Community

Ridding Wintergarden of non-native invasive species

(This is the second in a series of columns about nature by Bowling Green’s Natural Resources Coordinator Chris Gajewicz) When I first became the Natural Resources Coordinator for the City of Bowling Green in 2000, I was interviewed and asked what I planned to do to make Wintergarden/St. John’s Nature Preserve a better place.  It was a daunting question.  Wintergarden Park had been left to its own devices as a public space. People used it, but very few as compared to today.  There were years of accumulated trash, trails weren’t maintained, trees fell across trails and were removed as time and resources permitted, and some visitors used the park in ways that suited their own needs.  Public usage, and maintenance aside, the park also had a huge problem environmentally.  Wintergarden/St. John’s Woods was the poster child for non-native invasive plant species. To the casual nature lover and user of natural areas, green is green.  Most people look out into a forested landscape and they see a sea of green plants and what appears to be lush forest.  As a naturalist and manager, I saw nothing but sickness and decay.  Wintergarden was nothing but Bush Honeysuckle, Multiflora Rose, Privet, Burning Bush, Garlic Mustard, Black Locust, and Asian Bittersweet.  That’s just the short list.  I’m pretty sure we had just about every invasive species a nature park manager loses sleep over.  Removal and control of these species was a daunting task and one that needed to take a high priority. Our first task for the management of Wintergarden was to decide exactly what it was we wanted to accomplish.  Removal of ALL non-native invasive species was simply not possible.  A staff of two and a handful of volunteers wasn’t going to do much overall, but we decided to develop an environmental plan for specific micro environments within the park.  Each micro environment was designated an environmental value.  Those areas with the highest value received the first attention and so on down the line.  When one visits Wintergarden, they tend to see a forest and a prairie.  This park, however, is far more…


Future just got brighter for BG solar field

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green’s solar field project just became bigger, brighter and more of a bargain. The solar project, which had been stalled since last summer, was approved Monday evening by the Bowling Green Board of Public Utilities. On May 2, the project will come before City Council, which has already had two readings for the project and was just waiting for details to get ironed out. If all goes as planned, an estimated 2,900 homes in the city will be powered by sunlight starting next year. “This is incredibly exciting for the city of Bowling Green,” Mayor Dick Edwards said. The project is not only moving ahead, but it is expected to produce more power than originally planned. The initial plan called for 110 acres to be used on the city’s 317 acres located at the southeast corner of Newton and Carter roads, northeast of the city limits. The city was in line to get 10.5 megawatts from the solar field, according to Brian O’Connell, director of utilities for BG. However, instead of fixed mounted panels, the new plan calls for single axis tracker panels. “The panels will rotate and follow the path of the sun as it moves through the sky,” O’Connell said. The rotating panels will take up 35 more acres and cost more to install, but they will increase power production, he said. The solar field will generate 20 megawatts, with Bowling Green getting 13.74 megawatts of the power for its customers. The moving solar panels will start producing earlier, continue later in the day, and generate higher megawatts at their peak, O’Connell said. The solar field was initially planned for the western section of the city’s acreage, which stretches to Anderson Road. However, to reduce disruption and concerns for neighbors, the solar panels will be constructed in the middle of the acreage, with farmland left on both the east and west ends. Also changing is the role American Municipal Power Inc. will play in the project. Originally, AMP planned to own and operate the solar sites in multiple communities….


Thank You, Mr. Brown

The following is a reflection piece written by Elizabeth Roberts-Zibbel, who sang in the Memorial Choir to honor Jim Brown. St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Bowling Green was nearly full for Jim Brown’s Celebration of Life service Saturday morning. I scanned the crowd as people filed in, looking mostly for those I remembered from high school. We sat in the section to the right of the pulpit with other members of the Memorial Choir. Stacey (Timmons) Higgins from the Class of 1990 was sitting on my left; Amanda Gullufsen, a fellow graduate of the Class of 1991, was on my right. Both had been Madrigal Singers with Mr. Brown in High School and had traveled with him to the former Soviet Union as it was crumbling. I had been in regular Choir my 10th – 12th grade years, singing such memorable pieces as “I Sing The Body Electric” (from FAME) and the Rutter Requiem. Unsurprisingly, Mr. Brown had known John Rutter personally. My husband, John Zibbel, had graduated from BGHS some years after me and had been fortunate enough to be a student in the first Humanities Class co-taught by Mrs. Dianne Klein (Former English / Creative Writing) and Mr. Brown in their last years teaching before retirement. John’s class in the 98-99 school year was themed “Making The Midwest Home.” They traveled by bus to Chicago, Cleveland and Pittsburgh. In speaking about the Humanities class, Mrs. Klein stated that due to the closeness that the groups experienced from traveling around the country together, the students became family to Mr. Brown as much as his own blood relatives. John’s classmate Jessica Snyder Ruffner commented, “The humanities class had a major impact on me and I am forever thankful to her [Klein] and Mr. Brown for choosing me to participate.” I know John felt similarly. As I continued watching, I spotted Class of 91 alumna and friend Michelle (Whitacre) Crites. I saw Dr. Eric Myers, former principal of BGHS and school board member, and Mayor Dick Edwards and his wife Nadine. And Andy Halleck. “Did you know he was a Madrigal…


Earth Day plants the seed for respecting planet

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN  BG Independent News   Bees get no respect. Leeches may be ugly, but they are a sign of beauty to biologists. And powering an incandescent light bulb takes a lot of energy from little legs. An awful lot of learning was packed into fun hands-on (and feet-on) activities at the Seventh Annual Community Celebration of Earth Day on Sunday outside at the Montessori School in Bowling Green. “We want people to have a greater appreciation of the local environment and also feel more connected with the planet,” said Caitlin Buhr, advancement director at the Montessori School. A lot of children have that bond with Mother Nature, she added. “We want to nurture the connection they already feel.” The Earth Day celebration featured several different activity stations that snuck in learning for young children. Children got to hold some critters like crayfish that came straight from the Maumee River near Otsego Park. “Those critters can tell us a lot about the health of the river,” said Christina Kuchle, from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. The sample in the aquarium was a pretty healthy mix of crayfish, mayflies, leeches, sow bugs, and freshwater shrimp. The next station took children out of the water and lifted them skyward. Children could hear the calls of a bald eagle, California condor and Peregrine falcon, plus touch the skulls of several birds. “Kids like anything hands on,” said Cinda Stutzman, of the Bowling Green Parks and Recreation Department. Children put those hands to work at a station on bees, by splattering paint on paper flowers to pollinate them. “Bees are often overlooked as a not important character because they are kind of scary,” said Jamie Justice, of a Bowling Green State University environmental studies class. “Without bees, there won’t be any more plants,” Connor Phares said. And that would have disastrous consequences. “It goes right up the food chain,” Justice said. Children also got some painless lessons on energy conservation by riding the “energy bike,” from the city of Bowling Green. As they pedaled the bike, they found out how much…


Students and colleagues sing their good-bye to James Brown

By FRANCES BRENT Good bye dear, dear Mr. Brown! Saturday 50 of his former students, youthful again despite grey hair and receding hairlines, met at St. Mark’s Lutheran in a Memorial Choir led by Linda Gullufsen, to sing him to his rest. The church was packed with his admirers. The final Hallelujah Chorus drew dozens more singers from the pews for a musical celebration of a man who brought so much beauty and creativity to the young people of Bowling Green. Jim Brown brought greatness to Bowling Green students as they learned to create a beauty that transcended their everyday selves. He made music matter. Bowling Green High School students that didn’t make it through auditions, or that never thought of trying, still experienced an era when music (band was terrific too,) was a source of school cultural pride. Jim Brown and his generations of student musicians were also a source of community pride and for a time almost defined Christmas and summer musical theater in BG. To earn a place as a Madrigal Singer was to be blessed for life and to learn that all that glory of song was the result of very hard work, lots of discipline and major disruption to family life. Less well known was the wide ranging idealism and world view of a class he co-taught with English teacher Dianne Klein that inspired students outside his musical world. Jim Brown was the heart, soul and remarkable leader and inspiration of a truly memorable 50-year song fest that blessed the Bowling Green Schools and the entire community. The Madrigals, the Yuletide Singers, the Summer Musicals were spectaculars in the “Small Town America” that is Bowling Green, Ohio. He gave a musical opportunity that allowed generations of young people to experience the joy of being part of a beauty that took them beyond their everyday selves. He also organized terrific international tours that introduced the great wide world to hundreds of students and lucky chaperones.


Roller on a roll at Art Walk

Art Walk winners   Art Walk has been good to artist Tom Roller. In previous years he’s won both the top prize awarded by the jurors and has won the top prize chosen by the public. This year he won both. That double win will amount to a fond farewell for Roller, who said earlier in the day that he’s going stop doing art fairs this year. At 78 hauling his large metal sculptures is more than he wants to take on. Not that he’ll abandon his metalworking tools. He’ll continue selling his sculptures inspired by flora and fauna out of his garage. That’s plenty of work for him. Also winning Juried Art Awards were: Chris Burch, photography, second place, and Shannon Yocum, found art furniture, third place. Winning People’s Choice honors were: Richard Gullett, drawings, second place; John Calderonello, wooden boxes, third place; and Curisa Passalacqua, fourth. Art by professional, avocational and student artists was displayed in 29 locations in downtown Bowling Green.


Children’s author a big kid himself – advocates for underwear on head, mac and cheese in bathtub

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Todd Parr’s suggestion that kids eat macaroni and cheese in the bathtub did not go over well with their parents. “Moms and dads were very mad at me,” Parr said, smiling. But mac and cheese is a recurring theme in Parr’s books for children. That and underwear. Parr talked about them both with children during his appearance as guest author at the annual Literacy in the Park event Saturday at Bowling Green State University. “His books remind us to be ourselves. That it’s OK to be different,” Tim Murnen, interim director of the BGSU School of Teaching and Learning, said as he introduced Parr to an audience of eager children and their parents. “His books remind us that everyone should wear underwear on your head at least once in your lifetime,” Murnen said. But beyond the silly subjects of food and undergarments, Parr’s underlying message was for the parents as much as their kids. It’s OK to be different. It’s OK to wear glasses, to be missing teeth, to get mad, to have a pet worm. From the stage in the busy, noisy field house, Parr read some of his books aloud to the children. The underwear book outlined the “dos” and “don’ts,” suggesting that underwear not be put in the freezer, always be worn when fishing, but never be used as bait. Each book ends with the same salutation. Love, Todd. Parr told the kids a little bit about his life. He failed art class – a couple times – but knew he wanted to be an artist. His simplistic, silly, bright, block lettered books are easy for kids to enjoy and digest. “It’s really hard to tell the difference between the kids’ art and mine,” he said as he shared pictures sent to him by his younger fans. “Remember, there are no mistakes in art.” He showed pictures of his three canine “kids,” named Pete, Tater Tot and Jerry, in various poses and in their Christmas sweaters. He showed a picture of his “Gram,” who read to him every night…


Women veterans sought for Honor Flight

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Honor Flight is looking for a few good women. Women veterans, that is, to go on the first all-women veterans Honor Flight from Columbus. “This is the first one I’m aware of” just for women, said Dave Chilson, of Bowling Green, who has been very involved in the Honor Flights from the Toledo area. The one-day trip to Washington, D.C., on Sept. 10, will be free to about 80 veterans as a thank you for their service. “This is an appeal to spread to word, so they can be honored and recognized as they so well deserve to be,” Chilson said. “I don’t know how many women veterans there are. That’s why we’re getting the word out.” One of the local women enlisting for the flight is Emmy Hann, of Bowling Green. Hann, 85, served in the Army, Women Medical Specialist Corp from 1952 to 1956 as a dietetic intern and commissioned officer. “I loved the experience so much that I extended it,” she said. She trained at Fort Sam Houston in Texas, and worked at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. Her husband, Bill, was a Korean War veteran. Until now, Hann never applied to go on an Honor Flight to the nation’s capital. “I always felt the opportunity should go to the people who had been in the trenches,” she said. But Honor Flight clearly believes Hann and other women are deserving of the recognition. And Hann is looking forward to talking with other women who served their country. “I’m interested in finding out what kind of lives other women have had.” As is customary, Honor Flight will give priority to veterans of older wars first – World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Honor Flights trips have “guardians” that accompany each veteran. In this case, most will also be women, Chilson said. “As much as possible, they are looking for women to be guardians,” he said. The trip will visit many of the customary sites, but also be designed specifically for the women veterans,…


Victory Inn owner files appeal over zoning denial

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The owner of the defeated Victory Inn in Bowling Green has filed an appeal, saying the city improperly denied him a variance to build another hotel. The proposed new hotel would be at the same location, 1630 E. Wooster St., as the Victory Inn, which was frequently the source of complaints about bedbugs, plumbing and electrical problems, the lack of smoke alarms and cleanliness violations. After nearly five years of wrangling with the owner, Jamal Garmo, of Michigan, the hotel was demolished last October. Last month, the Zoning Board of Appeals listened to Garmo’s new plans to construct a new hotel. Garmo needed approval from the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals, since the hotel he is proposing exceeds the city’s height and story limits. By a vote of 3 to 2, the board rejected Garmo’s request. The appeal, filed by Bob Spitler in Wood County Common Pleas Court, stated the board’s denial was “unconstitutional, arbitrary, capricious and an unreasonable exercise of discretion.” The appeal continued to state the denial posed an “unreasonable hardship” against Garmo. City Attorney Mike Marsh said Friday afternoon that the appeal was likely filed just in case it was needed, since it was required to be filed within 30 days. Marsh added, however, that Spitler notified him that new hotel plans would be coming. “I heard they were working on revised plans that would comply with the zoning code requirements,” Marsh said. “If that happens, then everybody is happy.” In May, Garmo presented his request for a variance to allow construction of a 107-room hotel on the eastern portion of the seven acres that previously housed Victory Inn. The proposed hotel was 65 feet tall, five feet taller than allowed, and five stories high, one story higher than allowed in B-2 general commercial zoning. The proposed hotel would have been a relatively new Hilton product called Home 2, which offers extended stays. After having his variance request turned down, Garmo expressed his displeasure with the zoning board of appeals. “Five stories is a signature from the highway,” Garmo…


BG residents want indoor pool, more fitness classes

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green residents jumped right into swimming and exercise discussions at this week’s park focus group – bringing to the surface again the idea of an indoor pool at the community center. Local residents love their swimming. So much that they would like to do it year-round. “They do understand when they say that, that it’s very expensive,” said Kristin Otley, director of Bowling Green Parks and Recreation. Those attending the public forum also had other suggestions for the pool: Flip flop the lessons, so older kids have the early morning classes when the air is the chilliest. The pool is heated, but cool mornings make it seem chillier, Otley said. Make better use of lap lanes which are underutilized. Offer weekend swim lessons. Add a fitness program at the pool for older children. Add an indoor salt water therapy pool. Residents also brought up the possibility of creating a premium pass for the community center, and working out a deal with the Bowling Green State University Recreation Center, to allow members to use the indoor pool in the winter. “People were interested in that,” Otley said. The public forum also focused on the community center and programming offered there. Residents said they were interested in youth and family fitness classes, including parent and child yoga. Others suggested offering fitness classes for parents and children, at the same time but in different areas of the center. It was mentioned that an obstacle trail behind the community center was being considered. “People seemed to like that,” Otley said. Some other suggestions included: More fitness classes for seniors. Another “True Fit” class. Kick boxing program. Offering 5 and 10 kilometer races, and mini triathlons. Those at the forum pointed out the reasonable costs of the pool and community center, the qualified staff, the well maintained facilities, and cleanliness of the sites. This week’s park forum was the third in a series of five to get citizen input for the strategic plan. Two more focus groups are planned – with each one targeting a specific…


BG sees steady economic growth in 2015

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green industries invested more than $50 million in machinery and facilities last year. “Our companies keep reinvesting in themselves,” Sue Clark, executive director of Bowling Green Economic Development, said Thursday during the annual meeting of the organization. “It was a steady year of growth.” And while adding machinery, they also added jobs – with there now being more than 4,000 manufacturing employees in the city. “We now have more employees in the manufacturing sector than the university does,” Clark said. The largest investment was made by Phoenix Technologies, which added equipment to its East Poe Road plant. The addition of the new plant process means that a plastic bottle dropped off at the nearby recycling center can be washed and ground up at the Poe Road plant, then trucked to the Fairview plant where it is pelletized, then trucked to Southeastern Container on North Main Street where it can be reinvented into a new bottle. The full circle process in one city for plastic recycling is remarkable, Clark said. “We’re very proud of that.” The city is also seeing some commercial growth, with a Fairfield Inn being constructed and Kroger being expanded. The economic development office made a move itself to 130 S. Main St., along with the Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce, the Convention and Visitors Bureau, and Downtown BG. Also in 2015, the city “survived another year of construction on I-75” and weathered the peaks and valleys of the auto industry, Clark said. But there are difficulties, she told the audience. “While I paint a rosy picture, we’re not without our concerns,” she said. “Finding good employees is at the top of our list.” During annual meetings with local employers, a common concern expressed is the inability to find skilled trade workers. According to Clark, this problem has kept some manufacturers from expanding in Bowling Green. “While we are a university town, we still value plumbers, electricians, die makers and machinists,” she said. And like any presidential election year, there are uncertainties ahead – perhaps more this time around,…


Earth Week opens with Creation Care Celebration

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The Creation Care Celebration, which marked the beginning of Earth Week activities in Bowling Green, focused on the possibilities. Honored by the Black Swamp Green Team, the event’s sponsors, were those who were already making a difference locally, and statewide. The keynote speaker spoke about what churches could do to preserve the environment. And a series of workshops were offered on household options for taking action. Stumbling blocks were mentioned – the state’s renewable energy standards are on hold. But the two state legislators in attendance State Senator Randy Gardner and State Representative Tim Brown, both Republicans said they were in favor of lifting the hold on them and letting them take effect. The keynote speaker Greg Hitzhusen of Ohio State University’s School of Environment & Natural Resources, spoke of a pastor in Idaho who took the initiative to put saving the environment at the center of his church’s mission. He discovered, Hitzhusen said, less resistance than he expected. Now 10 years later he’s experiencing fierce backlash to his efforts. “How do we overcome these obstacles?” Hitzhusen wondered. The speaker, who is involved in the Interfaith Light and Power movement, focused his talk on what works. “Build on your strengths,” he said. That means finding what expertise is within the congregation that can spearhead efforts. The United Church of Christ in Sylvania used the expertise of Al Compaan, a leading researcher in photovoltaics, to initiate a solar project. “Do what makes sense for your community,” he said. Even simple measure can help. Saving money on energy can help a church keep its doors open and support its other missions, he said. “When we learn about energy savings in our houses of worship,” he said, “we can learn to save energy in our households.” But he faced his own obstacles in pursuing his vocation of blending faith with environmentalism. Raised a Presbyterian, he had a beloved pastor warn him about the “blue demon.” The pastor was concerned that concentrating on environmental ministry would lead to “the temptation toward nature worship.” Hitzhusen went to Yale, the…


BYOB – shoppers urged to bring your own bags

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   It’s the ugly sign of spring – the flimsy plastic bags blowing on trees and bushes. “I bet if you looked out your window wherever you are, you would inevitably see a bag in a tree,” said Wood County Administrator Andrew Kalmar. But we Americans like our plastic bags. It’s estimated we use 6 billion a year to carry home our groceries and other items. Though some are reused to line wastebaskets and pick up after pets, the vast majority are thrown out. During a visit to the Wood County Landfill, the county commissioners noticed the screens around the landfill caked with plastic bags. “It was incredible. There were bags in every tree, in every bush,” Kalmar said. So the commissioners asked the Wood County Solid Waste District to help the region clean up its act. And that has led Amanda Gamby, environmental educator with the county, to start a campaign called “Got Your Bags?” “We’re finding them in pretty large quantities when we go out to pickup,” Gamby said of the plastic bags. “It’s a horrible litter problem,” Kalmar said. “Everybody uses them, but we have to do better.” So local residents are being asked to either take their own reusable bags to stores, or bring their used plastic bags back to the stores to be recycled. If recycled, the plastic can have a new life as composite lumber, pallets, containers, crates or pipes. In talking to local residents, Gamby has found that they don’t object to bringing reusable bags to the grocery store – it just hasn’t become part of their routines. “It’s not that they don’t want to use the bags, they forget them,” she said. So Gamby has been handing out “Got Your Bags?” decals to put on car windshields to remind shoppers to either take their reusable bags or return their used plastic bags since most stores have bins to recycle them. Most local stores also sell the reusable bags at the registers for very cheap prices. Gamby suggested that shoppers could also make a difference by…


BG considers increased cemetery fees

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green wants to dig itself out of its losing rate system that doesn’t cover expenses at Oak Grove Cemetery. So on Monday, council gave first reading of new regulations for the cemetery, which sits north of Bowling Green State University. The goal is to set rates that more reflect the actual cost to maintain the site. “It would get us closer to that,” Assistant Municipal Administrator Joe Fawcett explained. “But even the proposed changes wouldn’t get us to that point.” The city is taking care to keep the rates lower for city residents, with no price change recommended for the purchase of a plot for an adult resident. “We are giving the benefit to city residents,” Fawcett said. Some of the rate changes include: Grave lots for adult non-residents will increase from $425 to $850. Infant grave lots will increase from $115 to $150 for residents and $130 to $250 for non-residents. Adult internment for adult residents will increase from $350 to $600, and $460 to $800 for non-residents. Infant internment for residents will increase from $150 to $200, and for non-residents from $200 to $300. Rates are also set to increase for weekend burials, holiday burials, cremation burials, disinternments and reburials. Some of the other changes in the cemetery regulations include: Total height of new monuments may not exceed 36 inches. Any violation may result in the city issuing an order to remove. Prohibited items around the graves were expanded to ban mulch, glass objects, solar powered lights, wind socks, pinwheels, mailboxes and stepping stones. No grave blankets or flower containers may be placed where they impede mowing or maintenance. No shrubbery or rose bushes may be planted on lots. No trees or shrubbery will be planted in the cemetery except by the city. No additional graveside benches will be permitted after June 15. Existing benches may remain and are encouraged to be placed in a position that promotes ease of maintenance. The cemetery will be open to the public a half hour before sunrise and a half hour after…


Fire will bring new life to park prairie

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Earlier today, the bright orange flames devoured the tall prairie grasses and left behind several acres of charred ground.  But in a matter of days, life will start bursting through the blackness. “Within three or four days new life pops up,” said Cinda Stutzman, natural resources specialist with the Bowling Green Parks and Recreation Department. As Stutzman watched the prairie burn in Wintergarden Park on Tuesday, she talked about the reason for the occasional controlled burns. “We are trying to minimize the amount of woody plants and invasive species,” she said. And that will help flowers germinate and grow in the prairie area. Without the burns every one to three years, the blackberry and sassafras plants take over, she said. The fire crew was led by Tim Mason, who has been doing controlled burns like this since 1970. To get rid of the woody plants, the crew was doing a backburn, followed by flash fires up the sides. “The fire has to work backward,” Stutzman said. Once new life starts returning, there should be sunflowers and a variety of other wildflowers in the meadow. “There will be lots of great wildflowers that are great for pollinators and butterflies,” she said. The meadow was designed with pollinating plants in mind. “The grasses are the backbone of the meadow,” and the flowers are the mosaic, Stutzman said. “The majority of the meadow has been reintroduced with a grass and flower mixture.” The acreage of the entire Wintergarden Park is about 100 acres, with approximately 30 of that being field and meadow. “I’ve been working pretty hard on this meadow for 15 years,” Stutzman said. “It’s been an honor and a privilege to work on this meadow.” Now all the public has to do is visit Wintergarden and enjoy the rebirth of the meadow. “I hope the people of Bowling Green come out to see their flowers and butterflies this summer,” she said.