“FortWayne.com” coverage of Save Maumee’s Award


The Lowdown: Save Maumee grassroots group named environmental “Organization of the Year” in Indiana

Fort Wayne is known for its three rivers — the St. Joesph River, St. Marys River and the Maumee River — but who is protecting them?

The answer is Save Maumee.

Save Maumee was honored in early December by the Hoosier Environmental Council as the “Organization of Year” for empowering the people of Fort Wayne to protect the extensive waterways by doing projects, events and legislation.

Click here to see a photo gallery of Save Maumee initiatives.

Founder of Save Maumee, Abigail King, started the grassroots organization in 2005 to raise awareness of the conditions of the three rivers and develop restoration projects to make sure the rivers are healthy.

“I just started paying attention and reading about the rivers after we moved into a house near the river. The things I dug up in the river horrified me, and many people I talked to didn’t know what was wrong with the waterways. Many times with the government, it seems like one hand doesn’t know what the other is doing. I wanted to find out what was wrong with the rivers, and by 2005, I knew I couldn’t just sit here and complain; someone need to do something,” King said.

As of December 2011, Save Maumee has cleaned up 11 tons of trash, planted more than 1,500 trees, spread 800 pounds of seed and fixed 16,000 pounds of erosion. Each item planted and cleaned is done entirely by volunteers.

“We are all volunteer based. So we try to do what we can,” King said. “I hate to always feel like I’m preaching to the choir, because those [volunteers] are already the people that are [cleaning the rivers]. Now we want to reach those people who aren’t aware.”

Kim Ferraro, director of agriculture and water policy for the Hoosier Environmental Council, said Save Maumee was awarded “Organization of the Year” because of the support the group is able to garner from the community.

“It’s all volunteer, and that in itself is amazing. They’ve done river cleanup projects and other physical work, and we were real impressed that an all-volunteer group could have such a great impact,” Ferraro said.

The council selects the winner based on a list they compile of outstanding environmental organizations from around the state. Then, by internal vote, they choose the winner.

“Their efforts demonstrated there is growing awareness throughout our state about the significant issues that we face. You wouldn’t think of Indiana as being a progressive pro-environmental protection state, but Save Maumee is an example that our state does care.”

The group is best known for hosting one of the city’s most popular annual Earth Day events: Save Maumee Earth Day.

Click here to watch a video of last year’s Save Maumee Earth Day celebration.

But no one ever said it was an easy job keeping an eye on three major rivers in a city with a population of 325,000-plus people, and Save Maumee is not done.

In fact, it has a lot in store for next year.

In 2012, Save Maumee is taking its group to the United States capital to solicit legislative action.

With hopes of educating public officials about the importance of the Great Lakes, Save Maumee is going to Washington, D.C., in late February to represent Northeast Indiana for Clean Water Week during Great Lakes Days.

Here are a few other initiatives Save Maumee hopes to bring to light in 2012:

  • Enforce current laws.
  • Support legislation that protects natural areas.
  • Review permits for corporations and stronger oversight and enforcement of permits. If fines are levied when a company discharges beyond allowed permit effluent, the monies can be utilized to improve water quality for human health.
  • Establish Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDL’s) for the Maumee in Indiana, and complete the Upper Maumee Watershed Management Plan so the community knows the priorities of the waterways.
  • Develop rules to regulate livestock waste as a fertilizer material but do not take into account the pathogens in manure. It is important in disclosing information on when, where and how much manure is land-applied to Indiana fields, and note it will have allowances to spread manure on frozen fields. All this will allow more runoff into the waterways.

For more information on Save Maumee visit their website or Facebook page.

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