A new Chikaming Open Lands project has the potential to teach area school students more about the natural world, New Buffalo Area School Board of Education members learned at their meeting Monday, Aug. 8.
Chikaming Open Lands Protection Specialist Ryan Postema was present at the meeting to give a presentation on the organization’s “Protect Turtle Creek” campaign. According to Postema, they have signed a purchase agreement to acquire a 12-acre portion of woods and wetland located on Lubke road along Turtle Creek and Lighthouse Creek in New Buffalo. Once COL has acquired the land, Postema said it will be permanently protected as natural open space, as well as designated as a nature preserve. This Saturday, Aug. 13, at 10 a.m., a special presentation by COL will be held at the gazebo in the back of the elementary school to encourage community members to contribute to the campaign. Postema said that a presentation will be held and walking tours will also be given.
Postema emphasized that the school district wasn’t contributing to the project but that he was merely presenting to the Board due to the land being directly adjacent to New Buffalo Elementary School. He did add that this could serve as being a great learning environment for students, exposing them to the great outdoors and different types of nature. Another reason to protect the land, Postema added, was its large expanse of lush forest, as well as the potential of a trail network for hiking and other outdoor recreation.
Postema said that the acquisition of the property required an investment of $90,000, which would also include funds for working on the trails, invasive species control and putting up educational signage. He added that COL has committed $25,000 toward the $90,000 cost from funds raised by individual donors and The Pokagon Fund; however, that still left them with $65,000 to raise.
Board members reacted positively to the campaign, particularly the idea of the school district getting involved. Treasurer Lee Artz mentioned the school having a type of “partnership” with COL with regards to the land. Postema said that this was something that he’d like to investigate further and that they were considering it. Board President Pano Arvanitis said that it was important that they open the natural world up to their students as much as possible, and that having a nature preserve right by the elementary school would achieve this goal.
Pat Fisher, a community member who has developed the trails in the forest behind the elementary school, added that COL was experienced with regards to educating students about nature.
“There’s a lot of potential working with the school,” he said.
Also at the meeting, Board members approved the employment of Traci Lauricella as Assistant Soccer Coach for the 2016-2017 school year. Arvanitis mentioned that there were approximately 26 students signed up for the varsity soccer team and that they were hoping to form a junior varsity team. Regarding the middle school team, he said that there were approximately 22 students signed up.
Board members heard from new superintendent Jeffrey Leslie, who said he was currently working on a 90-day plan, which he outlined for Board members during his interview process, as well as meeting faculty members and getting acquainted with the district. He said he was particularly interested in meeting with individual Board members and discussing with them their goals for the school district. Arvanitis suggested a possible future Board retreat, where Leslie would have the chance to talk with every member.