Environment

From suits to nuts, BGSU project puts students’ refuse to good use (updated)

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The Harshman Community Room has everything needed to equip a college student, lots of everything needed. Books, planners, printer paper are here. Cardboard crates overflow with boxes of mac and cheese, ramen noodles and Pop Tarts of all varieties. Clothes, from coats to undies, suitable for all occasions from a session in a gym to a special date or a job interview, are piled and hung around the room. Falcon spirit wear gets its own stack. Want to see how you look? There’s about 30 mirrors. Mini-fridges and microwaves are stacked on a table, and a few computers, albeit of questionable operating status, are nearby. Off in one corner is the furniture, and shoes take up an entire room size space. Welcome to the sorting operation for Bowling Green State University’s Move Out, Don’t Throw It Out project. Now in its 15th year, the drive encourages students to donate whatever they don’t want that may be usable to the drive. Boxes are located throughout campus, in dorms, at convenience stores, in the student union. It’s a form of “passive community service,” Hennessy said. The organizers will try to find new homes for their castoff goods. “Somebody’s future treasures,” said Torrance Vaughn, a student volunteer sorting through a bag of clothing. “Somebody will have a use for it.” The idea is to promote reuse and waste reduction, said Nick Hennessy, director of the BGSU Office of Campus Sustainability. On Monday with the students gone, he and Carina Weed, the intern who organized the event, and a group of student volunteers, were sorting through what was left behind. Last year, Hennessy said, the drive collected almost nine tons of material, and he wasn’t sure if that included the food. All that otherwise most likely would have gone to the landfill. “I would like to think not, but I don’t know where else it would end up.” He added: “What gets really overwhelming when you multiply that by every university. The landfills must just swell this time of year with all this stuff.” Already the tables groan with the plenty of hand-me-downs. All are carefully sorted. “We try to get as specific as possible because that helps with the final dispensation of it,” Hennessy said. Some items are of questionable use. A half-full bottle of ketchup? A portfolio with resumes? Charities such as the Cocoon Shelter will have a chance to go through and retrieve whatever personal care items they can use. “Food all goes directly to food pantries we’ve helped the out for more than a decade,” he said. On May 24 and 25 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., a sale open to students, faculty and staff with valid identification will be held in the Harshman Community Room to sell off much of the rest. Details of the…


St. John’s Woods was hog heaven

By CHRIS GAJEWICZ BG Naturalist   Stephen W. St. John came to Bowling Green in the 1840s. He was an attorney from New York State and came to BG with the hope of developing a successful law firm in Wood County and of becoming what we would call today, a “Gentleman Farmer”. St. John owned much of what is currently Wintergarden/St. John’s Nature Preserve although its appearance in the 1800s was very different from what it is today. We know from land records, all of the meadow area was utilized for the planting of row crops and the St. John’s Woods woodlot was used as a pasture for hogs. We also know someone lived in the general area of the west side of St. John’s Woods, although no foundations or structures have been found to date. We have located a dump site within St. John’s Woods and it looks as if it was active for quite a long time leading us to believe that human habitation was not far away. From the plant record, (meaning plants that are currently growing in the general vicinity of the west side of St. John’s Woods), someone who had knowledge of medicinal plant use had a loose garden of healing plants. Perhaps the people responsible for these plants were share croppers of some sort and their dwellings were not built on foundations making it difficult for us to now determine where they actually lived. The St. John house still stands on Sand Ridge Road and is occupied. St. John’s Woods is a leftover from a time when farmers actively managed woodlots on their farms. Many used these woodlots for lumber, fuel, fencing materials and in St. John’s case, for pasture. For the longest time I was under the assumption that St. John pastured his hogs in the woodlot out of frugality; there was a free food crop and natural shade. Oak trees in the woodlot were large and could provide shade but they also provided acorns and in all likelihood, there may have been American Chestnut trees growing in the woods prior to the introduction of the blight in the early 1900s which killed them all. The oaks; Red, White, and Black, all produced fruit abundantly as did the Chestnuts. Recently, I was listening to NPR and I heard an interview with a woman from Connecticut who has revisited the European tradition of finishing her hogs with … acorns! Mr. St. John wasn’t just being frugal, he was being true to his family’s French roots. It was, and still is, a common practice in many parts of Europe, including France, to let the hogs roam free. The hogs eat natural foods that include a steady diet of acorns and chestnuts which add a great deal of flavor to the meat. Each year at the…


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 adhere to the rules of the road, which in some instances may cause a greater inconvenience to drivers. People, Murnen said, feel safer navigating the city’s streets in groups. Murnen was in charge of putting together a list of events for Earth Week, so she decided a community ride would fit right in. The first ride attracted 25 riders, despite a change in the day of the ride. Murnen said the ride attracted “a really nice mix” of students, faculty and community members. The 25-minute ride went west on Wooster, turned right onto North Grove, left on Conneaut, right onto Fairview, right onto West Merry, right onto North Main Street and then proceeded to the Four Corners, where the group took a right onto Wooster and then a left on South Grove and the green space. The route, Murnen said, was designed to minimize left turns, but also to travel through populated areas and downtown to get some visibility. The response the riders received from people along the route, she said, was positive. Thursday’s route will be similar, maybe with another loop added, she said. She and Busselle would like to keep the rides going. Murnen who will be in town until July said she’d like to see others step…


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. The solar field will generate 20 megawatts, with Bowling Green getting 13.74 megawatts of the power for its customers. With the addition of the solar power to the existing wind and hydro sources already used by the city, Bowling Green will get close to 40 percent of its energy from renewable sources starting in 2017, O’Connell said. “It certainly is a good thing for the city,” council president Mike Aspacher said. The solar field was initially planned for the western section of the city’s farm acreage. 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. However, neighboring farmer Carol Riker expressed concerns about the loss of quality farmland, the route of the transmission lines, noise, lighting and drainage. “We’re not against solar,” she explained, but questioned the need to take 145 acres of quality farmland when other acreage may be available. “We’re sad to see good farmland going.” Jeffers sympathized. “Loss of farmland is a significant issue,” he said. O’Connell said other sites were considered, but land in the nearby industrial park has already had infrastructure improvements so it is ready for future manufacturers. The city did not consider…


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 and much more. She traded in several cannus plants, which her husband grew tired of, and enlisted the help of her sister and mom for planting her exchanges. Lyn Long, of Bowling Green, came to the exchange looking for dahlias. She didn’t find any, so she settled on some daisies, blackeyed susans, a tomato plant, and three different kinds of pepper plants. “When they start producing, I’ll figure out what they are,” Long said, smiling. David Ingmire, of Wood County Master Gardeners, said the plant exchange gives people an opportunity to share their extra plants and find something new for their yards. It’s also a chance for budding gardeners to learn from experts on which plants and live peacefully together and which ones fight for space. They also heard from experts on topics such as fairy gardens, terrariums, succulents and bee keeping. “It’s a chance to give back to the community through sharing plants and educating,” Ingmire said. The goal is to get people out and planting. “We’re giving you a mixture of plant materials,” said Ken Lewis. “We’re trying to get more people involved in planting, so they appreciate the world more.” Craig Everett, of OSU Extension Office, said the exchange is a way to help gardeners blossom. “It’s…


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 than that. There are actually several forest types within the park boundary.  In my next series of articles, I’ll do my best to explain each of these areas and how and why we manage them the way we do. Wintergarden Woods Wintergarden Woods is an example of what would happen if someone stopped mowing their lawn and let nature take its course.  Wintergarden Woods was farm fields in 1953.  Wintergarden Park was also once a water well field for the city of Bowling Green and then later became a day camp operated by the Rotary Club of BG.  Eventually the managers of the area stopped mowing.  Wintergarden Lodge was built in 1969 as an overnight site for scouts and other…


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 oil. The reasoning being, he said, “let’s let them sell it while they can get something for it.” The dropping price of oil is threatening the budgets in fossil fuel dependent states Alaska and Wyoming, and prompting fears of future bankruptcies on Wall Street. Now, he said, conventional wisdom is that the price of oil is cyclical, and therefore will rise. Pollack said that thinking is wrong. Events like “tremendous instability in the Middle East,” which in the past have pushed up the price of oil, have had no effect. And oil producing nations failed to agree to cut production. Even with falling oil prices, car manufacturers are still pushing ahead with the development of electric vehicles. “This is the shifting of capital away from carbon to renewables,” he said. This transition is taking place “much faster than anyone anticipated.” He likened the growth of renewable technologies to the growth of digital communications. Even those involved in the early wireless phones failed to predict how quickly they would dominate the market. Pollack said on the flip side, the fall in value for coal, gas and oil related stocks is creating fears of a $28 trillion write-down in their value. They have become stranded assets the same as mortgage backed securities…


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. However, AMP was not eligible for federal investment tax credit. So AMP entered into an agreement with NextEra, a third party solar developer. NextEra, which qualifies for the tax credits, is one of the largest generators of solar energy in the U.S. with more than 700 megawatts of solar generation. NextEra will develop, construct, own, operate and maintain all the solar arrays in the field. AMP is responsible for constructing the circuit to connect to solar facility to the city’s transmission system. The city will take over the ownership and maintenance of the circuit once it is complete. Since the project now qualifies for federal tax credit, it will cost the city less in the long run. With the original…


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 energy it takes to operate different household items. Leisurely pedaling powered a small fan, radio and LED lights. But it took much more strenuous pedaling to turn on the incandescent lights, and even more to power the hairdryer. “It’s trying to relay to folks about energy conservation,” said Jason Sisco, city engineer. “Your heart rate tells you pretty quickly the energy it takes for an incandescent light.” Children also got to plant sunflowers, go fishing for pollution tips to help water quality, paint pet rocks, and make seed paper to plant when they got home. They pushed around a giant earth ball in an open field and took nature walks. But in between the fun, some serious lessons were tucked…


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 only school where he could blend his two passions. Later he planned to travel to Colorado where the pastor now served to discuss the matter with him. On the day he arrived, he learned the minister had just died. Hitzhusen attended the service and he noticed the Bible open to the eighth chapter of Paul’s Letter to the Romans. The passage is often cited at Christian funerals. Hitzhusen’s eye slipped lower in the chapter where it speaks of “the entire creation is groaning.” Hitzhusen took this as a sign that he was headed in the right direction. The celebration, held at Peace Lutheran Church, also included honoring those helping the city move in the right direction. The City of Bowling…


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 a sitting position, leans forward, and calls out the familiar, “KONK-la REE!”, making all the other males take notice of his grandeur and self importance.  This activity continues non-stop for about three weeks until that ladies arrive. Female red-winged blackbirds are neither red-winged nor black.  They are quite honestly one of the most non-descript birds out there.  Red-winged blackbirds exhibit sexual dimorphism, which means that the male and the female do not look alike in plumage.  The female red-winged blackbird is roughly the same size as the male but with a brown and beige streaked pattern which makes her difficult to see in the reeds where she alone instinctively builds her nest.  The male does little if anything to care for the young but continues to spend his time defending his and his mate’s territory.  The female makes her nest at the base of the cattail plant just above the water level in a wet area.  The female will incubate her 3-5 eggs and the young hatch after a week and a half. Once the babies reach the fledgling stage, males and females will, for a time, engage in mixed flocking, but when the urge to migrate south in the fall takes over, the females gather and head south followed…


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.  


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 plants like the black raspberries. “When you affect the flora, you affect the fauna,” he said. Others supported the removal of non-native invasive plant species, and complimented the park department for its efforts. All seemed to agree that no more trails were needed through the woods. Jeffrey Cullen said Simpson Garden Park is a secret to some city residents, since most of it stretches back behind houses, off Wintergarden Road, south of Conneaut Avenue. “I don’t think a lot of people know that it’s back there,” he said. Cullen said the park consists of too much grass, and not enough trees and plants. Others defended the garden park as a work in progress. “Things are being put in as money is available,” Brent said, with private and public dollars used to plant the park. “It takes money to do anything, to do everything,” Mazzarella said. Some concerns were voiced, including a complaint about too many dogs not on leashes in Wintergarden Park. “It affects wildlife,” said Kristin Vessey. Though some park walkers have suggested that that city get rid of unsightly fallen trees in Wintergarden, the consensus at the forum was the trees should be left for wildlife habitat. Gloria Gajewicz suggested that some “risk play” accommodations be made for…


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 of the testing. “It doesn’t create any tremors or earthquakes.” However, a park district employee asked Haas last month if he was aware of a recent report by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation that states seismic testing is harmful to fish and wildlife. Haas said he was unaware of the report. If approached again by the energy company, the park board will allow a representative of the firm to speak at its monthly meeting just like any member of the public. Also at this week’s meeting, the park board discussed several projects underway or planned at parks. At Sawyer Quarry Preserve, in Perrysburg Township, the first limestone trail will be put in soon.  Munger explained that the trails will vary at the preserve, with some being a more natural surface. Munger said the Perrysburg Country Garden Club had donated $32,800 for path construction and an entrance sign at Sawyer Quarry Preserve. The board also accepted a bid for a limestone trail connecting with the boardwalk at the Bradner Preserve. The trail will loop near the interpretive center in the park. Munger also reported the total cost for the Bradner Park Interpretive Center is now at $573,477. The facility should be completed this summer. In other business, the park board…