the entire bi-state Calumet region or connected active transportation options to access them. Following multiple meetings with stakeholders and partners throughout the region, the Collaborative is working with Openlands to add Calumet specific sites to their Get Outside map. The Get Outside map is integrated with google maps, allowing users to choose biking and walking routes to reach their newly discovered outdoor destinations.
Do you have a favorite outdoor space in the Calumet that is not on the map? Add it to the Get Outside map by submitting this quick google form.
Focus groups of regional experts gathered in the Fall of 2019 to develop and then prioritize a list of actionable projects where the Calumet National Heritage Area (CNHA) could best be leveraged to make a difference in the region. The starting point for this conversation was the set of regional goals articulated for each content area after the extensive community engagement process undertaken for the CNHA Feasibility Study. Focus Group members also had access to a systematic review of regional plans as well as case examples from other NHAs around the country. Thirteen focus group meetings, with approximately 85 participants in total, were held to address each of the identified regional goals.
Members from all the focus groups then met for a cumulative focus group in December, 2019. There, they reviewed the prioritized lists of projects in order to keep a special eye on synergies, overlaps, and opportunities for further discussion. The result was a compelling set of projects aimed at strengthening partnerships, forging new ways of working across the region, enriching capacity for community efforts, regional identity and connectivity, and shining a national spotlight on local stories. The resulting draft Management Plan chapters are set to be available for review in April 2020.
“Creating an identity for a region with such a rich history, diverse setting, and vibrant future challenged our team to think creatively about messaging and design that reflects the authenticity of this place,” says Marisa Schulz, Vice President at The Lakota Group. “So many committed people were involved in the shaping of this brand and will continue to be important ambassadors in its implementation.”
Understanding what the Calumet means to those that live and work in the region and hold the Calumet close to their hearts was key to creating an identity and brand for the Heritage Area. From a stakeholder list of over 300, more than 165 people participated in over 20 meetings, focus groups, individual interviews and online surveys during the course of this eight-month project. The messaging, aesthetic, and final design of the Calumet Heritage Area brand was shaped by the residents, business owners, municipalities, community organizations, local tourism bureaus, and historical societies who participated from across the region.
“The process for developing a brand for the Calumet Heritage Area has been incredibly rewarding,” explains Rachael Smith, Community Branding Manager at The Lakota Group. “At every stage, the passionate group of volunteers guiding the process brought our team’s ideas to life. We’re so pleased with the final brand and how it speaks to folks who know and love this region.”
Next steps are to convene partners around implementation of the brand, which includes education on the Calumet Heritage Area itself, as well as making sure everyone that will use this brand knows about the tools and resources available to them. If you are interested in participating, please reach out to Tess at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Calumet Heritage Area is a place of nationally significant natural, industrial, labor, and cultural heritage assets, that are preserved and interpreted to advance economic opportunity, and enrich the lives of its residents and visitors from across the nation. Calumet Collaborative and Calumet Heritage Partnership, with the help of Field Museum, are leading an initiative to create and manage the Calumet Heritage Area, and to receive national designation from Congress to become the Calumet National Heritage Area. The Calumet Heritage Area brand has been designed so it can easily adapt when national designation occurs. For more information on the Calumet Heritage Area, visit www.calumetheritagearea.org
Immediate Release: June 11th, 2019
Calumet Region, IL/IN – The Calumet Heritage Area Program and Events Calendar has been launched on calumetheritagearea.org/calendar. This interactive resource is a one-stop shop for events happening in the Calumet that relate to the Heritage Area’s themes of nature, industry, and culture. Calumet Heritage Partnership and Calumet Collaborative are partnering with Field Museum to elevate the rich stories of heritage and promote the natural, industrial, and cultural assets of the Calumet Region, and this calendar will raise awareness of the programs and events that bring these stories to life.
The number of program and events already listed in the calendar shows how the region is already resembling a heritage area. The Calumet Heritage Area’s next step is to connect these events and programs throughout the heritage area with cohesive branding, signage, heritage trails, and educational materials.
“One of the greatest benefits of having a regional scale, bi-state heritage area is that it can help connect people across boundaries. For many years the Calumet Heritage Partnership has been doing that by hosting our annual conference and other events that bring people together from around the region around cultural and natural heritage” says Mike Longan, President of the Calumet Heritage Partnership and co-chair of the Calumet National Heritage Area Coordinating Committee. “That said, one of the most persistent problems we’ve heard about is the difficulty of finding out about and coordinating events at a regional scale.”
The calendar aims to bring more visibility to the region’s programs and events, aiming to increase event attendance and visitation throughout the region. “People know about what is happening in their neighborhood, city, or county but it is more difficult to learn about events happening further afield,” Longan explains. “In addition to a directory of museums, galleries, local history centers guide we are working on, we identified an easy to maintain and use regional events calendar as one of the first projects that the Calumet Heritage Area could accomplish. We think it will be rather eye opening for residents who may not be aware of all of the activity in the region and we hope that it will help visitors to learn about events that they may not have otherwise had an easy way to find out about.”
“One of the coolest features of this calendar is that partner organizations can share it on their websites as well, and it updates automatically as events are submitted. It’s an incredible collaborative and interactive tool that we’re excited to see put to use,” explains Sarah Coulter, Executive Director of Calumet Collaborative and co-chair of the Calumet National Heritage Area Coordinating Committee. “Plus, all organizations throughout the Calumet can submit their own events - it solves a long-standing problem of individuals trying to maintain a region-wide resource. Our vision is that as this calendar catches on, it will take on a life of its own and highlight the incredible things that happen in the Calumet region, bringing pride of place to residents and surprising the visitors of the heritage area.”
The Calumet Heritage Area is a place of nationally significant natural, industrial, labor, and cultural heritage assets, that are preserved and interpreted to advance economic opportunity, and enrich the lives of its residents and visitors from across the nation. For more information on this initiative, please reach out to Tess Conway at email@example.com
The Calumet Heritage Partnership is a diverse, bi-state partnership of environmental, cultural and historical organizations and individuals, libraries, educational institutions, municipalities, and governmental agencies. For questions about Calumet Heritage Partnership, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Calumet Collaborative catalyzes innovative partnerships between Illinois and Indiana community, government, business and nonprofit stakeholders to advance a thriving Calumet region through sustainable development. For more information on Calumet Collaborative, please contact Tess Conway at email@example.com.
National heritage areas are lived-in landscapes that tell nationally significant stories and celebrate the United States’ diverse heritage. The Calumet region is nationally significant and that is why an effort is underway to achieve designation from Congress as a National Heritage Area. For more information on the National Heritage Area program, please visit https://www.nps.gov/subjects/heritageareas/index.htm