By AMANDA ARNOLD
Officially, Earth Day was April 22. Buy that doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate our planet on other days too. And that’s exactly what officials at the Falls of the Ohio did on Saturday with their annual Earth Day celebration.
Steve and Libby McCright treated their granddaughter Kaylee Borelli to the event.
“We’re learning a little bit about everything. It’s Earth Day, so we’re taking in everything about the Earth that we can. Our favorite thing is spending time with our grandchild, but this is a great, great area,” said Steve McCright.
While attending the Earth Day celebration, the McCright family discovered different ideas for reusing and recycling common items for different crafts — like using 20-ounce soda bottles and 2-liter bottles for making a garden, gift basket or fish tank.
The lessons didn’t end with crafts, though. There was a wealth of information during the Earth Day celebration aimed at teaching families and individuals how all aspects of their lives affect the planet. Thanks to Kimberly Frieder, and Debi Jochnau, families learned about healthy eating options and the effects of littered oceans.
“We dive with wales and whale sharks and write about it. We write about how the climate change affects the ocean,” said Frieder, who’s mother Debi Jochnau takes underwater photographs. The family also operates a 147-acre farm called Farm2U in Hardinsburg that specializes in fresh, hand-grown produce that is personally delivered to its customers.
As always, the annual celebration was a welcome success for organizers.
“Despite the weather, it turned out great. We are thrilled to see the people come out. Our volunteers felt like they really had fun and worked with a lot of people,” said Connie Farmer, volunteer coordinator, Falls of the Ohio State Park.
Earth Day at the Falls also attracted the Floyd Central High School Science Club, who joined the celebration with their science teacher Lisa Lee.
“We are learning a little bit about everything. We hiked around and looked at some of the native and invasive species. This is a neat way to see that and to get out of the classroom. We also enjoyed the fossils,” said Lee.
One invasive species the club may have learned about is the Emerald Ash Borer. Dressed as an Emerald Ash Borer with the hopes of spreading awareness, volunteer Virgil Hertling explained that the exotic beetle lives in cut wood that can easily be transferred throughout the state in firewood. Because of the potential to wipe out entire populations of trees, there are strict regulations on transporting firewood to Indiana campgrounds and bringing outside firewood to a campground is strongly discouraged.
“If people move firewood, they [the Emerald Ash Borer] is moved, and they are bringing them to an area. Several people have already said they have lost trees because of it,” said Hertling.
Throughout the day, the Falls of the Ohio hosted several presentations, including a raptor program presented by Zach Walker of the Hardy Lake Raptor Rehabilitation Center. During the raptor program, participants saw several birds of prey in person. They also learned that the peregrine falcon and barn owl are endangered in Indiana.
“The barn owls are very endangered with less than twenty nests in Indiana,” said Walker.
The Hardy Lake Raptor Rehabilitation Center is operated on donations, and receives almost 100 injured birds each year. Currently, the center has a 65 percent release rate.
Kelley Morgan, Interpretive Manager at the Falls of the Ohio and Charlestown State Park was also pleased with the event, and had a tremendous amount of fun.
“It was a successful day, and based on weather and a lot of the other things going on, I felt it was successful,” said Morgan.
Morgan was equally pleased with such community partners as Jamey Aebersold, the Ohio Vally Greenway and Division of Fish and Wildlife for making the event possible. This year, the Louisville Zoo also participated by sharing information about native wildlife.