Environment

Community ride promotes need for improvements for bicyclists

  By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Thursday’s community bike ride is more than a pedal to the park. The organizers have some serious points to make about the need to make Bowling Green a better place for bicycling.               The second Community Ride will begin Thursday at 5 p.m. at the fountain in front of the Administration Building on the Bowling Green State University campus.  The riders will head west toward downtown, traveling eventually to Main Street, before reaching their destination, the green space at the corner of Church and West Wooster streets. The first ride came after Lily Murnen, president of the Environmental Service Club, was talking to Rick Busselle, a BGSU faculty member and bicyclist. Busselle was upset by a couple incidents. A student was struck while bicycling near the CVS on East Wooster Street, and then was ticketed for riding on the sidewalk. Busselle himself took a spill while trying to navigate past that spot. His accident occurred in part because he was unsure at what point cyclists were allowed to ride on sidewalks. The city lacks both clarity in the rules governing bicyclists and the bike lanes needed to make riding in the city safer, he said. Yet, the city officials didn’t really seem to think it was a problem. He and Murnen discussed a mass bike riding event. These can involve a large group of bicyclists taking over the streets and, at times, violating traffic laws. Instead they decided that it would be best to have the bicyclists…


BG Council approves plan for largest solar field in Ohio

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The future is looking pretty bright for Bowling Green’s solar field project, with city council voting unanimously Monday evening to approve plans to install the largest solar field in Ohio. Concerns were expressed by a neighbor of the site about the loss of prime farmland. But her concerns were not enough to throw shade on the project. “This looks like a really good addition to the Bowling Green energy portfolio,” said council member Bob McOmber. “I don’t see any minuses with this.” The solar project had been stalled since last summer. Now, if all goes as planned, an estimated 2,900 homes in the city will be powered by sunlight starting next year. “I appreciate the project moving forward. Environmentally, it’s a good thing,” council member Bruce Jeffers said. “I’m really happy to see this happen.” The solar field 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, which will rotate and follow the path of the sun as it moves through the sky. The rotating panels will take up 35 more acres and cost more to install, but they will increase power production, he said….


Falcons hatch in courthouse clock tower

From BGSU OFFICE OF MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS Bowling Green welcomed its newest falcons to town early Sunday morning at a time when most students are preparing to leave campus after final exams. Three of four peregrine falcon eggs hatched Sunday, with the first view of a hatched egg around 3 a.m. on the Falcon Cam, www.bgsu.edu/falconcam, provided by a partnership between the Wood County Commissioners and Bowling Green State University. “The falcons continue to be a source of wonder for people in the courthouse, whether they’re employees or citizens visiting the courthouse,” said Andrew Kalmar, Wood County administrator. “Because the falcons chose us we get to enjoy them, and that’s been really nice over the past six years.” Of course the peregrine falcon is BGSU’s official mascot. A pair of the raptors took refuge in the clock tower — just two blocks west of campus —six years ago. “We’re happy they’ve made a habit of calling Bowling Green home,” said Dave Kielmeyer, chief marketing and communications officer of BGSU. “It’s fitting that the falcons have bonded with the town and University.” The first egg was laid March 22, and there’s typically a 33-day gestation period. The last egg is expected to hatch soon. For more information about the peregrine falcons in the courthouse clock tower, go to bgsu.edu/falconcam.html.


Plant exchange helps gardeners blossom

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The tables lined with plants were like a smorgasbord for people hungry to start their spring planting. The fifth annual Wood County Plant Exchange this morning at the county fairgrounds offered gardeners a chance to trade plantings that may have overgrown in their yards, and pick up new plants to try. There were trees, shrubs, herbs, vegetables, berries, seeds, bulbs, ground covers, grass, daylilies, hostas and vines. There were plants that are fast spreading, and those that thrive in shade and sun. “I’m very excited. This is really cool,” said Pat Snyder, of Grand Rapids, who was stocking up on canna lilies and a spider plant. “And my daughter is dragging something around.” Some of the plants weren’t much to look at. But people with green thumbs were able to look beyond the scraggly appearance to see the potential of the plants. “I had no idea it was this big of a deal, and it had this many kinds of plants,” said Jan Lyon, of Bowling Green.  She brought hostas that she traded for myrtle. “I’ve been giving them away to everyone I can think of,” she said of the hostas. Lyon said she would definitely return next spring for more. “I’ll build up my muscles for next year.” With her arms, bags and boxes full of plants, Yvonne Martinez, of Bowling Green, had her day cut out for her. “My husband’s getting started already. He’s digging holes,” Martinez said as she finished rounding up the blackeyed susans, lilies, cactus, marigold seeds…


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…


Carbon-based energy sector is collapsing, geophysicist tells BGSU audience

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The tide has turned against carbon-based fuels. That could help assuage the worst effects of global warming that could flood major cities as ocean levels rise and fresh water becomes scarce in the more arid interior. Dr. Henry Pollack, an emeritus professor of geophysics at the University of Michigan, said that the story of alternative energy competing with oil and coal was once perceived as a David vs. Goliath scenario. “The test in front of us,” he told an audience last week at Bowling Green State University, “is to reduce Goliath to David’s level.” That now seems to be happening. In 2010, he said, for the first time investment in alternative fuels, including wind, biofuels, hydrogen fuel cells, fusion and nuclear, outpaced investment in the oil, gas and coal industries. That year $187 billion was invested in alternative fuels compared to $157 billion in fossil fuels. Five years later, he said, investment in alternative fuels had grown by almost $100 billion, while investment in carbon-based technologies had dropped to $130 billion. “I’m telling you we’re at the tipping point,” Pollack said. “Carbon fuels are on the way down and out.” He urged the audience “to follow the money,” and then told the tale through international headlines. The nation’s two largest coal companies have declared bankruptcy. The last deep-pit coal mine in the United Kingdom has closed. The stock price of coal companies is dropping. Saudi Arabia is considering selling its state-owned oil company Aramco. The United States has lifted its 40-year ban on exporting…


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,…


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…


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…


Take a walk on the wild side with Chris Gajewicz, BG naturalist

(This is the first of regular columns about nature by BG’s Natural Resources Coordinator Chris Gajewicz.) Each year naturalists, birders, and nature enthusiasts eagerly await spring migration.  Warmer weather, longer days, and spring storms signal major movements of birds to head north to their summer breeding grounds.  Casual nature observers often see their first robin of spring around this time of year.  Hard core birders know that these robins have been here all along for the most part toughing out our northern Ohio winters and subsisting on fruits and berries all winter rather than the more commonly observed worm feasts in spring. Truth be told, I know spring is here when the red-winged blackbirds finally arrive.  Red-winged blackbird, (Agelaius phoeniceus), males arrive first and they can be seen setting up their territories along country roads, in wetland areas and just about anywhere cattails are growing in early March.  The males are highly territorial and set up intricate invisible boundaries known only to them and other members of their species.  The males aggressively display and call out to other males along these lines and chase out interlopers if necessary.  In reality, they spend most of their time displaying for each other and altercations are few. Male red-winged blackbirds are a striking jet black bird with red and yellow “epaulettes” or shoulder pads, (think George Washington’s golden shoulder pads on his uniform).  When the bird is at rest, generally only the red portion can be seen.  When the male is in full display, he spreads his wings and splays his tail from…


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…


Citizens want Wintergarden Park to stay wild; Simpson to continue gardens

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   City residents want Wintergarden Park to stay wild, and Simpson Garden Park to get some more gardens. Overall, both parks are giving residents exactly what they need – places of peace and natural beauty. Citizens came together to talk about the city’s natural parks and programs last week as part of a series of public forums to help with the strategic plan for the parks. The consensus for Wintergarden Park was – leave it alone. “We want to keep it as a nature preserve,” said Martha Mazzarella. And for Simpson Garden Park – manage its growth as the funds become available. Citizens said Wintergarden is ideal for nature observation, multi-generational programs such as nature walks, and has great diversity with a prairie, swamp woods and oak savannah. The strengths at Simpson Garden Park include the diverse gardens, its accessibility to those unable to navigate wooded trails, its link to the hospital so people there can easily seek peace in the park, and its educational value with labeling of plants. Programming isn’t heavy at Simpson, but that’s OK, said Frances Brent. “Just its being is the most important part,” she said, explaining its value as a passive park. Both sites make good use of volunteers, including master gardeners at Simpson. Some citizens wanted to make sure Wintergarden wasn’t changed, while other wanted faster development of Simpson. “Don’t screw it up,” Lee Rockett said about Wintergarden. “We need a natural area.” Rockett questioned the use of pesticides in the park and the removal invasive…


Oil drilling not thrilling to county park district

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   An oil and gas exploration business failed to return to the Wood County Park District board meeting Tuesday to follow up on its pitch to test in parkland. The park commissioners did not seem disappointed, and had no intention of inviting the company back. “To be honest, it’s not going to change my mind,” said park commissioner Denny Parish. Sean Haas, of Reserve Energy Exploration, in Chagrin Falls, asked the county park commissioners last month for permission to do testing in Baldwin Woods. He said he would return with a more detailed presentation this week, but canceled. The company was interested in doing seismic testing for oil and gas in the 124-acre preserve, off Euler Road near Weston.  The preserve is a mix of woodlands, grasslands and wetlands. Seismic testing is a process where an image of the subsurface is created. That data is then used to locate the most optimum place to drill for gas or oil. Haas explained the seismic testing does not use explosives, but rather shakes the ground to discover gas or oil. During last month’s board meeting, Wood County Park District Director Neil Munger expressed concerns about any type of testing. He referred to Baldwin Woods as a “sensitive natural area.” “It’s not something I would encourage or something I would support,” Munger said. “I would not recommend it.” Haas countered that process is “non-invasive” and should be thought of as “scientific research” that could be of benefit to the community. “It shakes the ground,” he said…


Simpson garden showing its colors, including white

Look closely to see the golden, bowed heads of hundreds of snow burdened daffodils. Daily for three weeks the Simpson Gardens have increased the daffodil and hyacinth count of blooms. Visitors have rejoiced in the cool weather preserving the flowers “like a florists refrigerator.”  Friday’s unseasonable snowfall overdid the refrigeration effect. Heads and stalks bowed from the weight of an unseasonable weekend spring snow the daffodils of Simpson Garden await Tuesday’spromised sun to stand upright again.  Continued cool temperatures will extend the record blooming season . Rapidly draining water puddles in the Hosta garden. The first sharp spears of reemerging plants poke through mud and water.


Earth Month events planned throughout Wood County

April is Earth Month and Wood County and Bowling Green agencies are collaborating to provide multiple events geared toward conservation, education and family fun. The Seventh Annual Community Earth Day Celebration will be the culminating event held on Sunday, April 24th, 2016 from 2-4 pm at the Montessori School of BG, 515 Sand Ridge Road. This free family event has nature science education stations including: a giant Earth Ball, archery, a power-generating bicycle, bookmobile, art projects and crafts, nature walks, various giveaways including live saplings and much more. There is a Passport for the Community Earth Day Celebration that can be picked up at the welcome table on the day of the event. Have the passport stamped at each booth and once complete, turn in the passport to be registered for great giveaways. For a list of the activities during April, please visit www.communityearthday.com. Community Earth Day Celebration booths include the following participants and family-friendly interactive activities: The City of Bowling Green Utilities Division will be providing attendees with the opportunity to generate electricity using the Energy Bike. This stationary bicycle is connected to an electric motor that produces energy to power light bulbs, a radio, a fan and a heater. Through the resistance created by the motor, riders get direct feedback on the energy required to operate each appliance. BG Parks and Recreation will have both an interactive booth and naturalist-led nature walks that are fun for the whole family. Nature walk times are 2:30 and 3:30 pm. Ohio Department of Natural Resources activity: The Maumee State Scenic and…