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 kids – not plastic playground equipment, but something like a zip line and an area to build something with logs. “Kids could explore and be around nature,” with no rules, she said. “You know what to do with a slide, but what do you do with a pile of logs?” An area like that could help create the next generation to engage with nature, Gajewicz said. But some objected, saying the park is not a summer camp and should remain…

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 unanimously approved pay increases for district employees to go into effect this month.  The second step of the pay hikes will go into effect in July. Munger said the increases, designed to get park employees up to minimum standards, will affect 12 workers, with hourly raises ranging from 16 cents to $1.46.      

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 Recreational River is an important resource for aquatic organisms and people.  At the ODNR, Scenic Rivers table, families will have an opportunity to see the types of critters that live in the river and how they function as water quality indicators. The Wood County Park District will have multiple activities including: an archery range, pet rock making, a water filtration activity, free program guides and a hands-on craft giveaway. The Wood County District Public Library will have stories, a craft and the earth-friendly bookmobile that runs on compressed natural gas. On the bookmobile, books and media can be checked out using a WCDPL library card. There will also be a special storybook walk of The Earth Book by Todd Parr The Wood Soil & Water Conservation District will have a fun ring toss games and prizes. More April Community Earth month events: April 2nd Greenhouse Kids; 10:00- 11:15 am at Reuthinger Preserve. Kids learn about gardening fun and plant a seed in a recycled pot to take home. Register at www.wcparks.org. April 9th Recycle your old electronics for FREE!; 10:00 am – 1:00 pm at BGSU Ice Arena. Recycle old electronics (no TVs, CRT monitors, or large appliances are accepted). Contact greenbg@bgsu.edu with questions. www.bgsu.edu April 12th, 16th, 19th and 26th Garlic Mustard Removal; various times and parks. Learn about invasive plant species while you help pull and dispose of this invasive plant before it goes to seed. No experience is needed and we need all hands on deck. Register at www.wcparks.org. April 14th “Trashed” Documentary Screening; 7:00 – 9:00 pm at BGSU Psychology Building room 108. Watch this free screening of a powerful documentary that sheds light on our consumption of resources. http://www.bgsu.edu/campus-sustainability/earth-month.html#sthash.RXfhXeb2.dpuf April 15th Woodcock Watch; 8:15 –…

BCI Lab recognized for energy efficient design

From BGSU OFFICE OF MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and Bowling Green State University President Mary Ellen Mazey announced today that the BCI laboratory on the BGSU campus has earned the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver certification. “Opening the new BCI lab at Bowling Green was an exciting milestone. It added the latest technology and increased capacity to help the crime-fighting efforts of Ohio’s law enforcement agencies,” said Attorney General DeWine. “And this certification confirms that this important work is being done in a facility that is environmentally friendly and energy efficient.” “We’re proud to have the BCI facility on our campus for the opportunities it offers our students and faculty, and especially pleased that it reflects our goal of achieving carbon neutrality and being a good environmental role model for the citizens of Ohio,” BGSU President Mary Ellen Mazey said. LEED certification comes from the U.S. Green Building Council – a national green building certification program that recognizes best-in-class building strategies and practices. The LEED certification encompasses numerous categories of energy efficiency and environmentally sound design. For example, the BCI lab is expected to be 14 percent more energy efficient than the standard building baseline, thanks to its HVAC and lighting units, in addition to its windows and insulation. Water consumption is estimated to be more than 40 percent below the standard baseline. In building the 30,000-square foot facility, which opened in 2014, more than 20 percent of the materials cost went toward recycled products. At the same time, construction waste was recycled or reused, diverting more than 90 percent of construction waste from landfills. Indoor air quality is enhanced through the use of low VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) finishes, such as paint and sealants. BCI laboratory services include: Chemistry; Evidence receiving; Firearms and Toolmark Examination; Forensic Biology; Latent Print Analysis; and Trace Evidence Analysis. Investigative services include: Crime Scene Unit; Crimes Against Children Unit; Criminal Intelligence Unit; Special Operations Unit; Special Investigations Unit; and polygraph examination. In addition to the building, the Attorney General’s Office and Bowling Green State University partnered to create the Ohio Attorney General’s Center for the Future of Forensic Science. The Center’s mission is to foster innovative forensic scientific research and to create training opportunities for forensic professionals and for students in forensic science-related fields.

Downtown businesses to be surveyed for green certification

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green’s downtown businesses will soon have a chance to prove how green they really are. For two years now, Lucas County has had a sustainability program in place for businesses, according to Holly Myers, environmental and sustainability professor at Bowling Green State University. Myers and her students would like to bring that “green business” program to downtown Bowling Green. Last week, Myers and three students presented their ideas to the City-University Relations Commission, which endorsed their concept. To start the process, the businesses will be surveyed. To qualify as a green business, an operation must adhere to the values of environmental sustainability, economic sustainability and quality of life, Myers explained. The survey covers the following topics: Waste reduction and recycling, with points for recycling items, electronic billing and printing double-sided copies. Green purchasing, with credit given for buying products in bulk, buying from local vendors and using recycled items. Energy conservation and efficiency, with points for using energy efficient lights, shutting down computers not in use, and participating in the city’s Efficiency Smart Energy Conservation Program. Alternative transportation for planning delivery routes, using hybrid fuels or employee ride sharing. Water conservation and pollution prevention for planting drought-resistant plants, using low-flow toilets or tankless water heater. Staff training and public awareness for offering customers green service options, or asking customers if they want a bag (to promote use of fewer bags). Community involvement by participating in local charitable events, offering volunteer opportunities to employees, or making annual donations to charity. Certifications or awards for safety or other efforts. Businesses that do well on the survey will be awarded sustainable businesses certifications. “We really think we can make some changes, recognize businesses for what they are doing,” and maybe convince them to do more, Myers said. The downtown program will be a pilot for the rest of the community. “It’s a great way to continue the leadership Bowling Green has shown over the years in adopting sustainability policies,” said Barb Ruland, a member of the city-university commission.    

Little girl makes waves saving rare dolphins

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Standing on a step stool to reach the podium, the 9-year-old told how she has taken on a nation’s prime minister and a local corporation to try to save dolphins on the other side of the globe. Calista Wilkins, a fourth grader at Otsego, has been working two years to preserve Maui dolphins, the smallest of its species, that live off the coast of New Zealand. On Thursday, Calista shared her story with the Bowling Green Kiwanis Club. The serious little girl with long blond hair is not intimidated by leaders whose words praise the preservation of the dolphins, but whose actions do the opposite. Her efforts have earned her a grant from Jane Goodall’s organization to continue her dolphin-saving work. Calista was also at ease speaking to the group of Kiwanians, trying to engage them in the presentation. She showed slides of New Zealand, where the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy was filmed, and asked if anyone was familiar with the small statured characters called hobbits. “The Maui dolphins are sort of like that,” she said. Though Calista has never been to New Zealand, and has never seen the Maui dolphins, she confidently explained their plight. The rare dolphins number only about 50, and risk becoming extinct by 2030 if nothing changes to reverse their fate. The black, white and gray dolphins have rounded noses, dorsal fins shaped like Mickey Mouse ears, and like to swim in groups close to the shores of the northern portion of New Zealand. Calista showed photographs of the small dolphins, including one called “Scratchy,” named so because of the scars left on his body by fishing nets. Scratchy was lucky, since the fishing nets are responsible for killing many of the Maui dolphins. Since the dolphins live close to the shore, the New Zealand government has declared a safe green zone lining the coast. However, many continue to fish in the protected areas, and the government does nothing to stop them, Calista said. The Maui dolphins aren’t the intended catch, but they often get swept up in the same nets as the fish. And since the dolphins can only remain underwater for 2 ½ minutes without breathing, they perish. “Fishermen gut dolphins so they sink to the bottom, so they don’t get in trouble,” Calista said. From her step stool, the 9-year-old criticized the New Zealand government for adopting a slogan of “100% Pure New Zealand,” but failing to live up to the name. “They are not enforcing the fishing laws,” she said. The Maui dolphins do not repopulate quickly, having just one calf every two to four years. The slow breeding leads to slow recovery. “It will be the first dolphin to go extinct because of humans,” Calista said. “The government doesn’t care and they aren’t doing enough to protect them.” So it’s up to Calista, who quoted Jane Goodall – one of her many role models. “The least I can do is speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves.” Recently Calista entered an essay contest with each student asked to write about who they would like to be. “I wanted to be the prime minister of New Zealand so I could save the Maui dolphins.” “I didn’t win the contest, but…

Students to clean up reputations and neighborhoods at same time

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   BGSU students often get trashed for not being good neighbors to full-time city residents. In an effort to clean up their reputations and their neighborhoods at the same time, an Adopt a Block program is being started with the help of the City-University Relations Commission. Danielle Parker, vice president of the Undergraduate Student Government at Bowling Green State University, said the program will help students connect with the community. “This is a new and exciting way for students to give back, besides dropping off some canned goods and walking away,” Parker said. The program will work somewhat like the larger scale “Adopt a Highway” effort. Ten “blocks” have been established by the City-University Relations Commission. Student groups will be asked to adopt an area then head out once a month and pick up trash in the medians. The trash will then be disposed of in the dumpsters behind the city fire station and electric division on Thurstin and Court streets. The 10 “blocks” up for adoption are: North Enterprise from East Wooster to Frazee Avenue. North Summit from East Wooster to Frazee Avenue. North Prospect from East Wooster to Frazee Avenue. East Court Street from North Prospect to Thurstin Avenue. Pike Street from North Prospect to Thurstin Avenue. Ridge Street from North Prospect to Thurstin Avenue. Merry Street from North Prospect to Thurstin Avenue. Reed Street from North Prospect to Thurstin Avenue. Area bordered by Wooster, Biddle, Clough and South College. Area bordered by Wooster, South Enterprise, Clough and South Prospect. “Students will go out and take care of that block,” Parker explained to the City-University Relations Commission Tuesday evening. Each student group will have a community member contact, according to Julie Broadwell, a member of the commission. A “soft launch” of the program is planned for April, with the official start to be this fall when students arrive back to campus. If the program proves successful, with students showing commitment, the city could create signage recognizing the work of the cleanup organizations, according to Joe Fawcett, assistant municipal administrator. “It’s important that citizens see student organizations are picking up trash. You get beat up all the time for trash,” said Rev. Tom Mellott, a member of the commission.

BGSU plans to get down with Earth Month activities

By BGSU OFFICE OF MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS BGSU is mobilizing the community to get involved with sustainability efforts and issues during April. A full slate of Earth Month events and activities has been planned to raise awareness about and combat the effects of global climate change. Organized by the Office of Campus Sustainability, all the events are free and open to the public. Visit the website for full details. http://www.bgsu.edu/campus-sustainability/earth-month.html In 2015, the University adopted its Climate Action Plan to help meet its goal of being a carbon-neutral institution by 2040 as part of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment. Students have been active participants in BGSU’s environmental efforts. Among them, the student-led Green Initiatives Fund  provides a pool of money for projects that enhance sustainability at BGSU. In honor of Earth Month, the Environmental Service Club invites others to join its “Adopt-a-Highway Earth Month Edition” on April 16. To learn more about the issues surrounding climate change, the community is invited to attend a guest lecture by Dr. Henry Pollack, a professor emeritus of geophysics at the University of Michigan. He will be presenting a blend of climate science and policy in a talk entitled “Good COP, Bad COP: The Paris Climate Accord,” at 7 p.m. April 18 in the Bowen-Thompson Student Union Theater. Pollack will share his research on how to move forward with public policy even though there is scientific uncertainty. A highlight of the month is always the annual Eco-Fair, on Earth Day, April 20. The fair runs from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Union Oval and features environmental organizations, groups and initiatives from all across the region. Two films will highlight different aspects of environmentalism. “Trashed,” a disturbing documentary about how the Earth’s resources are consumed and wasted, will be shown at 7 p.m. April 14 in 108 Psychology Building. And audiences will be inspired by “Billions in Change,” a documentary about one man’s rise from poverty into wealth and his commitment to improving the environment in the developing world. The screening begins at 7 p.m. April 19 in the Union Theater. More of the month’s events are hands-on. Earth Month kicks off on Friday (April 1) with the “Once Upon a Desk” office supply giveaway, where students, faculty and staff with their BGSU ID can choose from a wide array of new and gently used office supplies. For the kickoff, additional items such as BGSU spirit gear, art supplies and bulletin boards will be available. The giveaway is held on the second floor of the Kreischer Quad. The Campus Waste Audit on April 9 will be a chance to get your hands dirty and see what the University community is throwing away and what could have been recycled or reused. It is estimated that the Bowen-Thompson Student Union produces from six to seven tons of waste each week. The information gathered from the audit will help guide decisions about how to reduce waste. One way to safely reduce waste is to bring used electronic items to the free recycling drive, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 9 in the Ice Arena parking lot.  View a list of accepted items. To learn more about a clean way Bowling Green is adding to its electric power, take a tour of the wind turbines…

Amidst green water woes, BG water gets gold star

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The recent Waterkeeper conference on the health of Lake Erie spread plenty of blame around for the conditions that turn the water green and make it unsafe to consume – much of it directed toward the continued practice of spreading too much manure on farm fields. But one entity got a gold star from a member of the Lake Erie Waterkeeper board – Bowling Green’s water treatment plant. It isn’t that the water going into the plant is pristine – quite to the contrary. What’s notable is the treated water that the plant sends out to its water customers. Dr. Earl Campbell was presenting data on some very technical contaminants, when he happened to mention that in the last two years, Bowling Green’s reservoir water repeatedly had very high levels of the microcystin, from blue-green algae. The difference between how Toledo and Bowling Green handled the contaminant was major. “It just happened that Bowling Green tested it,” Campbell said. “The person running that plant stood between the people and disaster.” At that point, no standard orders were in place in Ohio to test for the microcystins. “A lot of people were paying absolutely no attention to this,” Campbell said. But Bowling Green officials, with their static reservoir water drawn from the Maumee River, tested and treated the water. “It was their own initiative.” Campbell said there are 146 Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations in the region, which each having either cows numbering 1,000 or more, and pigs numbering 2,500 or more. “There is more shit than the land to put it on,” he said. “The land can’t hold this all.” The result is phosphorous rates in the Maumee River and Lake Erie that have been “off of the charts,” Campbell said. When asked by an audience member about the safety of Bowling Green water, Campbell replied, “I think you’re probably safer there than most places.” The key has been the city’s investment in its water treatment plant. “Bowling Green has been very astute,” he said, listing off the reverse osmosis system at the plant as significant. “Bowling Green wisely invested in this fantastic water plant.” So last week, Campbell met with Bowling Green Mayor Dick Edwards and city utility department officials for two reasons. He wanted to praise them for their water efforts, and he wanted to ask them to join an effort to clean up the water before it reaches their treatment plant. When phosphorous from fertilizer and manure runs off farm fields, Bowling Green has been doing the right thing. “For a long time, they’ve been paying for other people’s pollution.” But all communities aren’t that fortunate, and Campbell said he worries about small towns with reservoirs that aren’t doing necessary testing and treatment. “How many other village or towns have this,” type of system in place, he asked. So while Campbell praised Bowling Green’s efforts, he also asked officials to request that the Maumee River and Lake Erie be declared “legally impaired.” According to Campbell, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency has found several tributaries into the Maumee River to be legally impaired because of bacteria, nitrate, ammonia and other contaminants. That means the waterways are out of conformity with federal guidelines and must be remediated to protect the drinking water…

BG church plants seeds for new ‘giving garden’

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   There is something magical about digging in the dirt, planting a seed, watching it grow, then savoring the result of all the work. The magic goes a step further when the harvest is given away to those in need. For that reason, First Presbyterian Church is starting its own “giving garden.” It will be the third community garden at Bowling Green churches, with the other two already in place at Peace Lutheran and First United Methodist. Though some community garden models operate with families given plats to grow their own vegetables, the First Presbyterian site will be a giving garden, according to Lyn Long, a church member who planted the seed for the new effort. The community and church members will be invited to plan, plant, water, weed, harvest, and feast on the produce. “I just thought, there’s a huge lot over there and we only use it once or twice a year,” Long said. “It just didn’t seem like good stewardship.” Long is being assisted by Megan Sutherland, executive director of the Common Good organization which has worked with the other two church community gardens for years. “I think gardening teaches you a lot of lessons, some are short term and some are long term,” Sutherland said. “There’s something special about working with people in the sunshine, in the dirt. Even picking weeds. It becomes really meditative.” Gardening teaches all ages about community building, healthy eating and delayed gratification, Sutherland said. Long is also hoping to find some expertise and hands-on help from area master gardeners and FFA students. A meeting will be held Tuesday at 7 p.m. for anyone interested in the Presby Community Garden, at First Presbyterian Church, 126 S. Church St. The meeting will be held upstairs in the church’s Green Lounge. Sutherland reminded that a giving garden is a time consuming project. “People like the idea of a garden, but they don’t realize it’s like a child,” she said. “It’s after it comes up – and the weeds do, too,” Long said. Long said she is far from an expert gardener. “I grew up in tiny little village, with a big garden,” she said. But she knows that a community working together in a garden can result in far more than harvest at the end of the season. “One person can make a really big difference,” Sutherland agreed. The other church gardens produce such bounty as tomatoes, corn, potatoes, peppers, eggplants, green beans, peas, lettuce, kale, radishes, brussel sprouts, broccoli, herbs and flowers. People in the community can come work as they please, and take what they need, she said. “Usually if people receive, they want to give back,” Sutherland said. Anyone wanting to know more about the Presbyterian community garden may contact Long at 419-352-8019 or pmclong33@gmail.com.  

Park levy need not questioned, but more millage may pose problems

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   BG officials did not question the need for a new parks and recreation levy Monday evening. They did, however, question the chances of the millage increase passing on the November ballot. City council’s finance committee listened to BG Parks and Recreation Director Kristin Otley as she made the pitch for a 2-mill property tax levy lasting five years. Since the proposed levy is an increased amount from the current 1.4-mill levy, the council committee felt the need to scrutinize the request. Otley explained that the parks and rec program has not seen a levy increase in 16 years. In the meantime, the program has grown in acreage, facilities and programming. “We’ve added so much in 16 years,” Otley said. “The things we added were all things the community was asking for and wanted to see.” Also during that 16-year period, several maintenance projects were deferred. “A lot of things have been put off,” Otley said. For example, the Veterans Building in City Park is in great need of repairs. The parking lot at Simpson Garden Park has serious pothole problems. The park land has grown to 333 acres, including the new Ridge Park. And the 10-year-old community center is in need of maintenance. The three members of the finance committee, Robert McOmber, Michael Aspacher and Theresa Charters Gavarone, did not dispute the need for the additional millage. But they expressed concern that if voters don’t support the levy, that the department will be left with no levy revenue since the current levy has expired. “It’s the first time we’ve gotten ourselves in a position where we only have one shot,” at the levy, McOmber said. “People don’t have to vote yes just because you need it.” McOmber suggested that perhaps other options should be considered rather than the 2-mill levy, such as a lesser 1.8-mill levy, or two levies that add up to 2 mills. In that case, if voters feel they can’t afford the entire 2 mills, they may at least continue supporting the original 1.4-mill amount. “I don’t think that’s a slam dunk,” McOmber said of the levy’s chances. He also expressed concern about the levy sharing the ballot with the presidential race. “There are angry voters out there.” But Nadine Edwards, a member of the park levy committee, said the city can market the parks as something positive to vote for at the polls. Jodi Anderson, also of the committee and formerly of the park board, said the board intentionally avoided a millage increase during tougher economic years. Now is the time to ask for enough millage to keep maintaining the programs that citizens have come to value, she said. Anderson said a quality campaign can convince voters to support the parks. “You can trust that your money is going to a good investment.” Bob Callecod, recalled the 1990 park levy campaign when similar concerns were expressed. “I’m just confident the citizens will continue to support a quality park and rec department,” Callecod said. Park board member Jeff Crawford told the committee the board had already vetted the millage amount, and felt it was the most reasonable request. Otley pointed out that the parks and recreation department is operating with a deficit. “That physically pains me – every fiber…

Large item trash pickup this week

A large item pick-up, to collect items which are too heavy or of such composition or configuration that they cannot be placed in the regular weekly  refuse collection containers, will be held this week. All items should be placed curbside on Monday to ensure pick-up.  There will only be one pick-up for each location and, once the crews leave a street, they will not return. NOTE: Pickup is by WARD and NOT by your normal refuse collection day. City Crews will collect the Large Items throughout the City independent of the normal refuse collection schedule. As with the City’s residential refuse collection program, this special collection is only for one and two family dwellings on public streets, per city ordinance. Mattresses/box springs will be collected for an additional fee. The fee is $25 for the first mattress or box spring and $15 per mattress or box spring thereafter up to a total of 3. The fee must be paid prior to collection at 304 N Church St- Public Works. Phone: 419-354-6227. Note that refrigerators, freezers, air conditioners, and dehumidifiers are not eligible for collection.  By law, the city is not authorized to pick up building materials, construction or demolition refuse, sod, and rocks.  For a fee, property owners may dispose of these items at the Wood County Landfill on State Route 6. Additional information can be found at www.bgohio.org.

Trying to keep Lake Erie water from going green

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   After Lake Erie turned green with algal blooms in 2014, and local residents were cautioned not to consume tap water from Toledo, officials rushed to make changes to keep this crisis from happening again. But too little has been accomplished, and the threat still looms over the lake as summer approaches again, according to a Waterkeepers conference held Friday at W.W. Knight Preserve near Perrysburg. Speakers blamed a good portion of the problem on the amount of manure being created, and the amount of fertilizer being spread on fields. “We are producing more shit than we have land to put it on,” speaker Dr. Earl Campbell, of Perrysburg, said during a break in the program. “We’re not understanding the source and the amounts,” of the phosphorous from manure and fertilizers running into the lake, said Sandy Bihn, executive director of the Waterkeepers organization. “We’re not following the Clean Water Act.” Two speakers from the agricultural community praised farmers for trying to reduce runoff, but also pointed fingers at them for not doing enough. Estimates vary, but agricultural runoff is blamed for 50 to 80 percent of the nutrients creating harmful algae in Lake Erie. The problem has worsened as small farms have been replaced by large farms with more concentrated livestock operations, according to Ron Wyss, a Hardin County farmer. The building of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, sometimes referred to as mega-farms, has led to over application of manure on fields nearest the CAFOs. Recent studies have shown that less phosphorous from fertilizers produces comparable or better yields, yet some farmers continue to apply more than necessary to their fields, Wyss said. “This is America, and the more, the better,” he said. “The bottom line is, 20 parts per million is all you need to grow your crop,” Wyss said, though many farmers double that amount. “Forty parts per million is way over what we need to grow most crops.” Regulations actually allow much, much more, up to 150 parts per million. Wyss compared the soil to a sponge. When it gets saturated with water, the phosphorous seeps out and heads toward the lake. “We’ve been filling that sponge for a long time,” he said. Wyss estimated that $4 million of phosphorous is lost down the Maumee River a year. The problem is worsened by the frequent heavy rains, attributed to climate change, he added. Those downpours cause nutrient runoffs from fields and wastewater plant overflows, which fuel the harmful algae. He estimated 10 percent of the rainfalls create 65 percent of the discharge. State legislation is now in place limiting the amount and the timing when fertilizers and manure can be placed on fields, according to Laura Johnson, of Heidelberg University. Application is no longer allowed on frozen fields. “Ohio is working on a plan to meet the reduction targets,” Johnson said. Bill Myers, of the Lucas County Farm Bureau, said two positive steps have been taken, with federal funds helping farmers plant cover crops, and the restrictions on fertilizing frozen ground. “I don’t know why it took legislation to make that happen,” Myers said. More farmers are also injecting the fertilizer into the soil, which reduces runoff, he said. However, Wyss said the rules are interpreted loosely. “There are still…

Not just spinning their wheels – bicyclists to meet with city engineer

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Squeaky wheels don’t always get the grease. But members of the Bowling Green Bicycle Safety Commission will soon have a chance to have their concerns heard as the city works on its Complete Streets plan. The commission learned Tuesday evening that it will have an opportunity to meet with City Engineer Jason Sisco on April 5 at 6 p.m. “They want to hear more from bicyclists,” explained Kristin Otley, city parks and recreation director and a member of the bike commission. The Complete Streets project is an initiative to make city streets more accessible and safe for bicyclists and pedestrians – not just motorists. When a Complete Streets meeting was held last week, there was a consensus that more input was needed from those in the community who pedal along city streets the most. The bicycle group is realistic. “We don’t imagine that we’re going to have bike lanes everywhere,” member Eileen Baker said. In some cases, just a shoulder along the roadway would be nice, she added. She noted the narrow width of Napoleon Road, which leaves no room for error. “I’m happy to ride in the shoulder,” Baker said. In other cases, it would be helpful to just have a berm area with a bicycle painted on it. Part of the Complete Street concept is to link bicyclists with “destinations” in the city, giving them useable routes to places like Bowling Green State University, all the city schools, park areas and downtown. Baker pointed out how difficult it is to access the downtown area on a bicycle. It is illegal to ride on the sidewalks, and very dangerous to ride in the street, she said. “You’ll either get doored or you’re going to get squashed,” she said. And riding in the parking lots behind the businesses can be risky as well. Members of the bicycle commission were asked to do some homework prior to their meeting with the city engineer. They were given copies of the bicycle route map printed by the city in 2014, and asked to check out those routes for their current functionality. The bicycle commission has nine members appointed by the mayor, including representatives from the police division, parks and recreation department, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green High School and Bowling Green Junior High School. At least two members should reside on the east side of Main Street and two on the west side.