Lighting the way

Dan Plath, pictured in a kayak, was chosen to be one of about 2,200 people to carry a torch during a statewide relay later this year marking Indiana's bicentennial. He will paddle about one mile down Trail Creek in Michigan City while holding the torch as his leg of the relay.

MICHIGAN CITY — Dan Plath has been selected to be one of about 2,200 people chosen to take part in a statewide torch relay celebrating the state's 200th anniversary.

Later this year, a torch will circle the state, traveling more than 3,200 miles through all 92 counties in the hands of Hoosiers. The relay will begin Sept. 9 in Corydon – the state's first capital – and culminate on Oct. 15 at the Statehouse in Indianapolis.

The torch will visit 260 cities; 17 state and national parks; nine lakes and rivers; 27 national, state and local sites of historical significance; and dozens of important Indiana attractions, according to a letter Plath received from the office of Gov. Mike Pence.

Arriving in Michigan City on Oct. 8, the relay will travel along Trail Creek as Plath is set to paddle about a mile down the waterway while holding the torch.

He will take off from the new ADA-compliant kayak launch at Hansen Park and conclude his route at Washington Park where he will pass the torch along to the next carrier.

Plath was nominated for this honor by Jane Daley of the La Porte County Convention and Visitors Bureau and is widely known for this commitment to the environment.

The letter he received from Pence's office last month said, “Torchbearers are Hoosiers who demonstrate exceptional public service, excellence in their profession, acts of heroism or volunteer service to their neighborhood, community, region or state.”

Plath works as a principal at NiSource in the environmental department. But his passion for the environment doesn't end there.

He founded the Northwest Indiana Paddling Association in 2009 and is also involved with the Shirley Heinze Land Trust, Trail Creek Watershed Committee and Team River Runner – an organization that helps disabled veterans on the road to recovery through paddling.

“I'm elated,” Plath said about being chosen as a torchbearer. “It's humbling to be picked.”

But he wants this honor to be shared by the entire Northwest Indiana Paddling Association, saying it is a tribute for the work everyone has done.

The organization and its partners have developed about 200 miles of water trails in Northwest Indiana, Plath said, beginning with Trail Creek. This honor, he said, highlights the efforts of the entire paddling association.

According to the state's office of tourism development, more than 4,000 nominations for torchbearers were received statewide, with about half that number selected to carry the torch.

“The 2,000 plus Hoosiers selected as torchbearers embody the Indiana traditions of service, civic pride, community involvement and volunteerism,” Lt. Gov. Eric Holcomb said in a news release. “As we reflect on Indiana's first 200 years, it is only fitting that we celebrate Hoosiers who serve as inspirations in their communities.”

The release went on to say that Indiana's bicentennial relay was patterned after the Olympic torch relay and was designed to connect Hoosiers everywhere during the bicentennial year.

“The unifying nature of the torch relay underscores the achievement, influence and aspirations of Indiana and its people while symbolically passing the torch to future generations of Hoosiers,” it said.

A celebration is planned at Washington Park to mark the torch's arrival as well as the state's bicentennial, Plath said, and NWIPA is planning its annual Fun Float event to coincide with the torch relay on Oct. 8.

More information about the paddling association and these events is available by visiting www.nwipa.org.

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