NEW BUFFALO — An outdoor classroom, a cross country track, a walking path to school, a hiking trail for the community — these are all benefits a restored and expanded Bison Nature Trail could provide to the community.
Pat Fisher presented plans to restore the trail system, which originates near New Buffalo Elementary School, at the New Buffalo Area Schools Board of Education meeting on Monday, April 15.
Fisher, who lives near a portion of the trail, brought the idea of its restoration to the board two months ago and volunteered his labor for clearing out and mapping the trails.
His April 15 presentation explained the history that led to the district owning 35 acres behind the elementary school.
In 1973, Fisher said the Board of Education purchased more property to provide an area for the elementary school to create baseball fields and provide learning areas for science.
The first environmental science class implemented a nature study trail in 1977 for the entire school system to use. Edward Hatton and members of Boy Scout Troop 557 restored the trail in 1992.
Now Fisher and the school board are looking to revamp the trail and provide more trails and pathways.
The Nature Trail would be cover .4 mile behind the elementary school playgrounds. The Nature Study Loop would be a 1.8 mile trail in rural and primitive areas that would connect with trails that pass through potential Nature Study Areas and community greenways. The Nature Study trails pass through thick forests, wetlands, marshes, ponds and creeks.
Fisher said the four proposed Nature Study Trails would be the Dune Forest Study Trail (.3 miles); the Meadow and Creek Study Upland Trail (.3 miles); Meadow and Creek Study Lowland Trail (.2 miles); and the Wetland Study trail (.4 miles).
A cross country trail also could be implemented with the outer loops of the trail system.
Fisher presented numerous ideas for the trails’ aesthetics, usage, and maintenance. Possible structures and signage include stairways, observation decks, bridges, information kiosks, parking, bicycle racks, water stations, restrooms and garbage cans.
Other ideas are to add bird, butterfly, and bat houses, snowshoe walks, nature speakers, and after-school nature programs. Classes that can specialize with projects of the trails could be for science, history, safety and health, building and trades, business, multimedia and graphic arts.
To construct and maintain the trails Fisher is calling for volunteers from the community, students and staff.
“We really could resurrect the trails,” said New Buffalo Superintendent Mark Westerburg. “It would be cool to have trails in the schools’ backyard.”
Westerburg said much of the funding could come from the capital improvement for the schools.
Also on April 15, teachers Jennifer Fiero and Kelly Weidenmiller were granted recognition as tenure teachers. Both have been teaching for four years and help in the high school’s extracurricular activities.
Weidenmiller is a Spanish teacher that is also a certified math teacher. She helps in coaching.
Fiero is a skilled dance instructor and has worked in many divisions of the high school fine arts program including the glee program and a musical theater class. She also has helped as paraprofessional and lunchroom supervisor.