One of the many organizations dedicated to keeping the local rivers vibrant is Save Maumee. The organization has been a vital part of the effort to revitalize Fort Wayne’s Maumee River by focusing on key areas that can benefit from the tender loving care the group has provided since its founding in 2005 by president Abigail Frost-King.
With Earth Day the primary focus of Save Maumee, the group has planted trees and, just as importantly, helped clear the areas surrounding and including the river itself.
“Our Earth Day event, which really takes place over the course of a weekend, is our biggest event every year,” said Ellen Bauman, a volunteer since 2011 and a current member of the board of directors. “We always have a selected site to plant trees, and last year we planted 1,100 trees in the Heatherwood Park and Moser Park area. We planted 19 different species and removed invasive species as well.”
Removing invasive species — and trash
One particular species has been problematic. A key effort of Save Maumee has been eradicating Asian honeysuckle before it does irreparable harm to the vegetation and wildlife in the area.
“It’s particularly invasive and not only chokes out a lot of plants, but also its berries have no nutritional value,” Bauman said. “So when the birds feed on them, they feel full but have received no nutrition. So they end up dying of starvation.”
Having received assistance from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, Bauman said that Save Maumee was able to remove hundreds of tons of trash from the rivers and the many adjacent feeder streams.
Grants are just one way the organization is able to fund its mission. Every year, Save Maumee holds a fundraiser, and the last two years that event has taken the form of a bazaar.
Another Bazaar for the Maumee
This year, the Another Bazaar Evening on the Maumee takes place on Saturday, Feb. 23, at TekVenture on Griffin Street near the Tecumseh Street bridge. Bauman has been active in planning the fundraisers and was happy with how last year’s inaugural bazaar was received.
“We were just trying to do something a little bit different,” she said. “We have a lot of local bands and artists involved. There will be acoustic music for four hours, from noon until 4, and then electric bands from 4 until 10. We have tons of local artists and artisans selling their wares. In the main event hall, we have 10-by-10 popups in a kind of gypsy-style marketplace. A lot of nonprofits are participating.”
Acoustic sets include Cami & Kyle, Dakota Boggs, Topher Beyer, and Josiah Helland. Electric sets include elle/the Remnant, Venus in Jeans, El Camino Hot Tub, Three Cities, Totally Orange Time Machine, and Rogues and Bandits.
Bauman also enjoys partnering with TekVenture and thinks the collaboration has helped gain exposure for both entities.
“TekVenture’s participation has been so good for us,” she said. “I want to give them a huge shoutout because they bring us so many more members.”
Thanks to TekVenture’s involvement, there will be plenty of hands-on arts opportunities, including a skateboard construction demonstration and 3D printing. These activities have already helped grow this second bazaar beyond what Save Maumee achieved last year.
“We had 18 booths last year and so far we already have 31 this year,” Bauman said. “I’m really excited to see everything coming together.”
Power from the people
The fundraiser augments grants and membership monies and helps build the Save Maumee community. While funding is vital, it’s the power of people that really helps to drive the organization.
In 2017 alone, Save Maumee logged more than 2,000 volunteer hours, with those hands all helping to clear, clean, and plant in different areas around the city.
The more healthy the rivers, the more people who feel comfortable visiting and the more invested people are in their viability. Bauman says her own activities with Save Maumee has been an entirely positive experience.
“I couldn’t be happier to be part of Save Maumee,” she said. “From the beginning, I knew that I was doing something good. There’s something about doing things that you don’t get paid to do, doing something that comes from the heart, that really makes you feel good. When I plant a tree, I know I may not live to see it fully mature, but my kids might. Working with Save Maumee has felt like having another family.”