The Pathway to Water Quality exhibit at the Indiana State Fair celebrated its 20th anniversary at the Fair on Wednesday. In 1993, a gravel parking lot on the east side of the State Fair was chosen for a new kind of display to showcase soil and water conservation practices. State Conservationist Jane Hardesty was one of the original leaders of the project which has come a long way in 20 years, “The idea behind Pathway is to explore the many ways people can do simple things every day to improve water quality.”
The trees, trails, ponds and plants have become a haven right in the middle of the fairgrounds, and a place where families come to relax and end up getting educated about watersheds and water quality. “In the beginning, the trees were small and the plants very little, and it look a lot of imagination to see the vision. But now, this place is an example of how fast a tree can grow and how quickly an area can come together and develop,” said Hardesty.
Each year during the Fair, thousands of youth and adults have taken the path of the water drop through a model watershed that includes both rural and urban land uses and educational messages behind every display. In honor of the 20 year anniversary, the pond, one of the key water features of the exhibit, underwent significant restoration.
Lt, Governor Sue Ellspermann, who helped rededicate the exhibit, said the Pathway has helped educate urban residents on what role they play in protecting the Indiana environment, “The Pathway not only shows what farmers are doing to protect the environment, but demonstrates to urban homeowners what they can do to care the Indiana’s soil and water supply.” Ellspermann recognized and thanked the many organizations and volunteers for their dedication and service prior to cutting the ribbon to dedicate the newly restored front pond at the exhibit.
Hardesty told HAT how the idea for the Pathway began as an exhibit at the 1992 Farm Progress Show in Columbus, IN. A small version of the pathway was constructed under a tent and drew large crowds. One of the visitors to the first pathway, recalls Hardesty, was then Vice President Dan Quayle. “He got down in the soil pit we dug, and I thought I would never get him out,” she recalled. From these beginnings, the idea of a permanent display at the Indiana State Fair was developed.
The Pathway to Water Quality is a project of the Indiana Conservation Partnership, a coalition of federal, state, and local agencies, all dedicated to conservation in Indiana. These organizations along with many who have been involved in the project were on hand for the rededication. A special group of individuals and businesses that made the restoration project possible were recognized by the Lt. Governor and ICP leaders during the ceremony: Sue Gerlach, Indiana State Department of Agriculture; Mike Warner, ArborTerra, Consulting Inc.; Jim Blazek, D2 Land and Water Resource; Kevin Tungesvick, Spence Restoration Nursery; Chip Wickham, Aquascape; Linda Proffitt, Global Peace Initiatives, Inc.; Marion County Master Gardeners; and Fred and Joan McAninch, The Rig Doctor.