Community

Plants for pollinators take root in solar sanctuary

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News A “solar sanctuary” for butterflies, bees and birds was created Tuesday just north of Bowling Green. More than 300 shrubs were planted on the north side of the city’s 165-acre solar field near the corner of Newton and Carter roads. The plants will serve four purposes – attract pollinators, provide food for birds, offer habitat for rabbits and deer, and work on water quality. The team met Tuesday morning to put the plants in place. Helping with the project was the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the Ohio Division of Wildlife, BGSU students, the City of Bowling Green, and volunteers. The deep-rooted native plants included serviceberry bushes, hazelnut, dogwood, hawthorn, winterberry, plum, buttonbush and elderberry bushes. “These are all native plants – host plants with nectar,” to attract native pollinators like Monarch butterflies and bees, said Donnie Knight, of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. The north side of the solar field was completed Tuesday, and more plantings are planned for the south side, Knight said. That will be a total of about 14 acres of “solar sanctuary” for bees, butterflies, birds and bunnies. Though many solar fields also have wildflowers planted alongside the solar panels, Knight said that isn’t happening at this field, yet. “We weren’t able to strike an agreement with the power company,” Knight said of Next Era Energy. “We have a lot of examples of that in Ohio. But we couldn’t make it happen here yet.” Each plant will have a protective wrap around its base to keep rabbits and deer from nibbling away too much. “The deer will be able to browse the tops,” but not destroy the shrubs, Knight said. As part of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the project is also designed to help improve water quality, as the planting area filters water heading to the ditch, destined for Lake Erie. Helping with the planting from the city of Bowling Green were Arborist Grant Jones, Natural Resources Specialist Cinda Stutzman and Sustainability Coordinator Amanda Gamby. When workers arrived Tuesday morning, the 300-plus holes had already been dug along the northern edge of the solar field. “It’s just a matter of plant, cover and go,” Stutzman said. Stutzman said the plants should provide habitat for pollinators. “We know a lot of the pollinators have been in decline,” she said. “Especially the native ones are hurting.” Last year, Marci Lininger, of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, explained the value of the program to city officials. “You are producing good clean energy, and you’re helping wildlife at the same time,” Lininger said. “Pollinators are in decline right now,” she said. Adult Monarch butterflies have seen a 50 percent drop in the last 10 years due to disappearing milkweed plants  – which are the only plants used by Monarchs for laying eggs. Some wildflower habitats target specific species. The one at Bowling Green’s solar site will be aimed at attracting several species of bees, birds and butterflies. The plan calls for three seasons of blooming plants. Ohio is a priority location for Monarchs on their annual trek to Mexico. “We have a huge responsibility here in Ohio,” Lininger said. This region also has many crops that are suffering from inadequate pollination, she said. Crops relying on pollination include tomatoes,…

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BG council member questions Columbia Gas protocols

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   At least one Bowling Green City Council member is not ready to give Columbia Gas a pat on the back for agreeing to notify the city more promptly in case of an emergency. On Monday evening, Council member Greg Robinette complimented the local response by firefighters to a serious gas leak last month. But he referred to Columbia Gas’ response protocol as “negligent and reckless.” Gas company officials met with city officials and agreed to not wait so long to call the fire division in the case of another leak. But that gave Robinette little comfort. “I’m still quite concerned about Columbia Gas and their internal policies,” Robinette said. “Despite their assurances to do better, I don’t think we should give them a pass.” He referred to comments made by a Columbia Gas official after a leak that allowed natural gas levels to reach explosive levels in downtown Bowling Green. After the leak, Columbia Gas defended its response. Cheri Pastula, communications and community relations manager for Columbia Gas, said the gas crews followed proper procedures. The fire division was notified when the gas company knew the electricity needed to be shut off, she said. The fire division removed the electric meter from the buildings involved. “We have gas professionals that are experienced in emergency response and will notify first responders when necessary,” Pastula said. “All of our policies and procedures were followed appropriately and most importantly, safely.” Robinette called that statement an “outrageous admission” by Columbia Gas. He cited what he called a “disregard to the safety of residents.” City Council member John Zanfardino asked about the seriousness of the gas leak. “We were like a cigarette lighting away from blowing up a building,” he asked. Bowling Green Fire Chief Bill Moorman said the gas is “highly explosive” and had reached explosive levels. Moorman reported to City Council the results of a meeting that he and Public Works Director Brian Craft had with Columbia Gas officials days after the downtown leak. Moorman said he and Craft had a very frank conversation with them. “It was made very clear that would never happen again here in Bowling Green,” Moorman said. Columbia Gas officials agreed go beyond their policies and immediately notify Bowling Green Fire Division if gas leaks in the downtown construction area get close to dangerous levels again. On Sept. 13, a leak occurred in the downtown area of South Main Street, where Columbia Gas is replacing old natural gas lines. By the time the fire division was notified, the leaking gas had reached explosive levels, Moorman said. “They did not call us soon enough,” the fire chief said. Bowling Green Fire Division was not notified about the gas leak until at least two hours after gas odors were strong enough that some businesses shut down on the west side of the 100 block of South Main Street. Those businesses included Grounds for Thought, Lahey Appliance and Coyote Beads. When the fire division arrived downtown, the smell of natural gas was obvious. Atmospheric tests done by firefighters showed explosive levels of gas. “The gas levels were at a dangerous level,” Moorman said. “It was getting to the point that a spark, anything can really set it off. Pretty much anything ignites natural…


School task force hears report on buildings; some want meetings confidential

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   As the new Bowling Green City Schools facilities task force leaders toured the school buildings recently, they came upon a sign that seemed to fit the district’s situation. “I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy. I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it.” Nearly 60 community members met in the high school cafeteria last week for the first facilities task force meeting. They first addressed brick and mortar issues, and got an update on the condition of the school buildings. Then they touched on the “elephants in the room” that are affecting the future of the buildings. Two task forces are working on the school building issue – one looking at the facilities and the other at the finances. While both groups are working independently of each other, the financial task force will make its final decisions based on the goals set by the facilities task force. Once both task forces are done, recommendations will be made to the board of education of how the district should proceed. Those recommendations could range from doing nothing to the buildings, to renovating the existing buildings, to building new elementaries at their current sites, to consolidating the elementaries into one new building. The school administration and board are taking a hands-off approach to the task force process. They provide information when requested, but don’t attend meetings and don’t offer input. David Conley, who is facilitating the financial task force, provides live video via Facebook for those who can’t attend the meetings. The facilities task force did not videotape last week’s meeting. A member of the task force, Grant Chamberlain suggested that the meetings be kept “confidential” since items discussed at the meetings could be harmful to business owners. The facilities task force coordinators said they had originally planned to give school district officials updates on what was being discussed – not to get approval or input, but just to keep them up-to-date. Some members of the task force objected, and a decision will be made at the next meeting on Oct. 24, at 7 p.m., in the high school cafeteria. Leading the facilities task force are three members of Fanning Howey, a firm of architects, engineers, planners and former school administrators who specialize in school buildings. The firm has assisted more than 100 Ohio school districts, including Eastwood, North Baltimore and Northwood in Wood County. Three members of the firm are volunteering their time to work with the Bowling Green facilities task force – architects Steve Wilczynski and Dan Obrynba, plus former school superintendent Tim Hamilton. Prior to last week’s meeting, the team toured the district’s school buildings and reviewed the most recent report from the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission, which is the agency that establishes state funding rules. The team reported that Bowling Green’s ranking by the OFCC is not good – meaning no money is available now, and if it becomes available some day, it will pay for an estimated 17 percent of the project, if the buildings are designed to state specifics. “Your ranking is heading in the wrong direction,” Hamilton said, estimating there are 100 school districts in front of Bowling Green for funding. “There are a lot of districts ahead of you.” The task force coordinators reviewed…


Tricked-out Firefly Nights will offer plenty of treats for kids & grownups

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Firefly Nights is adding some new tricks to the downtown festival to provide more treats for kids and adults alike.  The Firefly Nights Fall Festival will be held Friday, Oct. 19 from 6 to 10 p.m. in downtown Bowling Green. The festival continues the series of events offered throughout the summer. Now it’ll change colors just a bit to fit the season. For kids that means a costume contest, trunk and treat, pumpkin decorating, and a kiddie tractor pull. For adults that means a farmers market, more music, free yoga classes, and beer gardens on both ends of Main Street. Adults are invited to come in costume as well. The fall festival took shape through parallel discussions by the Firefly organizers and the downtown merchants. Mary Hinkelman, former Downtown Bowling Green director and now Chamber of Commerce executive director, said the concerns about downtown trick or treat were raised by merchants. Downtown trick or treating had outgrown the streets. She estimated about 2,000 children trick-or-treated downtown last year. That many youngsters accompanied by adults jammed the sidewalks, causing safety concerns. The merchants wondered: What if they could block off the street as they do for Firefly Nights? Hinkelman took the idea to the board of directors and they approved. So did the Firefly Nights organizers who were already considering doing one more festival in fall. “I think it was the zeitgeist of the time,” said Laura Wicks of Grounds for Thought. “You know how small towns work — good ideas just grow.” A new partnership was born. Laura Wicks said the idea was: “Why not make it more of a family friendly activity instead of just filling up a bag of candy?” So the Fall Firefly Nights will be held instead of downtown trick or treat, which had typically been on the Thursday before Halloween. In place of children going to door to door to businesses, Thayer Family dealerships is bringing cars downtown, and treats will be doled out from the trunks. Trinity United Methodist, a couple blocks off Main Street, will also hold its trunk or treat event that night from 6 to 8 p.m. In the Firefly costume contest, judges roaming the crowd will select 40 kids — 20 from earlier in the night, 20 from later — based on the creativity and effort put into their outfi. Firefly Nights will also offer those attractions that brought people downtown on the third Fridays during the summer, even when the weather was wet. Bands have been booked for stages at each end of Main Street.  Performing will be: North Stage • 6:30 p.m. — Lucian Townes • 7:30 p.m. — Two Shoes Jackson • 9 p.m. — Tree No Leaves South Stage • 6 p.m. — Elia Rose • 7 p.m. — Todd Elson • 8 p.m. — Patrick McGee • 9 p.m. — Three Two Many There will be a full complement of food trucks there to appeal to a variety of palates from sausage lovers to vegans. The trucks will be relocated on the north end with the festival’s footprint. Main Street will be blocked off from Washington Street to  Clay Street, about a block and a half longer than before. All this takes volunteers. The summer events, Hinkelman said, required more…


Connection Center offers hope to those facing mental illness

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   For almost two decades, the Connection Center in Bowling Green had provided a safe and welcoming place for people struggling with mental health issues. The only problem was that the space at 194 S. Main St. did not keep up with the growing needs. “We’ve needed this space for a long time,” said Tom Clemons, executive director of the Wood County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board, which is the primary source of funding for the center. “I know the Connection Center has been very important in helping people recover,” Clemons said. “This is phenomenal.” Verna Mullins, the Connection Center manager, said the new expanded location promises many possibilities. “Our new facilities will give us a chance to grow” not only in the number of people served, but also in the programming offered, Mullins said. The primary goal of the center is to help people on their paths to recovery from mental health problems. “We will continue to do what we do best – provide hope,” Mullins said. On Thursday, the official ribbon cutting was held at the new Connection Center location at 309 S. Main St. The new location has almost double the space for adults receiving mental health services in Wood County. There’s room for more educational programs, like those on nutrition, exercise, and tips on how to beat the holiday blues. And there’s room for fun – as evidenced by the center’s schedule posted on a big calendar on the wall. There are plans for musical entertainment and a Halloween party. The center has a craft area, big TV, and plenty of comfortable seating. There are field trips planned to a pumpkin patch, alpaca farm, bowling, a cookout, the movie theater, a corn maze, apple orchard, and neighborhood strolls. “Whenever there was a holiday party, you couldn’t move,” John Fortner, director of Harbor mental health services in Wood County, said of the old space. The doubled space is expected to make a big difference for a lot of people. “It was really, really cramped in the other building,” said Julie Kershaw, psychosocial rehabilitation specialist at the center. “I think a lot more people will start coming.” Mary Hinkelman, new executive director of the Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce, said she was pleased to see the expansion – still in the downtown area. “This was a really big move for them,” she said. “We’re very excited for you.” Mayor Dick Edwards praised the renovation of the new space, which is located in front of Everyday People Cafe. “What an amazing transformation here,” he said. “I understand what you are trying to do – to make this more accessible to more people.” State Rep. Theresa Gavarone, R-Bowling Green, also praised the new site and the programs offered there. “What a tremendous facility connecting people to services,” she said. The Connection Center is open Mondays through Fridays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., with Tuesday having extended hours until 6:30 p.m. On Saturday the center will be open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.


Project Connect in need of more volunteer hosts for next week’s event

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The  volunteers’ t-shirts are made, now Project Connect needs to get more people to fill them. On Tuesday afternoon, students in Janet Ballweg’s screen printing class at Bowling Green State University put their skills to good use, printing 170 yellow t-shirts that will be worn by the hosts at Project Connect. Those hosts help guide guests through the dozens of services that will fill every corner of St, Mark’s Church next Wednesday (Oct. 17) from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Project Connect is, according to organizers: “A one-day, one-stop event with free goods and services for Wood County individuals, families, elders, and veterans in need. This event is to get individuals that are in need in Wood County more aware of the broad range of organizations and resources available for their benefit.” In 2017, Project Connect, an initiative of the Continuum of Care Coalition of Wood County,  helped 574 individuals from 278 households. More than 200 people volunteers and 52 providers and agencies set up shop. Project Connect provides same day services as well as long-term connections.  The hosts are key players in this. They help the guests navigate the event so they get what they need, whether it’s legal help, food assistance, a winter coat, or a haircut. One week out from Project Connect those hosts are in short supply. An email sent out Tuesday said 46 hosts were still needed. Click to volunteer. It takes more than 200 volunteers to stage the event, said Erin Hachtel, one of the Project Connect co-chairs. And these students are a part of the effort. “For me it’s a way to show the many ways people can use their talents to help people. You see people using art to make a difference in the community.” This is Project Connect’s sixth year, and Ballweg’s students have printed the t-shirts each year. Some years they’ve done more and in multiple colors. Hatchel was wearing a red shirt, which signifies that she’s a member of the organizing committee. On the day of the event this lets people know, she’ll have broader knowledge about what’s going on. Because there were extras from previous years, only yellow shirts are being printed.  “It’s a way to give back to the community,” Ballweg said. This service learning project has elements of both. Given it’s early in the semester, the students have only completed one printing project so far. Taking this  on accelerates their learning. They have to work together, and teach other while printing the shirts, Ballweg said. While their schedules don’t allow them to volunteer on the day itself, she does encourage them to stop by to see for themselves what happens at Project Connect. Those who do are impressed, she said. They don’t realize that this kind of poverty exists in Bowling Green. Hatchel said: “I hope this is something that lasts beyond their student years and they take with them.” 


County park district hits bullseye with archery range

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The latest park hit the bullseye for archers in the Wood County area. On Tuesday, the Wood County Park District held its monthly meeting at the new Arrowwood Archery Park, located on Linwood Road, southeast of Bowling Green. The park adds archery to the activity list of canoeing, biking, fishing, hiking, hunting, kayaking and rock climbing offered by the park district. “It shows the diversity of the Wood County Park District and the diversity of the staff,” said Denny Parish, chairman of the park board. Parish said he is proud of citizen support and staff making the variety of activities possible. Park district Executive Director Neil Munger agreed. “The idea for this archery range actually came from public input,” Munger said. (A grand opening will be held Sunday.) After the meeting, park board members were given a chance to try their skills at the new archery range. Also at Tuesday’s meeting, the park board got its annual visit from former park board member and current park patron Frank McLaughlin about the need for more bike accommodations by the county park district. McLaughlin said he was out on the Slippery Elm Trail again this past weekend. He said he can’t imagine any park in the county getting more use. “It’s like a freeway out there on Saturdays and Sundays,” he said. While the trail from Bowling Green to North Baltimore is great, more would be nice. “We could certainly use something from Bowling Green to Perrysburg,” McLaughlin said. Munger mentioned that as a member of the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments bicycle committee, the park district has learned of possible plans to use Hull Prairie Road to connect Bowling Green and Perrysburg. McLaughlin noted the narrow nature of Hull Prairie. Wood County is also falling behind on connecting the Chessie Circle and North Coast trails, he said. A bike trail already stretches from Lorain to eastern Wood County, then picks up again in Lucas County heading west to Archbold. McLaughlin mentioned the park district owns land that could be used for a bike trail in the Perrysburg Township area. “It would be nice to see that happen,” he said. “This is the one missing piece,” he said of the east-west bike trail across northern Ohio. Munger said the park district is trying to use a regional approach on bike trails, and will continue to look for grant funding for such projects. The board also agreed to increase park shelter house rental rates to $40 per day. Munger said the rates had been $25 for the last 27 years or so. Other area shelter house rental rates are $30 to $80 for four hours. The park district rentals are all for full days. “It’s still a bargain,” board member Tom Myers said of the new $40 rate. “All of our shelters have electric, so if you bring a crockpot for a reunion,” there’s plenty of power, Munger said. “We’ve got some really good facilities.” In other business at Tuesday’s meeting: Munger mentioned the unexpected death of former park ranger Doug Carr. Board member Bill Cameron asked the district to consider some effort to remember Carr. Park police responded to board member Sandy Wiechman that the number has dropped of the people trespassing from…