As I’m sure is not forgotten by any of you, today marks the two year anniversary of the worst storm that ICNC and our community has experienced over the past century. The 2020 derecho forever shaped our landscape – and our organization.
In the height of the pandemic most everyone was working from home. The storm hit around 12:30pm and many of us experienced damage to our personal homes and trees. Confusion, disbelief, and stress were the name of the game. The devastation totaled into the billions of dollars: homes were lost, business destroyed, and nature looked different. As I reflect, I’m reminded of the words that I wrote not long after the storm that we put on ICNC’s blog. The sights, sounds, and feelings of the derecho are still deep. For weeks after the storm, every staff member at Indian Creek Nature Center, whether you regularly worked on the land team or not, was on clean-up duty. Our number one focus turned to opening the nature center’s grounds and buildings back up so people could find respite. It was a herculean effort that took months to find any sort of normalcy. In fact, this effort continues today.
Why do I share this today? Well, out of that storm came great opportunities that shaped the direction of ICNC over the past two years and will continue to do so for our foreseeable future. It is important to remember how the storm has shaped our future – not one of devastation, but one of opportunity and celebration of nature:
- Our existing trail system was improved. We’ve focused on increased accessibility, erosion control, and trail expansion.
- We’re adding another one and a half miles of trails and a new, growing prairie (the first in over 20 years) at Vecny Woods.
- The Creekside Forest School and Fresh Air Academy have provided in-depth opportunities for children to experience the outdoors – truly, these programs would not exist without the storm. They also represent a significant investment in our future.
- Our timber stand improvement and land restoration have taken on a renewed and deeper focus. We continue to invest in the work to improve the health of the forest and land – and will do so for a long time to come.
- The damage to facilities at Etzel Sugar Grove Farm provides the opportunity to build new mission-driven facilities which will support growing and promoting organic and regenerative agriculture.
- The derecho taught people the value and resiliency of nature. The storm was nature’s way of healing itself from overgrown forests and decades of mismanagement and use. The new growth we saw weeks after the storm is a testament to the resiliency of forests.
- Finally, it caused our team to come together and provided clarity in our purpose and direction.
Truly, and wholeheartedly, the above would not have been possible without the storm. But they also are not possible without the incredible team we have at ICNC, our dedicated volunteers, and generous donors. I am reminded today that the work we do here at Indian Creek Nature Center is important and we couldn’t do it without you.
Many people will remember today for the destruction it brought, but for me it is a time to thank and honor your work and the resiliency of the environment! You are helping us recover…and you are helping to Create Champions of Nature.
–John Myers, Executive Director of Indian Creek Nature Center