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. (See update.) 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,” one person posted. Another predicted that unearthing the site would not reveal a casket. And another asked “Where’s Lyle Fletcher when we need him,” a reference to a long-gone historian, who could recall just about everything about Bowling Green. So since Fletcher is gone, it’s up to the rest of Bowling Green to dig into their memory banks to solve the time capsule mystery.


Shared salute sought at new BG City Park building

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   No battle lines were drawn, but there are some strong feelings about veterans retaining top billing in the new structure replacing City Park’s Veterans Memorial Building. City Council member Greg Robinette – a veteran himself – reported to council Monday evening that he had spoken with Dave Ridenour of American Legion Post 45 about the history of the existing building. The local legion had leased the building from the city for its post headquarters from 1929 to 1979, Ridenour said. Even after the headquarters moved, the city decided to continue honoring local veterans by keeping the name Veterans Memorial Building. While city officials would like to continue that tradition, they would also like to reduce the debt on the new building by looking for private sponsorship of the new structure. “I fully understand,” that desire to look for naming rights, Robinette said. The building name could be a compromise between a major donor and local veterans. “I think we can make that work.” But council member Bruce Jeffers expressed some concern that the respect for local veterans not be clouded by recognition of a private donor. He also talked about the value of a veterans display inside the new building. “It seems we might want to distinguish between those who have served in combat zones,” Jeffers said. Council member Sandy Rowland said she supports the continued recognition of local veterans in the name of the building. However, she mentioned the effort the city is making to get a return on its investment of $3.75 million in bonds for the new building. The building is expected to be used by community members for events such as weddings, memorials and other public gatherings. “I think we have to be careful in the way we outfit the interior,” Rowland said. For example, a display of weapons of war may make the building less appealing to those wanting to rent it for occasions like weddings. “I hope we don’t plan on putting a cannon in there,” Rowland said. Also at Monday’s meeting, Mayor Dick Edwards recognized Earlene Kilpatrick, who is retiring from her position as executive director of the Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce. “You’ve had a wonderful working relationship with the city,” Edwards said to Kilpatrick. During her years as director, the city saw many groundbreakings, the mayor said. “You haven’t allowed the ceremonial scissors to rest.” Municipal Administrator Lori Tretter also thanked Kilpatrick for working so closely with the city. “It really has been a pleasure to work with you,” Tretter said. “You’ve been a tremendous asset.” Kilpatrick in turn thanked city leaders for their support. “You really care. That’s what’s so special,” she said. “Keep up the great work. It’s been my pleasure to be a part of that.” Also at the meeting, council approved the purchase of…


Historic farm to be jammin’ and cookin’ again soon

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Carter Historic Farm will soon be cookin’ again. The historic farm, which is part of the Wood County Park District, is making its transition to being a working farm. That covers everything from the crops grown in the fields to the foods cooked up in the kitchen. “We’re going from a petting zoo to an actual working farm,” Jeff Baney, assistant director of the Wood County Park District said Tuesday during a meeting of the park board. “Nothing out there is static,” Baney said. Which means equipment like the antique tractors actually have to work the fields. The chickens, goats and farm cats serve a purpose. It’s hoped they will be joined by sheep, cattle and eventually horses. Visitors to the farm, on Carter Road north of Bowling Green, will be able to experience a day in the life of a depression era farm. “At the end of the day, the biggest thing a farm did was put food on the table,” Baney said. But there’s a glitch in that plan. The circa 1930 oven in the farmhouse kitchen has outlived its usefulness. The oven overheats, refuses to shut off, and even turns on all by itself. That poses a problem, since a lot of cooking programs at the historic farm require an oven, according to Corinne Gordon, historic farm specialist with the park district. So on Tuesday, the board heard a request to replace the old oven with a new oven that is designed to look like a 1925 oven. The oven would cost $5,399. “It’s a very specialized piece of equipment,” Baney said. But the oven is essential to programming at the farm, which offers educational programs on “farm to table” canning, using herbs from the garden, pickling and jam making. “For the women of the house, a good portion of the day would be in that kitchen,” Gordon explained to the board. But board president Denny Parish had other concerns. The price tag of more than $5,000 was “a hard swallow,” he said. “I know how this will look to many members of the public,” he said, fearing that citizens may view this as irresponsible spending after the recent passage of the park district levy. “I’m not sure right now that I can support this.” Parish asked if other options had been considered – like buying an actual 1920s-era oven, or asking the vendor Appliance Center to donate a portion of the cost. He also asked how often the oven is actually used at the farm. Gordon said the oven is used every day the farm is open, which is three days each week and for special events. A lot of school groups visit the site. “It’s going to be used continually,” she said, stressing the emphasis on the site being a working farm….


Mountain biking park and path explored along Slippery Elm Trail

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The Wood County Park District is hoping to hitch a ride on the off-road mountain biking craze. On Tuesday, 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 Slippery Elm Trail. Park naturalist Craig Spicer presented a proposal for both concepts during the monthly park board meeting held at Harrison Park in Pemberville. 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 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. “There’s a little bit of imbalance there,” Spicer said. 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 voted last month 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. “This project fits our mission,” Spicer said. “I think it will attract people for years to come.” Maintenance of the park would be similar to the neighboring Slippery Elm Trail, since the bike park courses would be constructed of cement or asphalt. Don DiBartolomeo, of the Right Direction Youth Development Program, told the board he would offer programming for free at the bike park. DiBartolomeo is in the ninth year of running the non-profit youth support program Right Direction, and organizes programming at the skate park in Bowling Green City Park. “Having something like this skills track is huge,” DiBartolomeo told the board. Toledo Metroparks has talked about such an off-road biking program, but has yet to establish one, he said. “This would put you on the map. Nobody’s done it yet,” DiBartolomeo said. Those working on their off-road skills could then try out their new talents in the Rudolph Savanna, located a half-mile north on the Slippery Elm Trail, Spicer said. “The nearest mountain bike trail is in Swanton,” he said. Spicer showed…


City Park building name may split honor with veterans

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Like the structure it is replacing, the new building planned for City Park will be a salute to veterans. A resolution drafted for Bowling Green City Council suggests that the new building keep the old name – the Veterans Building. The park board agrees that the name should reflect the same reverence to veterans. However, always being conscious of the use of taxpayer funds, Parks and Recreation Director Kristin Otley is also looking at ways to make the most of public funding. So at a recent park and recreation board meeting, Otley suggested that the city consider sharing naming rights with major donors toward the new building. By asking for donations for the project, the city could more quickly pay off the $3.75 million in bonds for tearing down the old buildings and putting up the new one. Community residents and organizations may be interested in sponsoring the building or specific rooms in the building, Otley said. The name sharing would not detract from the focus on veterans, she assured. Plans are already in place for the lobby to be a place dedicated to veterans memorabilia. Sometime in January or February, the three buildings near the entrance of City Park – the Veterans Building, Girl Scout Building, and Depot – will be demolished. The three buildings will be replaced with one new building, with construction likely to begin in March of 2019. The goal is to have the new City Park building completed by summer of 2020. The city is working on the project with Schorr Architects, a firm that specializes in new buildings that reflect historic values.  The architectural firm has contracted with the local Poggemeyer Design Group. 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. Also at last week’s meeting, the board had a preliminary discussion about raising fees for park and recreation events. The proposal asks for 3 percent increases for most programming and events. The program fees were last increased in 2016. No rate increases are planned for the community center or classes there. The board will likely take action on the fee hikes in September, so City Council can vote on the changes in October. That would allow the new rates to be in place for 2019. Rates to rent park facilities may also be increased, since they have not been changed since 2015. The proposed rate hikes are $5 to $10, Otley said. The board is also considering bumping up “support rates” for groups like the Horizon Youth Theatre, which rents facilities at reduced rates now. The $25 charge may be increased to $30 to help cover costs. To help other community non-profit groups, the board is considering offering a reduced…


BG may completely snuff out smoking in city parks

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Visitors to Bowling Green’s parks may soon be able to take a deep breath of fresh air without the chance of gagging on secondhand smoke. The Bowling Parks and Recreation Board is discussing the possibility of making all city parks completely smoke-free. The city has long banned smoking in park buildings. Then in 2007, the policy was taken a step further. “At that point the staff was very concerned about smoking near our programs and around our younger users,” said Kristin Otley, director of the city’s parks and recreation department. In order to keep smoking away from ballparks, playgrounds, and shelter houses, the park board banned smoking in all areas except parking lots. In 2015, vaping was included in the smoking restrictions. But on Tuesday evening, the parks and rec board discussed taking the smoking ban further. “Is now the time to go completely smoke free? It’s to the point when there are people doing it, it really bothers the other people,” Otley said. “So we’re just sort of exploring it.” A smoking ban seems to blend well with the park department philosophy. “One of our core values is health,” Otley said. “We want to make sure we’re providing healthy environments and opportunities to the community.” Both Bowling Green State University and Wood County Hospital have banned smoking on their campuses. It is guessed that some of those employees take a short drive to the parks for a smoke. “We’ve been getting a lot more people making comments,” Otley said. And park staff has noticed an uptick in cigarette butts being tossed in the parks. Natural Resources Coordinator Chris Gajewicz recently made signs to post at Wintergarden Park making it clear that people cannot smoke as they walk the trails. “How frustrating is that – when you’re trying to enjoy nature,” Otley said. The board seemed supportive of the complete smoking ban in the parks, but will continue to discuss the matter at the next monthly meeting. The only concern expressed was that a full ban could affect the park building rentals. The new requirement would be posted on rental rules. The new smoking rule would be enforced by park staff – as are the current restrictions. “For the most part, they respect that,” Otley said of those asked to extinguish their cigarettes. If staff ran into problems, they would call city police to assist, she added. “This is definitely something the staff feels very strongly about,” Otley said.


Parks & Rec Foundation hosting fundraiser to benefit Ridge Park

On behalf of the Bowling Green Parks and Recreation Foundation Trustees I encourage all to attend the 23rd Annual Wine and Cheese Social and Silent and Live Auctions Friday, September 28th from 5-8 p.m. at the Simpson Building, 1291 Conneaut in Bowling Green. Admission is $50 per person through September 21 and $60 after. You can send a check to Cheryl Witt at BG Parks and Recreation Foundation at the address listed above or call 419-354-6297 or e-mail clwitt@bgohio.org for a reservation. All proceeds will benefit the completion of Ridge Park. In addition to delicious appetizers and desserts, there will be a variety of wines, beers and soft drinks available. In addition to the Auctions, there will be a wine pull, an autumn mum sale, and a raffle for an Apple Watch. Plan to come to enjoy a wonderful evening. Roger Anderson, BG Parks and Recreation Foundation Trustee


Rudolph to lose old silos, get back Bob Evans sign

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The small community of Rudolph is about to lose its five rusted grain silos, and gain back its sign noting that Bob Evans once lived there. The Wood County Park District board agreed Tuesday to have the unused silos removed along the Slippery Elm Trail, just south of Mermill Road. The park district had purchased the property years ago from Mid-Wood and for a while the silos were rented back to Mid-Wood for use. However, the two large and three small silos have been empty for years. The concrete at the bases is deteriorating, and the steel is rusting, Wood County Park District Director Neil Munger told the board. A company called All Excavating & Demolition approached the district about taking down the silos for a cost of $1,500. The concrete from the silos will be ground up and spread over the site. The steel will be salvaged by the company. The demolition should have no effect on those using the nearby Slippery Elm Trail, Munger said. While discussing the silos removal, board member Bill Cameron asked about the possibility of replacing the sign on the site that noted Bob Evans once resided in Rudolph. Though born in Sugar Ridge, north of Bowling Green, Evans apparently later lived for a period in Rudolph, south of Bowling Green. He went on to create the Bob Evans restaurant chain. “I miss the sign,” Cameron said. Munger said the sign had been taken down years ago when the park district had new siding installed on the old Mid-Wood building. The park district uses the building for storage along the trail. Munger said the sign is still in the building, and will need to be repainted – but it will be restored on the side of the building at the corner of Rudolph and Mermill roads. In other business, Park District Board President Denny Parish asked about the problem of people parking at Sawyer Quarry Nature Preserve and then walking to the neighboring stone quarry. “This is an ongoing problem,” he said about people trespassing at the privately-owned quarry to go swimming. Park police chief Todd Nofzinger said the park district has been considering the best way to stop people from wandering from its preserve to the stone quarry. “We’ve been working with Stone Co. and Perrysburg Township Police Department to come up with a solution,” he said. A camera was set up to capture license plates and found that a lot of those people going to the quarry aren’t from Wood County. Munger pointed out that the park district currently has no rule that would preclude people from leaving their cars at the parks during daytime hours. “We don’t have anything that specifically states that people can’t park here and go elsewhere,” he said. The park district has put up…


Author talks about the importance of going native in backyard planting

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Heather Holm is always interested in doing less work in her garden. The author would rather spend her time observing the bees, butterflies, wasps, and other insects that inhabit the space. And she was pleased to tell those gathered in the Simpson Garden Building in Bowling Green that the two go hand in hand. Holm was in Bowling Green recently to speak on “Forget Television – The Real Entertainment is Happening Outside in Your Pollinator-Friendly Garden,” a talk sponsored by Bowling Green Parks and Recreation and Oak Openings Wild Ones. Funds from the Kuebeck Forum helped fund the program. Holm structured her talk around what one would find on cable TV if they weren’t out observing and working on their yards. There was everything from the food channel to crime. Her message was to cultivate plants native to the area as a way of fostering populations of pollinators needed for a healthy local environment. So plant milk weed to help feed Monarch butterflies, who depend entirely on plants for food, Holm said. Keep in mind color – butterflies and bees can’t see red – as well as fragrance as a way of attracting them. “There are plants that will thrive in the horrible conditions you’ve been struggling with all these years,” the Minnesota-based author said. And ease up on some gardening chores. Holm said she leaves plant stubble up in the fall to give nesting spaces to insects. She also doesn’t clear away natural debris because 70 percent of bees nest below ground and this provides the right material they need. On the other hand, wood mulch is a barrier for those nests. She urged the full house attending her talk to avoid applying pesticides. They inflict collateral damage on the insects that actually are better at controlling aphids and other unwanted bugs. Holm also described the many insects, some bees, some not, that can be confused with others. And when she reached the crime channel section of her talk she offered up an example that would make a zombie blanch. Conopid flies lay eggs inside the abdomen of a bumblebee, and then consume the bee once the eggs are hatched. Creating pollinator friendly landscapes is not just a suburban or rural concern. Research, she said, shows bees are often more abundant in cities than in neighboring rural areas, particularly in low income areas where there are vacant lots and less use of pesticides. Regardless of the area, Holm concluded it is important to cultivate native plants. They support specialized relationships being particular fauna and flora. They are more attractive, four times more attractive, to pollinators than non-native species. They are adapted to local growing conditions. They improve biodiversity by providing food and habitat, directly or indirectly, for all organisms throughout the food chain. For those who are interested…


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 of the downtown really struck us. There’s a lot of work that goes into a downtown that works.” And they visited Simpson Garden Park. “That was a true community effort,” Vickers said. “That wouldn’t have happened without the community bonding together.” This is the second time Bowling Green has been named one of the state’s best hometowns by Ohio Magazine. The last time was 10 years ago. “I was so proud of showing all the things that happened in the last 10 years,” Chambers said. The magazine representatives met with…


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 messages, exercise tips and photos showing the diverse parks and recreation opportunities that Wood County has to offer. Local residents are asked to share those messages on social media. “We want them to help amplify the people we reach,” Aspacher said. The health department’s physical activity campaign will culminate Aug. 17 at the Pemberville 5-Miler, which also includes a free 1-mile fun run, making it a great target for people of all fitness levels, he said. “Walking is something that everybody can do,” he said, adding that fitness events can…


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. Wood County Park District Chief Ranger Todd Nofzinger said the name change will not change the rangers’ roles. “It doesn’t change what we do. It doesn’t change our daily duties,” Nofzinger said. Board member Sandy Wiechman had a few logistical questions, but was told the name change would not require any additional training or radio changes. “It’s been a long time coming, and they deserve it,” she said. There will be an expense of about $4,000, to change markings on vehicles, badges, paperwork and patches. In 2012, the rangers presented…


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 philosophy on this.” Edwards said he appreciates the Scottish Links. “It’s a constant reminder to me what real golfers have to deal with.” The mayor mentioned that his wife’s first reaction to the tall grass was not exactly positive. However, when the purpose for the fescue was explained, her opinion changed. “Even Nadine likes your Scottish Links,” Edwards said. To explain the unruly grasses to park patrons, Gajewicz wrote the following statement: “Gardens, by definition, are not static but dynamic. They are living, growing, constantly evolving spaces. Each growing year,…


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 recognition has put it on the map for hosta lovers. Last year, a gardening group from Pennsylvania visited, and next month, a hosta club from Cincinnati is scheduled for a tour. “People come from all over to see the garden now,” he said. And Hollenbaugh isn’t satisfied with the Hosta Glen quite yet. “I want to reach 1,000-plus varieties – then just maintain,” he said. While most hostas are pretty hardy plants that last for years, they do require care. Hollenbaugh spends anywhere from one to seven hours a day…


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 be converted into wetlands in two phases. Wood County Park District Director Neil Munger said another option could be to turn the second 10 acres into a wet prairie, which would be much less expensive. But two board members, Tom Myers and Bill Cameron, expressed a desire for the park district to fund the rest of the project, estimated at $148,000 to turn the other 10 acres into wetlands. “I hate to see projects start and then stop,” Cameron said. And Myers noted the recent passage of the park district…