In This Issue

From the newsletter

Close to Home

A roundup of things newsworthy
and noteworthy in your neck of the woods

June 18, 2010

Illinois – Challenging young minds

This past spring, four students from Heritage High School in Broadlands, Ill., won an engineering competition in which 24 Illinois high schools participated. The competition, called the Real World Design Challenge, was put forth by the State of Illinois, U.S. Department of Energy, Federal Aviation Administration and others as part of a national education initiative. The program puts students alongside experts to gain engineering experience, and this year’s challenge was to design an aircraft tail that maximized fuel efficiency. The Illinois winners traveled to Washington, D.C., in March to compete at the national level.

Indiana – Food and fun in the sun

A half million visitors will have some fun July 9-17 at the Three Rivers Festival in Fort Wayne, Ind. The festival, Indiana’s second largest, is made possible by more than 100,000 volunteer hours each year. It attracts visitors from Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio and Kentucky and features numerous events, music, crafting stations and good eats. Check out the schedule at

Maryland – Sassafras soil

Sassafras soilMaryland may soon join 19 other states that have an official state soil. The type? “Sassafras sandy loam,” a type of soil that covers nearly 500,000 acres across the state. The Sassafras soil series was named in 1901, and it’s noted as one of the most productive soils—good for agriculture, forestry, construction and recreational development. If named as a state icon, it will join Maryland’s state desert (Smith Island Cave), state bird (Baltimore Oriole) and state exercise (walking).

New York – New bridge across Lake Champlain

BridgeThe Lake Champlain Bridge, which connects Crown Point, N.Y., and Chimney Point, Vt., will soon have a new look. The design concept, voted as a favorite by local citizens, was announced in January and construction began soon after. Both the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) and the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) are leading the effort and providing funds for the project. While the bridge is under construction, travelers can take a free ferry across the lake.

North Carolina – Celebrating civil rights

Greensboro, N.C., celebrated the grand opening of its new International Civil Rights Center & Museum this past February. As a memorial of the “Greensboro Four,” Ezell Blair, Franklin McCain, Joseph McNeil and David Richmond, the museum hosted a grand opening that commemorated the 50th anniversary of the F.W. Woolworth sit-ins. The four college students fought segregation in 1960 when they came into the Woolworth store and sat at a white-only lunch counter, where they were not served. Their sitting served as a demonstration that led other students to come back the next day in organized, peaceful protest. The trend spread to other towns throughout North Carolina and became a notable part of the Civil Rights Movement.

Ohio – Earthquakes in Ohio

Ohio DNRThe world’s been rocked this year with earthquakes both small and large. Some of them happened in the unlikely states of Indiana and Ohio. The Ohio Seismic Network, part of the Ohio Geological Survey, was established in 1998 and has tracked more than 60 earthquakes in the state over the past 12 years, some of which originated from beneath Lake Erie. To continue their work, which happens at 25 measuring locations across the state, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) is seeking funding and support. Learn more about the work they do at And, if you’re concerned, talk to your ERIE Agent about earthquake coverage. Like flood insurance, earthquake coverage is a type of insurance sold separately from or as an addition to homeowners insurance.

Pennsylvania – Guarding the roads

Law EnforcementPennsylvania branched out on its own this year to curb aggressive driving. Previously, the Commonwealth participated in a multi-state coalition, the Smooth Operator program, along with Maryland, the District of Columbia and Virginia to produce waves of enforcement meant to deter aggressive driving. Now,  Pennsylvania will have targeted enforcement all year round. The new program also complements PennDOT’s Drive Safe PA traffic safety initiative. Check it out at or

Tennessee – Turning a new Leaf

Tennessee will be one of the first states where drivers can buy the much-anticipated, zero-emissions Nissan Leaf. Buyers of the all-electric car will also receive a special “docking station” installed at their place of residence. With a large plant in Tennessee, Nissan is also working closely with U.S. Department of Energy and others to help bring charging stations for electronic vehicles (EVs) to market. The automaker began taking reservations for the car in the spring.

Virginia – Viva la visitors

Virginia set a new record for the number of visitors to its 35 national parks in 2009. The 7.5 million visitors who came to the parks last year was a 4 percent increase over 2008. The numbers are part of a three-year trend that showed more people camping, hiking and biking at the Commonwealth’s parks than at any other time in its 74-year history. The state estimates the visits generated $175 million, much of which came from overnight guests at 26 of the parks.

Washington, D.C. – Sun-run meters

The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) recently piloted the first in a number of innovations in parking management with solar-powered parking meters. The single-space meters accept both coins and credit cards and are operated by a solar-power battery system with a battery back. They were installed in five locations throughout the District for three months, giving users a chance to send feedback to DDOT about the new system. The new technology may also soon tie in with pay-by-phone technology.three years.

West Virginia – Two in the top

The American Bus Association (ABA) named two West Virginia events in its North America’s 100 Best Events for 2010. The Mountain State Art & Craft Fair, July 1-3 in Ripley, and the New River Gorge Bridge Day, Oct. 17 in Fayetteville, both made the list, which was published last fall in Destinations magazine. The ABA’s Best Events judges considered the events’ broad appeal, accessibility to motor coaches, skill at handling large groups and a variety of other relevant criteria.

Wisconsin – Of ducks and the Great Lakes

Ducks UnlimitedLast fall, the Environmental Protection Agency held a public hearing in Milwaukee, part of which focused on preserving the Great Lakes Region. Lon Knoedler of Ducks Unlimited, an international nonprofit dedicated to wetlands and waterfowl conservation, testified at the hearing, hoping to raise awareness and encourage restoration of wetlands in the area. Lon is heavily involved with Ducks Unlimited at the national level, and he also works as an ERIE Agent in Kenosha, Wis. To learn more about Ducks Unlimited, go to


More ▶