A ribbon-cutting ceremony Saturday morning officially opened the Smithsonian exhibit at the North Webster Community Public Library. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony Saturday morning officially opened the Smithsonian exhibit at the North Webster Community Public Library. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union.
NORTH WEBSTER – A ribbon-cutting ceremony Saturday morning at the North Webster Community Public Library marked the opening of the traveling Smithsonian exhibit at the library called “Water/Ways.”

The exhibit will be on display inside the library through Aug. 7 during normal library hours, plus 1 to 3 p.m. July 11 and Aug. 1. Admission is free. In conjunction with the Smithsonian interactive exhibit, there’s also exhibits from the library and The Watershed Foundation (TWF), host partners for the Smithsonian exhibit.

The exhibit explores water’s effect on landscapes, communities, culture and spirituality, according to a previous news release.

Those in attendance for the exhibit’s opening and ribbon-cutting included representatives of the library, TWF, Lilly Center for Lakes & Streams, Kosciusko Chamber of Commerce, Kosciusko County Convention & Visitors Bureau, Kosciusko County Soil & Water, Wawasee Area Conservancy Foundation, Kosciusko Water & Woodland Invasive Partnership (KWWIP), state Reps. David Abbott and Curt Nisly, County Commissioner for the Northern District Brad Jackson and Warsaw Common Councilwoman Diane Quance, among others.

Before the ribbon-cutting, TWF Executive Director Lyn Crighton welcomed everyone to the first opening of the Smithsonian “Water/Ways” exhibit in Indiana.

“We are so excited to showcase this amazing exhibit with all of our partners and supporters and community. If I tried to thank all of those partners and supporters, I would surely miss someone and I’d feel terrible. So, thank you, those of you who are here, thank you. Your names are on the exhibit as we enter and really we couldn’t have done this without you,” she said.

Crighton said they were so excited that they got to share the exhibit and are going to “get to talk about watersheds and water quality and what that means to our community. We’re going to get to educate a lot of people and to share our important messages with them.”

Dr. Nate Bosch, Lilly Center for Lakes & Streams, said, “Whenever you can bring a nationally renowned organization like the Smithsonian into our local community here, it raises the level of awareness for people in our community about our local water resources. So we’re really excited to partner with the North Webster Library and The Watershed Foundation to bring this into our community. I think it’s going to help people understand maybe what we should have understood all along, which is we have some amazing resources here in our rivers and lakes and they’re worthy of being protected.”

He said what he thought about the exhibit after touring it is that it shows, with the local portion also there, “That what we’re doing locally fits into a broader story that’s nationwide and even global with our freshwater resources and the need to protect them. So it helps us see that we’re part of a much bigger story and we’re part of a much bigger effort to protect water resources. So, it gives us more resources. It also shows us even more the importance of water resources, too.”

Darci Zolman, Kosciusko County Soil & Water Conservation District, said being a partner for the exhibit was a natural fit for the Soil & Water District.

“All of the things that we do in a soil and water conservation district relate to protecting water resources here. We recognize that a lot of our issues are connected to the land, so it’s a natural fit for us to be involved in this project, and it just gives us a really nice platform to educate the public more about our water resources, which we are so blessed with in this county,” Zolman said. “And maybe get our message out, too, on how we fit in to the concern of how do we protect those resources? We are someone you can come to. It was a no-brainer to be involved in this project.”

A soil and water district is about education and information and coming up with creative ways to support those. She said, “We work with a lot of landowners to help connect them with projects that not only improve the landscape, but we recognize that landscape is connected to the water. So it’s twofold: We want to improve soil health and water quality at the same time. So a lot of projects we do help bring those two together.”

Peggy Wihebrink is involved with KWWIP, a newly organized organization that addresses invasive weeds, not only terrestrial but also aquatic.

“We’re trying to educate people on invasives, not to plant invasives and non-natives, which a lot of nurseries still handle, and so we’re a new organization looking for people to help us,” Wihebrink said.

She said KWWIP is active in “our waterways as far as educating on the invasives … and a lot of it is planting your natives around the lakes, so that helps keep the purity of the lake and it purifies it before it goes into the lake.”