With increasing concern over climate change and its effects on Michigan’s landscape, the Michigan Humanities Council established the Third Coast Conversations, funded by the National Endowment of the Humanities.
The Third Coast Conversations: Dialogues about Water in Michigan program awards $5,000 to 18 communities across Michigan to support public conversations about water.
The Kalamazoo River Watershed Council (KRWC) hosted one of these discussions with the Albion College Whitehouse Nature Center at Albion’s Ludington Center. Together, the organizations offered a platform for the Albion community to engage in environmental discourse with a particular focus on the preservation of the Kalamazoo River on Wednesday, Feb. 13.
With over 50 people in attendance, Michigan Humanities Council president and CEO Shelly Kasprzycki said it was the best turnout for a Third Coast Conversation yet.
“The Kalamazoo River is an important natural feature to the community of Albion,” said Nicole Wood, director of the Whitehouse Nature Center. “Since the Whitehouse Nature Center serves as a conduit to nature for both Albion College and the greater Albion area, partnering with the Kalamazoo River Watershed Council was a natural fit.”
Wood said that multiple issues, from pollution to invasive species, are further complicated by multiple local groups having different interests in how the river is used. Getting these parties together to talk about the issues and how to solve them, like at Albion’s RiverTalk, is critical.
The program’s host, KRWC, seeks to promote public knowledge about the Kalamazoo River and its surrounding environment and resource protections for it. The main emphasis of their work revolves around the Kalamazoo River Watershed, which is the area of land that drains water into the river.
Among the crowd of Albion’s RiverTalk, were college faculty, students, community members and representatives of different environmental organizations. Kenneth Korheiser, president of the KRWC, hosted the event and introduced the event’s facilitators.
Each facilitator was assigned to sections of the Ludington Center to discuss an assortment of topics including invasive species, government regulation, and climate change, pollution clean up, river-centered business and outdoor recreation.
As the event progressed, individuals began to network in order to address the facilitated issues.
Albion associate biology professor and assistant Center for Sustainability and the Environment director, Sheila Lyons-Sobaski, and Nat Spurr of the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi were two facilitators. They discussed the depleting concentration of wild rice and the potential integration of that environmental concern into Sobaski’s ecology curriculum.
“Having different voices to help tackle the various issues facing the Kalamazoo River is important so that all the facets of the issues can be addressed,” said Wood, “The Kalamazoo River is shared by the entire community and thus the whole community needs to be a part of discussions that will impact this natural resource.”
A second Kalamazoo RiverTalk will take place on March 19 in Allegan. Registration for the event can be found on the KRWC events page.