Pathway to Water Quality
A vista of beauty and conservation education at the Indiana State Fairgrounds
By DeeDee Sigler
Stop, and enjoy the beautiful flowers and trees welcoming you to a cool quiet spot amidst thousands of people on a hot August day.
Did you realize there is a beautiful park-like exhibit at the Indiana State Fairgrounds nestled in the northeast corner that is a showcase for soil and water conservation? The almost one-acre vista known as the Pathway to Water Quality (PWQ) is a model watershed showing how land “sheds” water, or drains to a common place such as a river, lake or stream.
Celebrating 20 years of conservation education, the exhibit has provided a beautiful “path” displaying how soil and water plays such an important role in our everyday life. The Pathway to Water Quality exists to show the connection between healthy soils and clean water, why it is important, and what we can do at home and on the farm to protect our soil and water quality!
Located next to the Boy Scout’s log bridge, Pathway is a cool green oasis for fairgoers. The park-like setting is not only educational, it is usually keeps it about five to 10 degrees cooler than anywhere else on the grounds.
The PWQ exhibit contains practical displays and information for anyone who uses the land. The display is managed by organizations that comprise the eight-member Indiana Conservation Partnership http://www.iaswcd.org/icp/index.html.
Why is this connection between soil and water so important for people to understand?
• Last night you slept in a building built on soil.
• You drink water that flows through soil and is cleaned by the soil.
• You breathe air that comes from plants growing in the soil.
• You even wear clothes made from plants that grow in the soil.
Soils make our lives possible. We also play on soil, drive on soil, eat food grown in or raised on soil, and take medicines from soil. The entire earth — every ecosystem, every living organism — is dependent upon soils.
Surrounded by trees and native plantings, Pathway’s two ponds, waterfall, and meandering creek provide the perfect setting for visitors to learn about soil and water conservation. Conservation partnership employees and volunteers are available along the way to answer questions about agriculture, forestry, water quality, and urban conservation.
Visitors enter Pathway on pervious concrete that shows how impurities can be filtered before going into our groundwater supply. Rain barrels, rain gardens, compost bins and native plants provide fairgoers with practical tips on water conservation they can easily implement at home.
Cover crop demonstration plots provide information to farmers and home gardeners alike on their benefits to the soil. A cover crop is any plant grown for the primary purpose of improving soils. Cover crops, also known as green manures, are an excellent tool for vegetable gardeners, especially where manures and compost are unavailable. They lessen soil erosion during the winter, add organic matter when turned under or used as mulch in the spring, improve soil quality, suppress weeds, and create and cycle soil borne nutrients.
Winding around Pathway, visitors will see what a two-stage ditch is and learn how it mimics a natural stream channel to create storage for water during heavy rains. Visitors also can study Indiana soils, see the working parts of a water well and a properly plugged well. A highlight of the exhibit is a cold cup of well water at the water history cabin.
On the way “back to the fair activities,” visitors will view the “science” behind well managed pastures that lead to better soil structure, improved animal health, enhanced wildlife habitat, all while protecting our water quality.
Pathway’s education area enables young people to engage in conservation games and activities centered on “Where does your water shed?”
We invite you to stop by during the fair to meet us and learn how you can help conserve Indiana’s natural resources. For more information on Pathway to Water Quality, visit the exhibit’s website at www.pathwaytowaterquality.org.
DeeDee Sigler is a Communications Manager with the Indiana Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts. The IASWCD represents the interests of local Districts as one voice, and assists their leadership through coordination and education for the wise use and management of our natural resources.