parks

Help sought solving time capsule mystery in City Park

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green is being asked to help solve the puzzle of a mystery time capsule buried in City Park. The time capsule, covered in concrete with a rock on top, has been there long enough to have been forgotten. It has gone basically unnoticed for years – except by the person mowing around it. But earlier this week when city park staff and the architects for the new City Park building walked around the site for the new structure, they happened upon the mystery memorial. “Somebody told me at some point that it was a time capsule,” Natural Resources Coordinator for BG Parks Chris Gajewicz said. The engraving in the concrete has a date, though the year is particularly difficult to read. The date appears to be Oct. 2, but the year could be 1958 or 1969 – or anything in between. “It’s so worn, it’s really hard to tell,” Gajewicz said. “It’s one of those institutionalized knowledge things that’s gone,” Gajewicz said. The mystery time capsule would be allowed to rest there undisturbed, except that it is sitting in the footprint of the new City Park building being constructed next year. Kristin Otley, director of the Bowling Green City Parks and Recreation Department, is confident the city will be able to solve the mystery. She suspects the time capsule is referenced somewhere in old park board minutes. “There may be records. We just haven’t dug them up – pun intended,” Otley said. The new building in City Park will take the place of the existing Veterans Building, Girl Scout Building, and the Depot. It has necessitated the moving or replacing of some memorial trees. But so far, the time capsule under the rock is the only unknown in the construction footprint. “It’s the only mystery,” Otley said. Seeing that Oct. 2 is the anniversary of the time capsule burial – though the year is unknown – Otley said that date might be a good time to unearth the capsule and see what’s inside. Gajewicz has posted a photo of the time capsule site on Facebook in hopes of jogging some memories of longtime townies. So far, the responses have been more humorous than helpful. “That’s just before I was born. Maybe it was to commemorate me,”…

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BG celebrates community’s ‘Best Hometown’ status

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   It was a year ago that Bowling Green was named one of Ohio’s Best Hometowns by Ohio Magazine. Next week, the Bowling Green Convention and Visitors Bureau will remind local residents why their community won that honor. A “Best of BG” event is planned for July 19, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., in the Simpson Garden Park Building, and the surrounding gardens. It’s fitting that the event be held at the park, since the gardens were one of the factors that won Bowling Green its “Best Hometown” status. The event will feature at least 35 businesses in the hospitality, restaurant, retail and lodging sectors, plus non-profit organizations. “We’re pretty excited about it,” said Wendy Chambers, executive director of the Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We’re having the opportunity to celebrate again our hometown honor.” Next week is a busy one for local officials. The city and university are hosting the Ohio Town & Gown Summit, with an estimated 150 attending. The Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce is hosting its annual luncheon on Friday, followed by the second Firefly Nights downtown in the evening. “It’s a big week,” Chambers said. “Our town’s always got something going on.” That buzz of activity helped the city secure its “Best Hometown” status. As editor of Ohio Magazine, Jim Vickers is accustomed to visiting communities throughout the state. But during his stop in Bowling Green, Vickers was struck by three features of the city – the energy from the university even though most students were gone for the summer, the healthy historic downtown, and the beautiful Simpson Garden Park. The 12th annual Ohio’s Best Hometowns issue of the magazine recognizes four communities in addition to Bowling Green: Marietta, Milford, Mount Vernon and Wooster. Bowling Green beat out other communities because of its vibrant college town atmosphere, strong sense of community and shared vision for the future. “I was in Bowling Green for the site visit,” Vickers said, so he had first-hand knowledge of why the city ranked so high. “Every year we look for towns that exemplify a strong community.” They checked out the campus. “It’s a vibrant college town, even in the summertime,” he said last year shortly after the awards were announced. “There’s an energy there.” They went downtown. “The health…


Wood County residents urged to get up and get active

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County residents are being politely prodded to get up off their sedentary seats. The Wood County Health Department has launched a campaign encouraging local residents to get more exercise using free community parks and trails. Health surveys have shown that too many people are overweight, and too few are getting the recommended 2.5 hours of moderate exercise each week. Only 28 percent of Wood County adults surveyed last year said they exercise five days or more per week. Ten percent said they did not have any physical activity in the past week. Inactivity and obesity are tied to many areas of a person’s health and can lead to a variety of serious diseases. And last year’s physical activity and nutrition survey showed that Wood County residents need to do better at both. “It was enough to give us some ideas of where we should prioritize,” said Alex Aspacher, community outreach coordinator for the Wood County Health Department. “It’s pretty much common knowledge that lack of physical activity and obesity are big problems across the country,” Aspacher added. The survey conducted last year showed that not only were many people not getting enough exercise, but many also weren’t aware of local exercise options available to them. So health department officials decided to start a motivational campaign, encouraging local residents to use the exercise options already available throughout the county. “We have great parks. We want to promote what we already have,” Aspacher said. In addition to the county parks, nearly every community in Wood County also has its own park. “You can go to the park in Grand Rapids and see something completely different than you would see in the park in Bradner.” A new website, WoodCountyHealth.org/activity, lists parks and trails in different communities, as well as events such as 5Ks and fun runs, and links to recreation programs, fitness groups, SilverSneakers sites for seniors, and several links to cycling resources. “There is one place to go for the information,” Aspacher said of the website. “This might inspire someone to go to a park.” Having a goal in mind can create the motivation people need to stick with an exercise routine, but many people have a tough time getting started. Wood County Health Department will post encouraging…


Wood County ‘park rangers’ changed to ‘park police’

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The shouted command, “Stop, park ranger,” just doesn’t carry the same authority as “Stop, police.” For that reason and others, the Wood County Park District’s rangers asked the park board Tuesday to change their title from rangers to police officers. The park board voted unanimously to do so. In the past, the county park rangers had law enforcement and maintenance roles. That has changed, and the rangers now perform strictly law enforcement duties. The park rangers are certified Ohio Peace Officers, and the name change would clarify their authority. “In making this change, we are hoping to clarify exactly what we do as certified peace officers working in the park district, and to help our employees, visitors and neighbors feel more secure while being in or near our properties,” the rangers’ proposal stated. “As rangers, we constantly encounter people who have no idea what a park ranger is or that we are law enforcement officers,” the proposal continued. “We have had people question our need for carrying a gun, if we have the same authority as law enforcement, and challenge us when we try to enforce park rules and laws.” The rangers also said when working with multiple agencies and dispatchers, it takes time to explain their authority. When rangers formally make a criminal charge in court, they sometimes have to remind court employees that they are certified peace officers. “We believe that because of the public’s inability to distinguish exactly what we are or what we do, eventually an incident may escalate the need for force and thus escalate the liability of the park district,” their proposal stated. Wood County Park District Director Neil Munger said Delaware County’s park system has changed the title of its rangers to police. “It clears up any vagueness to what their responsibility is,” Munger said. Ranger Mark Reef agreed. “This is so the public can identify that we have law enforcement authority.” Toledo Metroparks still refers to its officers as rangers, according to Scott Carpenter, head of public relations for the metroparks. “We like them being called rangers,” Carpenter said, adding that the officers do more than protect people, by also looking out for nature. Carpenter also noted that all national parks are patrolled by park rangers, not park police….


Hold the mower, Simpson Garden Park tries natural look

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   No, the city lawn mowers are working just fine. No, the recent rains haven’t created an abnormal growth spurt in these grasses. The city parks and recreation staff is fielding questions about the new tall grasses being tried out in Simpson Garden Park. To those with perfectly manicured lawns, the new experiment at Simpson Garden Park may be jarring and offend their sense of order. But to the park staff, the new tall grasses are an experiment that could lessen the human impact on the environment. Chris Gajewicz, the city’s natural resources coordinator, talked about the new grass Tuesday evening during the monthly meeting of the city parks and recreation board. The new grass getting the attention is a fescue called Scottish Links, growing near the amphitheater in the park. It is drought resistant, so it does not need to be irrigated, and does not need fertilized. Once established, the fescue out-competes weeds like dandelions and thistle, so there is little to no need for chemical herbicides and pesticides to manage weeds, Gajewicz said. The Scottish Links is a low-mow grass variety, so the staff may mow it as little as once a year – which will use less fossil fuels and produce less carbon emissions. A sign will be posted by the fescue to explain its purpose. Gajewicz realizes the tall grass may look unkept – particularly to people with perfect lawns. But this is an “experiment in sustainability” that can help reduce the city’s environmental footprint, he said. Besides, some people appreciate a more natural look. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” he said. “Gardens are always in a state of change,” Gajewicz explained. Since Simpson Garden Park was first created 13 years ago, it has undergone a lot of changes. The healing garden is now designed to nourish visitors’ minds, bodies and souls – instead of just displaying medicinal plants. New bridges and concrete paths have been installed to make the site accessible to people with physical disabilities. And now the park staff wants to make the park more sustainable and responsible, he said. The efforts were praised by Mayor Dick Edwards and City Council member Sandy Rowland. “I so agree with what you’re doing,” Rowland said to Gajewicz. “I like your…


Hostas grow on Hollenbaugh – now up to 925 varieties

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Phil Hollenbaugh can’t walk past a weed without plucking it out of his hosta patch in Simpson Garden Park. His eyes are constantly searching for how to keep the hostas happy. Hollenbaugh didn’t start out being partial to hostas. As a newly-certified master gardener, he was looking for some volunteer hours. He started out weeding the daylilies at Simpson Garden Park, then switched directions. “I took the hosta section because it’s in the shade and close to the parking lot,” Hollenbaugh said with a grin. But then something happened. He fell in love with hostas. That was in 2012, when the Hosta Glen in Simpson Garden Park had about 34 different varieties. Six years and about 2,000 volunteer hours later, the hosta section has 925 different varieties. That puts the Hosta Glen in the top two hosta gardens in the U.S. for most varieties, Hollenbaugh said proudly. And it earned the garden the American Hosta Society Award in 2014, designating it as an “American Hosta Display Garden.” Hollenbaugh credits hosta expert Charlie Harper for cultivating his knowledge and garden. “I saw his garden and fell in love with hostas,” said Hollenbaugh, a retired ironworker. There are nearly 12,000 different varieties of hostas. Their names are as colorful and diverse and the plants. For example, in the BG Hosta Glen, there are varieties named Cracker Crumbs Hosta, Holy Mouse Ears Hosta, Strawberry Yogurt Hosta, Munchkin Fire Hosta, Surfer Girl Hosta, Tick Tock Hosta, Guilt by Association Hosta, Charlotte’s Web Hosta, Alice in Wonderland Hosta, Dancing Queen Hosta, Gumdrop Hosta, Sergeant Pepper Hosta, Curly Fries Hosta, Teeny Weeny Bikini Hosta and Guacamole Hosta. Each variety of hostas in the garden has a name tag. One that gets a lot of attention is the Get Nekkid Hosta. “When the kids see that, they crack up,” Hollenbaugh said. It’s the combination of a great name and a great look that makes a great hosta, he said. Hollenbaugh does have some favorite varieties, he said as he strolled through the garden. “I’m partial to yellow and variegated,” he said. One of his all-time favorites is named Drawn Butter Hosta. The hostas vary from mini to giant sizes. The largest can grow to five feet tall, and seven feet wide. The garden’s national…


Park district agrees to turn farmland into wetlands

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The Wood County Park District will be allowing tiled farmland to revert back to wetlands – with the help of a $301,000 grant. The park district board voted last week to work with the Black Swamp Conservancy, which received the grant, to turn 10 acres of the Carter Historic Farm property into a wetlands area. The decision came despite protests by Tom Carpenter, who farms the land which Sally Loomis donated to the park district. “There was a significant amount of labor in clearing that land,” Carpenter said. But with the grant funding needing to be accepted by July 1, the park board voted to go ahead with the first phase of the wetlands project. “I know that’s not the outcome you wanted,” park board president Denny Parish said to Carpenter after the vote. “But I respect you coming.” Carpenter attended many of the park board meetings where the wetlands project was discussed. “I’m just trying to preserve the farmland that’s already there,” he said. Carpenter pointed out that the acreage being turned into wetlands will have a “very, very minimal” impact on Lake Erie, since an estimated 6 million acres drain into the lake. But the idea of turning down grant funding just didn’t sit well with the park board. “I’m sympathetic to what your position is,” Parish said to Carpenter. “But that money is going to be spent,” Parish said. “It’s either going to be spent in Wood County or it’s going to be spent somewhere else.” With the $301,000, the Black Swamp Conservancy plans to make the 10-acre field into a large “bowl” with small pools to hold water longer. Trees and shrubs will be planted, explained Melanie Coulter and Rob Crain, executive director of the conservancy. Berms along the edges of the wetlands will allow for trails that can be used for educational purposes. Crain said work will likely begin on the acreage as soon as the crops are taken off later this year. The wetlands plan will slow down water into the ditch, which leads to the Touissaint Creek, and then to the Maumee River basin. Instead of field water running straight into the ditch from tiles, it will be filtered, Coulter explained. The original plan called for two 10-acre portions to…