Hard work comes naturally to BG teenager

BY JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   While other high school students are still snug in their beds on most summer mornings, Nick Breen has been out working in the woods for hours. “He’s full of energy and we put that energy to good use,” said Cinda Stutzman, natural resources specialist with the Bowling Green Parks and Recreation Department. “He’ll just show up some times and say, ‘I think the trails need trimmed.’” Breen, a junior at Bowling Green High School, has been volunteering with the parks since sixth grade. “Ever since his mom started dropping him off,” Stutzman said. Breen now pedals his bicycle to Wintergarden Park in the mornings to see what work needs to be done. “I wake up too early for my own good,” he said, adding that he does take time to have fun like other teens in the summer. “I do mope around, but I’ve got too much time. I’m here whenever I don’t have other things to do.” As Breen ages, the projects he takes on get bigger. A couple weeks ago, he was given the job of clearing the way for a flagstone walkway in front of the Rotary Nature Center. He dug out the path, and placed the pieces of stone, which had been salvaged from old sidewalks in the city. The project took him three days. Breen spends quite a bit of time ridding Wintergarden Park of invasive plant species. Earlier this month, he also dug 100 holes in the hard clay soil so milkweed could be planted. He even built a fence around the observation platform in the prairie area of Wintergarden Park. Breen has a soft spot for nature, planted by his parents, Dave Breen and Cindy Marso. “I’ve been hiking for a long time. My parents got me hiking since before I can remember.” The teen prefers working in the less developed city parks. “I’ve always like the more natural parks.” Breen hopes to turn that love for nature into a profession, possibly studying for a career in biology or conservation. “I’m not going to decide that yet,” he said. The teen may not enjoy every job he is given, but that doesn’t mean he refuses to do the work. “There are lots of things I hate doing,” especially if it involves walking through thorny areas, he said. “But I do them anyway. I do whatever needs to be done.”    

Pratt farm defies development, donated to park district

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   For nearly two centuries, the farm settled by William Pratt in Perrysburg Township has stayed in the family’s care. Descendants Doug and Mary Ellen Pratt could not bear to have their beloved farm split up and turned into housing developments, so on Tuesday they did something their community-minded ancestors might have appreciated. They gave their land to the people of Wood County for generations to come. “We express our gratitude to the park district,” Doug Pratt said as he and his wife handed their homestead over to the Wood County Park District. “Our only regret is we won’t be here to see it.” The Pratts asked that the park district dedicate about 40 acres for sports fields, then use the remaining 120 acres for trails, trees, a pond, cross country skiing and picnic areas. “What you did is very generous,” said Denny Parish, of the park district board. “I find it ironic that you would thank us.” “The citizens of Wood County thank you,” said Bob Dorn, of the park district board. The 160 acres of fields and farm homestead are split by Hull Prairie Road, just north of Roachton Road. The farmland is almost completely surrounded by housing developments, and will soon be neighbor to the newest Perrysburg school. “We don’t want it in housing,” Doug Pratt said of his farm. Neil Munger, director of the park district, assured the Pratts that the farm would be in good hands. “What a wonderful, wonderful thought on their part to preserve their property,” Munger said. “It will be a natural space for future generations.” Mary Ellen Pratt shared the story of the farm’s beginning nearly 200 years ago. William Pratt, of the New York Militia, was charged with delivering supplies to Fort Meigs during the War of 1812. Something about the region – with its heavy woods, swampy land, and Native Americans – convinced him to settle in the Perrysburg area. In 1819, William Pratt brought his family to the area. He died in 1824, but his family carried on. The oldest farm documentation the Pratts have found is a land patent sent from Washington, D.C., signed by John Quincy Adams. William Pratt served as the first treasurer of Wood County and as a common pleas judge. Fred Pratt (Doug’s father) served as a commissioner and township trustee. Doug Pratt has farmed the family’s acreage for decades, drove school bus for Perrysburg schools, and served 32 years as a volunteer firefighter. “We have a history of giving to the community,” Mary Ellen Pratt said. “We’re standing on the shoulders of a lot of people,” Doug Pratt said. The couple asked only that the park district be good stewards to their land. “Preserve it as open land and provide a place for recreation for years to come,” and preserve the family name, Mary Ellen Pratt asked. The 160-acre park area will be the second largest county park, next to the Bradner Preserve, and is estimated to be worth millions of dollars to the district. “This is a historic day for the Wood County Park District. This is a historic day for Wood County. This is a historic day for the citizens of Wood County,” Parish said. In addition to the acreage, the couple is…

BG ready for algae season in river water

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   It’s that time of year, when the recipe for algal blooms starts cooking in the Maumee River. Spring rains run nutrients from soil into waterways and the sun’s rays warm up the water to create algal blooms. “All those ingredients in the water that promote algae growth start to happen,” said Brian O’Connell, utilities director for the city of Bowling Green. Last week, an algal bloom in the Maumee River near Defiance’s water treatment plant prompted a “no contact” advisory. Defiance is located upriver from Bowling Green’s water intake which sits between Grand Rapids and Waterville. “Swimming and wading in the Maumee River is not recommended for children, pregnant or nursing women, those with certain medical conditions and pets,” a Defiance news release stated, according to the city’s newspaper. But Defiance officials said the drinking water supply was safe. The water is currently being drawn out of the city’s reservoir, not the river, they reported. And water from the reservoir had been tested, showing safe levels. Bowling Green’s drinking water is also safe despite algal blooms in the river, according O’Connell. Bowling Green draws its water from the Maumee River near its West River Road plant, and pumps it into a reservoir where it is treated for any algal blooms. That is just the first step, O’Connell explained earlier this week. “To top that off, there’s a small UV light system,” he said, and then chlorine treatment just in case anything slips past the processes. “Our finished water samples have always shown a ‘no-detect,’” level of algae, O’Connell said. Throughout the treatment process, the water is repeatedly tested. “We, like every other plant, are doing the required sampling on the raw water side,” he explained. Then the testing is conducted again on the treatment side. The city’s plant has not yet experienced a level of algal blooms that it can’t effectively treat, he said. “The harmful algae has never got through the system,” O’Connell said.    

NextGen enlists young voters to go to polls to fight climate change

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News With the primary season all but over and the Democrats and Republicans settled on their presumptive nominees, a national effort is under way to turn out young, environmentally aware voters in November. NextGen Climate has been reaching out to college-aged voters since early this year urging them to pledge to vote for candidates who will take action to address climate change. The effort started on campuses in Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Columbus and expanded to a dozen more campuses throughout the state, including Bowling Green State University. By fall the effort hopes to be on 60 campuses in Ohio. “Our goal is to help young voters turn their passion for climate action into votes for climate champions,” said Joanne Pickrell, state director. “We want to harness the energy brought out by the primary and harness it to this important issue. “ Ohio is one of seven states NextGen Climate is focusing on. The others are Pennsylvania, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, Illinois, and Colorado. The states were chosen, she said, because they are important to the presidential contest and because they have contested senatorial races. “The response on college campuses has been great,” Pickrell said. “We believe that young voters want to vote on important issues in their lives like climate changes. Young voters want to see action on climate change. … We think this a huge issue for a large voting bloc.” Millennials and Baby Boomers are the two largest voting blocks. A poll by USA Today/Rock the Vote found that the percentage of 18 to 34 year olds who say they are likely to vote has risen from 60 percent in January to 70 percent in March. Another poll taken late last year by ABC News/Washington Post found that 76 percent of 18 to 29 year olds thought climate change was a serious problem, with 63 percent of them saying it was a very serious problem, and 64 percent said the federal government should do something to address it. “We want candidates to really talk about the benefits of acting on climate changing,” Pickrell said. “That includes the economic benefits.” Now only will these actions help the environment but they will create “great jobs,” she said. “Candidates should be doing more to move forward toward real solutions on climate change,” she said. NextGen Climate backs President Obama’s Clean Power Plan announced late last year. (https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/08/03/fact-sheet-president-obama-announce-historic-carbon-pollution-standards). The project has not endorsed any candidates. At this point they will compare and contrast their policies on the issues. The goal is to register 40,000 young adults in Ohio. Beyond getting young voters to pledge to cast ballots, the cards will provide the information needed to create a database to stay engaged with them throughout the campaign and to get them to the polls when voting starts in the fall. That means as students head back to school in a couple months, they’re likely to encounter NextGen Climate canvassers. “We’ll be at orientation,” Pickrell said.  “We want to be one of the first organizations they see on campus.”  

Conservation district seeks nominees for annual awards

From THE WOOD SOIL & CONSERVATION DISTRICT The Wood Soil & Water Conservation District (SWCD) is accepting nominations for the Harold and Ida Lou Bordner Farm Beautification Award and the Backyard Conservationist Award. Sponsored in part by The Andersons, Inc. and in memory of Harold and Ida Lou Bordner, the Wood Soil and Water Conservation District recognizes Wood County rural landowners and famers for utilizing conservation practices and maintaining the appearance and structures of the original farmstead. As you drive through the countryside, take note of the home sites which catch your attention. Is there a rain barrel or composter? Is there a windbreak or prairie grasses? Are original buildings maintained? Submit your nominations to the Wood SWCD office (1616 E. Wooster St. Suite 32 Bowling Green, OH 43402 or julielause@woodswcd.com) no later than July 18. The winning home sites will be awarded at the Wood SWCD Annual Meeting & Awards Banquet held on September 10, 2016 at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) Northwest Agricultural Research Station, 4240 Range Line Road Custar, OH 43511.

Overgrown courtyard becomes oasis in middle of BGHS

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The courtyard at Bowling Green High School is being transformed into a peaceful oasis in the middle of the classrooms and chaotic lives of students. There in the courtyard is the soothing sound of a waterfall, where koi fish glide back and forth, beautiful flowers and smooth stonework. But it hasn’t always been this way. A couple years ago, biology teacher Josh Iler looked at the courtyard and realized it could be so much more. “The bushes were overgrown, covering the windows,” Iler said. One bush was blocking the door into the courtyard, making it difficult for students and staff to use the area. “They would not come out here,” Iler said of the students. But on Thursday, the courtyard was full of students sitting at the patio tables, taking a breather before their last couple classes of the year. “Now you’ve got to get out here early to get a seat,” Iler said. A couple years ago, Iler decided to use the courtyard as a classroom tool, and turn it into the oasis at the same time. He asked North Branch Nursery to come up with a landscape design for the space. “Get me started and I’ll let the kids figure out the rest,” he said. From there it grew … and grew. The work started on the edges of the courtyard, with the old overgrown bushes being pulled out and replaced with neatly sculpted flower beds. Then recently, the work moved into the center, where the school’s victory bell used to sit before it was moved out to the football field. “There was nothing but a cement slab,” in the center, Iler said. So on a recent Saturday, Iler and his students were joined by Superintendent Francis Scruci to create a koi pond with waterfall. “It got bigger and bigger,” he said, with the help of Select Stone, North Branch Nursery, Midwood and D&D Landscaping. One of those students helping with the project is Jordan Arrington. Though he graduated on Sunday, Arrington came back to school Thursday to talk about the courtyard project. “I took a lot of pride in this,” Arrington said. “He’s the guy who wouldn’t let it stop,” Iler said of Arrington. Arrington will be attending Bowling Green State University this fall, and is considering architectural landscaping as a possible major – not a path he even considered until working with Iler on the courtyard project. The skills he learned have also earned him a job at home this summer. “I have to redo our yard,” Arrington said, smiling. Even those students who didn’t have a role in the courtyard seem to have a new appreciation and respect for the site. The area is no longer being used as a place for kids to discard litter, Iler said. Iler learned during the project that the courtyard had at one time been a memorial site for four high school students killed in a car accident in 1991, as well as to two other students in the Class of 1993 who died. That knowledge put a little extra pressure on Iler and his students to create a site worthy of their memories. “You’re impacting families,” he said, talking about the car crash that forever changed families and affected the…

Undergrads win awards for research & scholarship

From BGSU OFFICE OF MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS There were smiles and pride all around at the awards ceremony May 18 for the winners of this year’s Undergraduate Symposium for Research and Scholarship. The winners were chosen from among the 80 students who gave poster presentations and another 24 who gave oral presentations at the April 23 event. Also honored was Dr. Andrew Gregory of the School of Earth, Environment and Society, who received the Undergraduate Faculty Mentor of the Year Award. Gregory, a spatial geneticist, has involved students in his research into reproduction among sage grouse and prairie chickens as well as ecology and sustainability issues in Kenya. Students and their faculty mentors and parents gathered for the presentation of original glass pieces created by BGSU School of Art faculty member Joel O’Dorisio. President Mary Ellen Mazey congratulated the winners on their work, telling them they would remember it their entire lives, as she has her own experience. Winners in the poster presentation division were: Andrew Witte, a geology major and student of Dr. Margaret Yacobucci, geology, for his quantitative analysis of the shape and size of trilobite fossils in the Great Lakes region to understand geographic distribution of genetic populations across the Appalachian and Michigan basins Lydia Dempsey, a music composition major and student of Distinguished Artist Professor Marilyn Shrude, for her contemporary music composition “The Wishing Well: A Children’s Ballet,” which was staged in April in a collaboration with BGSU student choreographer Sophia Schmitz and conductor Robert Ragoonanan Gregory Grecco, a neuroscience major, for his study of life-threatening hyperthermia as a side effect of illicit designer phenethylamines, drugs commonly known as bath salts. Working with Dr. Jon Sprague, director of the Ohio Attorney General’s Center for the Future of Forensic Science at BGSU, Grecco compared the hyperthermic effects of six permutations to the more well-known MDMA. Anthony Colosimo, a physics major and student of Dr. Farida Selim, for his research into scintillation mechanisms in wide and direct band gap oxides Oral presentation winners were: Elizabeth Herring, a student of psychology faculty member Dr. Anne Gordon, for her work “Role of Humor Production and Humor Receptivity in Relationship Satisfaction” David Westmeyer, a student of Dr. Heath Diehl, Honors College, for his presentation on the Bachelor of Liberal Studies Degree Option for Pre-Dental Undergraduate Students Dr. Cordula Mora, director of the Center for Undergraduate Research and Scholarship (CURS), hosted the awards event. The symposium was hosted by CURS and the Northwest Ohio Center of Excellence in STEM Education (NWO).

Advice offered to farmers interested in harvesting the sun

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News When it comes to deciding whether to install solar panels on the farm, it’s more complicated that just letting the sun shine in. Eric Romich, a field specialist in energy development for the Ohio State University Extension Service, had to go deep in the weeds to answer the simple question: What’s the payback? He addressed that question Thursday at the Northwest Ohio Ag-Business Breakfast Forum. It all depends, he said. It depends on energy needs and regulations, and, yes, politics. Depends certainly on what the solar installer says. It also depends on what the utility representative says, and what the farmer’s accountant and, maybe, the attorney, have to say. “This works,” Romich said. “I’ve known a lot of farmers that have installed (solar panels) and they’re happy with them.” Those who were happy, he said, were those who viewed them as long-term investment, 30 years or so. Those who expected a quick financial return on the investment were not satisfied. In 2008, more than 11,000 farms had solar installations. Just four years later that was up to 34,000. Still despite the increase in solar production, Romich said, “it’s still a drop in the bucket” when it comes to total electricity production. Farmers considering adding solar have a lot to consider. Every farm and installation is unique, Romich said. While farmers should consider multiple proposals, evaluating those can be difficult. The cost should be considered independent of federal incentives, including grants and low-interest loans. Only a third of applications secure that kind of funding. And the grant can be considered taxable income. They need to make sure that the estimate includes cost of operating, maintenance and insurance. True, solar collectors are relatively simple and typically have warranties, but anything that’s around for 20 years is probably going to need maintenance. These projects can generate solar energy credits that in turn can be sold through brokers to utilities that need to meet state threshold of renewable energy. But the price of the credits “has really taken a dive.” For one thing, more solar power is being produced. Just like with corn, greater supply leads to lower prices. Also, in 2008, Ohio enacted the 25 by ’25 standard that called for 25 percent of the state’s energy to be produced by alternative or advanced sources by 2025. Then in 2014, those goals were frozen for three years. Once that freeze was put in place the rate for credits have decreased. Now new legislation introduced in the state senate would freeze them for another three years. “Policy is fluid,” Romich said. “Policy impacts payback.” No installation should be made with the assumption that policy will be the same even in five years. “To get full value” from the energy produced, Romich said, “you need to use it.” Then the farmer has to buy less from the utility. The question also arises about where to put the solar array. Often farmers look at existing buildings and want to place a solar panels there. That may not be the right place, since the angle toward the sun at various seasons changes how much electricity is generated, Romich said. Ground-based systems, sited for maximum exposure, tend to produce more electricity. Systems that track the sun are available, he said, but he’s…

BG citizens gush over their parks, but push for more on ‘park poor’ side of city

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green residents love their parks – so much, they had no trouble rattling off three pages of positive comments gushing about the gardens, trails, playgrounds, pool and more. But when the time came to identify weaknesses, they listed off plenty of problems, or opportunities for improvement, depending on the point of view. Citizens were asked Wednesday evening to list strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to the Bowling Green Parks and Recreation Department during the fifth and final focus group. The ideas presented will be considered during the formation of the parks department’s five-year plan. The most glaring weakness seemed to be the “park poor” east side of the city. Children from a large chunk of the southeast corner of the city have to cross major streets or the railroad tracks to get to a park some distance away. Resident Tom Kleine suggested that the city look into buying the former South Main School playground property. “Children could use that space,” he said. But instead, “children are left to the streets and the alleys.” The old schoolyard has playground equipment, a basketball court and a place to play kickball, all surrounded by fences. But neighborhood children have not been able to resist the chance to play. “Kids are jumping the fence,” to get into the playground, resident Jon Herald said. Another resident pointed out that while community support has been strong over the years, nearly all the funds raised have gone toward parks on the west side of town. Another “weakness” identified is the city’s rental of more than 60 acres to the county club for a golf course. Resident John Calderonello estimated the golf course is used by about 60 people, while the six acres of the neighboring City Park is used by thousands. “I think there’s a great opportunity for the city,” to expand the park and offer programs such as boating in the quarry and archery with the greater acreage. “I say that with some trepidation because I play golf there every Monday,” Calderonello added. Approximately 40 people attended the forum, and listed off these strengths of the parks: The staff at Wintergarden Park is great. “They are amazing, always very helpful,” Gaynelle Predmore said. “There’s opportunity for volunteers to get their hands dirty,” doing work like planting at Simpson Garden Park, Kleine said. Strong public financial support. A variety of woodsy, garden and sports parks. Public can participate in the budget and make suggestions. Website has thorough listing of programs. Lunch in the park program, brown bag concert luncheons, summer concerts and movies in the park. “The variety of programs offered to adults as well as children,” Nadine Edwards said. Memorial opportunities, with trees, benches or bricks. Maintenance is good. “They are well cared for,” Joan Callecod said. The fundraisers are actually fun. Plenty of opportunity for athletic events. Parks are beautiful, accessible, and provide a place to bring visitors. “A wonderful place to show off to people when they come into town,” Edwards said. Availability of space to rent for events. Improvements to the city pool. Reasonable prices for programs and community center use. Summer programming for kids, swimming lessons, Frisbee golf, playgrounds, ballfields, walking trails, community center and more. The group then went on to list…

Gardner and Brown talk about marijuana, wind energy and roundabouts

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County’s state legislators fielded questions about marijuana, roundabouts and windfarms Friday morning from local residents. State Sen. Randy Gardner and State Rep. Tim Brown, both R-Bowling Green, presented a legislative update to members of the Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce. The talk covered a wide range of topics on health, energy and transportation. Gardner reminded those present that he and Brown value direct contact from their constituents and make an effort to be “very accessible” to citizens. Brown said it’s good for the public to be aware of state legislative efforts. “The more sunshine we have on these deliberations the better it is for all of us,” he said. Following are some of the issues discussed. Windfarms Brown talked about a wind energy bill that currently calls for setback requirements that make wind farms “next to impossible.” Under the current language in the bill, the majority of the wind turbines at Ohio’s largest windfarm would not be allowed. “Their right to have them has been stripped away,” Brown said, adding that he is working to change that. Some businesses are reluctant to locate in Ohio because the state doesn’t do enough to promote clean energy, he added. “We have businesses who want to be in our state and say, ‘No,’” such as Amazon, Brown said. “They demand renewable energy.” Gardner said Ohio needs to look at making use of renewable and natural resource energy. “I think there’s an ‘all of the above’ policy,’” he said. Orange barrels Ohioans should not expect relief from road construction anytime soon, Brown said. “I hear more about this from people than anything else.” The state has increased the annual funding to fix Ohio roads and bridges from $150 million to $175 million during the next five years, then up to $200 million after that. “The orange barrels aren’t going to go away,” he said. The goal with projects, such as the Interstate 75 widening here in Wood County, is to grow the economy and attract businesses. The state is also looking at more roundabouts as a way to keep traffic moving and reduce serious accidents. “It takes me a lot of getting used to,” Gardner said about roundabouts, but added that statistics show they are much safer for motorists. Medical marijuana The bill allowing medical marijuana in Ohio passed the House this week and is now in the hands of the Senate. Brown explained the bill does not allow people to grow or smoke marijuana. However, it will allow people to use it if they have medical conditions that can be helped with marijuana. “There are true medical needs for marijuana,” he said, noting testimony from a parent whose child had as many as 300 seizures a day but now has about five a day. One person in the audience Friday said her daughter currently goes to Michigan to get medical marijuana to treat her ovarian cancer. Brown said that is presently illegal, but this bill would change that. Gardner said the Senate would likely vote on the bill in the next week or two. Marijuana supporters believe the bill is too restrictive, and are working on putting an issue on the November ballot which would legalize medical marijuana in the state’s Constitution. “To put…

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 sale are still being set. This is the second year of the sale. Last year, Hennessy said, it raised close to $3,000. That money is used to fund sustainability efforts on campus. “I will say our prices were very, very reasonable,” he said. “I let my students decide what was right.” While the money benefits people and initiatives, he said, “it’s not intended to be a huge profit making venture.” Some school supplies are just given away. The overriding mission…

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 end of the season, St. John would take his acorn stuffed, “piggies”, off to market and the next year the cycle began all over. Historically, that’s how St. John’s Woods was managed… indirectly… by hogs. The hogs didn’t limit themselves to the acorn and chestnut crop, however. They ate pretty much everything they could find that was palatable. This means that any wildflower that poked up out of the ground in the spring was immediately consumed. Today, there really aren’t…

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 up to organize it. It could be done by a group, she said. She like the riders to sit down with Bowling Green Bicycle Safety Commission to hash out ideas. Busselle said he hopes the rides bring attention to the city’s need for bicycle lanes and streets that are safe for bicycles, cars and pedestrians. “The goal is bike lanes.” More also needs to be done to improve bicycle safety in the area around the high school and middle school,…

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 smaller split up acreage for the project since the large scale of the project helped drive down the costs of the solar field, he said. Council instructed O’Connell to try to address other concerns with Riker. Under the solar proposal approved Monday evening, American Municipal Power Inc. will play a different role in the project than initially planned. Originally, AMP planned to own and operate the solar sites in multiple communities. However, AMP was not eligible for federal investment tax…

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.