parks

Wall of ice closes Buttonwood Park through walleye season

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News After viewing photographs of a massive ice wall towering over park staff, the Wood County Park District Board voted unanimously Tuesday to keep Buttonwood Park closed until further notice. The park, located along the Maumee River in Perrysburg Township, is a popular fishing spot during the annual walleye run every spring. But it looks like anglers will have to find other places to cast their lines this year. “There’s a lot of ice there and it’s going to take a long time to melt,” Wood County Park District Director Neil Munger told the board as he showed them photos of the ice bank covering much of the park. The ice came on shore last month when high winds and frigid conditions pushed massive ice floes into the park along the Maumee River. Township road crews have cleared a lane into the park – just wide enough for a pickup truck to squeeze through, Munger said. Many of the trees in the park have had their bark rubbed off by the ice chunks. “A lot of trees are scarred,” Munger said. “There’s no doubt we’re going to be losing some trees this year.” Some whole trees were swept away by the ice and are now part of the ice wall left behind. “It’s just kind of an eerie feeling out there,” he said. Park staff walks along shore, with ice bank towering over them. Munger estimated it would be May or June before the ice bank melts. The rain that has fallen recently has just frozen into the ice wall. The ice masses also took out the parking area at Buttonwood Park. “We pretty much lost the parking lot. The gravel was washed out,” he said. And the ice chunks bent the steel sign for the park. “The ice just really ripped it apart,” he said. “There’s a lot of work to be done.” And it can’t be finished in time for walleye season this spring, Munger said. “We’ve closed the park for the time being,” he said. After seeing photos of the damage and the lingering ice masses, the board made it official that no one should use the park until the board…

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Wintergarden in winter light

One of the joys of favorite parks is experiencing them throughout the year. The foliage buds, then blooms, then fades, and dries. The light changes throughout the day and the year. Here’s scenes from Wintergarden/St. John’s Preserve during a recent Christmas Week walk in the afternoon.  Those looking to do more walking in the new year need not look any further than the parks in our own backyard. — David Dupont


BG seeks bids to demolish old buildings, build new one in City Park

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News It took a mere 11 minutes Thursday for Bowling Green City Council to wrap up 2018 with its last meeting of the year. There were none of the customary comments from city administrators, no reports from council members, and no speeches from citizens. But along with the regular fund transfers and resolutions, council took one step that is sure to be noticed in the city next year. Council voted to advertise for bids and enter into a contract to demolish three buildings in City Park next year. Contracts will also be entered for the construction of a new City Park building, including landscaping, paving an entry drive and parking lot. The city has contracted with Schorr Architects for designing the new City Park building. Schorr specializes in historical-type structures. The original plan was to tear down the three buildings near the entrance of City Park – the Veterans Building, Girl Scout Building, and Depot – then start construction so the new building replacing the aging structures would be ready for use by summer of 2019. However, that timeline proved to be too tight and unrealistic. Instead, the old buildings will be torn down in the next few months. Construction of the new building will follow. The new goal is to have the City Park building completed by summer of 2020. That means the parks and recreation department won’t have City Park buildings to schedule events in next summer. But Kristin Otley, parks and recreation director, has reassured the park board that there are ample facilities in the city’s 11 parks to hold programming. The contract price with Schorr Architects is $317,500 – a bit lower than the expected cost of $320,000. Earlier this year, city approved the sale of $3.75 million in bonds to pay for tearing down the three old buildings and constructing the one new facility in City Park. The new building will have adequate space for programming, storage, air conditioning, ADA accessibility, ample parking and an attractive design that reflects the historic nature of City Park. At the close of Thursday’s meeting, City Council member Sandy Rowland commented on the successful year for the city. As a representative of the…


Wood County Park District awards employee pay raises

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News The Wood County Park District is trying to clean up the last of the mess left behind from the controversially large pay raises granted – then canceled – for employees in 2010. Last week, the park board voted on its 2019 budget, including standard cost of living raises plus step raises for all employees. However, some of the employees will be seeing larger raises in their paychecks. That’s because a consultant found that the pay rates for some positions needed updating, Park District President Denny Parish said. Those raises range from 10 percent to 23 percent. “There were flaws in that, we knew from the very start,” Parish said of the old pay system. “It’s been the subject of many discussions. Parish said the park district board’s two goals for 2018 were to pass the park levy and update the employee classifications as advised by Archer & Co. The levy passed easily in May, and now the pay grades are being revised. The original employee pay scale had 25 steps and 16 grades, put together by Parish. “The original chart was done by hand,” he said. The new chart is calculated based on hourly pay rates, rather than annual salary rates – which makes it much more exact, Parish said. Based on surveys and interviews, Archer & Co. determined that some employees were not be compensated for all of their responsibilities. The positions identified as not being paid enough included the operations specialists, administrative assistant, program naturalist, and the office manager/HR coordinator. “There’s no question that what happened years ago influenced this board,” Parish said. “We needed to convince the elected officials this was equitable and fair.” The board has been very cautious the last eight years after it was forced to reject the exorbitant pay raises that were met with an outpouring of criticism. That resulted in delayed pay raises and a new salary study conducted by the same consultant used by the county commissioners. Last week, the employees recommended for bigger boosts in their pay include the following: Office/HR manager, 10 percent raise from $61,505 to $67,620.Administrative assistant, 23 percent raise from $30,368 to $37,315.Program naturalist, 16 percent from $35,172 to…


Park district peddling mountain biking in 2019 budget

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The Wood County Park District may invest some money to attract kids of that awkward age to use their county parks. The park district already has programs that appeal to young children and adults. But the difficulty is getting older kids and young adults to view the parks as a place to spend time. So the draft budget for the Wood County Park District has a tentative $200,000 set aside for an off-road mountain biking training area and a trail off the Slippery Elm Trail. Earlier this fall, the park board voiced support for a proposal to create pump tracks in Rudolph and a mountain bike trail in the savanna area along the trail. Park naturalist Craig Spicer presented a proposal for both concepts. He explained the mountain biking park and trail would help the district attract teens and young adults. A survey conducted earlier this year showed only 6 percent of the county park users were college student age. All parks suffer from the same difficulty luring teens and young adults, Spicer said. “They are one of the most finicky audiences,” he said. According to Spicer, off-road and sport biking are growing in popularity. “This is a good opportunity to ride that wave,” he said. The creation of an off-road biking park in Rudolph, and a trail in the woods north of the community would also be an investment in a county park in the southern part of Wood County. Currently just five of the county’s 20 parks are south of U.S. 6. The proposed park would be located in the one-acre area already owned by the park district along the Slippery Elm Trail, just south of Mermill Road. The park board had already agreed to have unused farm silos removed from the property. A proposal created by Pump Trax USA shows a park with a “strider” track for little kids, a beginner track, an intermediate and advanced track, and a skills trail for mountain biking. The area would have parking for 30 cars, a bike fix-it station, and a covered shelter house. Maintenance of the park would be similar to the neighboring Slippery Elm Trail, since the bike park courses would…


BG City Council votes 6-1 to make parks smoke-free

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green’s city parks will be smoke-free starting in 2019. The decision to do so was one vote shy of unanimous by City Council. Council member Bruce Jeffers was the sole vote opposing the smoke-free ordinance. While Jeffers supports the existing ban against smoking inside park buildings, he believes the expansion of the ban to all park property is going too far. It’s “reasonable” for people to be able to smoke in parking lots at the parks, Jeffers said. “If a person chooses to smoke there, in my view they are not really bothering anybody,” he said. But council member Sandy Rowland said the smoking ban is appropriate for all park property. “There are children outside playing. Those children are inhaling the smoke,” Rowland said. Rowland, who serves as city council’s representative to the parks and recreation board, said the decision to expand the smoking ban was the right one. “I laud the park board for making this decision of what’s best,” she said. “We know we’re doing what’s right.” After all, Rowland said, the parks department supports healthy lifestyles. “The parks promote health. It’s a brave move,” she said. Council member John Zanfardino asked if the vote for the smoking ban by the park board was unanimous. Rowland confirmed it was unanimous. Council member Mark Hollenbaugh asked if smoking in a car on park property would be a finable offense. City Attorney Mike Marsh replied that he did not believe it would be. When it came up for the vote, Jeffers was the only council member to vote against the ordinance. The smoking ban will not go into effect until Jan. 1, 2019. Kristin Otley, parks and recreation director, said most park visitors obey with the current ordinance. “Most people have been accommodating,” she said. Otley said the parks department will post signs explaining that smoking will not be allowed anywhere on park property. After the council meeting, Bowling Green Police Chief Tony Hetrick said his officers will start out by just issuing warnings during a “grace period” while people become acquainted with the change. After a certain period, citations will be issued. “You don’t want to be heavy-handed, but you…


County park district shares funding to help local parks

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The Wood County Park District made a commitment years ago to share its tax dollars with community parks around the county. When Neil Munger, director of the county park district, visits communities throughout the county, he is frequently reminded of the value of that sharing. “There have been a lot of times, going out and looking at some of these communities, I see that 90 percent of the improvements in the parks are made with these grants,” Munger said. “It’s really heartwarming to see that.” This year, the Wood County Park District again set aside $100,000 to disperse to local community parks. Fifteen requests for funding were received, with 13 being granted. “The board likes to spread it out as much as we can,” Munger said. “It’s all judged on merit,” he said. Applicants willing to share in the costs or donate labor are viewed favorably. One was rejected for an incomplete application, and the other because it was too large of a request, Munger said. Following is a list of how the grant funding will be used: Bowling Green: $19,640 to replace Bellard and Perkins shelter houses in Carter Park with one larger shelter that will be ADA compliant. Custar: $2,538 for tree and shrub planting. Cygnet: $4,346 for replacement of bleachers. Luckey: $3,915 for playground resurfacing. North Baltimore: $12,394 to replace basketball goals. Perrysburg: $10,463 for replacement of playground equipment. Perrysburg Township: $7,702 for playground resurfacing, replacement of swingset chains, and picnic table. Portage Township: $3,252 for concession stand equipment (commercial refrigerator and popcorn popper.) Rossford: $11,103 to resurface pickleball courts. Tontogany: $4,245 for disc golf course. Walbridge: $9,674 to replace fencing. Wayne: $7,522 for playground equipment (ADA swing and merry-go-round.) West Millgrove: $3,205 for park benches and funnel ball.