parks

Park district turned off by plan for electric lines along trail

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County Park District Board members aren’t exactly charged up about a request from American Electric Power. The electric company has approached the park district about getting an easement for a new line along the Slippery Elm Trail near North Baltimore. The request covers the strip of land on the west side of the trail from Quarry Road to Broadway Street, where the trail starts in North Baltimore. Wood County Park District Director Neil Munger listed several concerns about giving an easement for the power lines. First, it would mean the loss of most if not all the vegetation and trees on the west side of the trail. Second, Munger has concerns about poles being installed right next to the trail. And third, the southernmost section of the Slippery Elm Trail would likely need to be closed to users during construction. Park board chairman Denny Parish said the district does not have to approve the request from American Electric Power. It is unknown if AEP can use eminent domain for the project. The board suspected that AEP is asking the park district for an easement because it would be easier than dealing with several different landowners along different routes. Munger said the high transmission lines will be on 80-foot poles, which are about twice the height of standard poles for electric lines. Board member John Calderonello pointed out that the lack of a vegetation wind barrier will make that portion of the trail much more difficult and unpleasant for bicyclists and walkers. And board member Christine Seiler noted that the buzzing from the overhead electric lines will take away the peaceful feel of the trail. Seiler asked if there would be any benefit to the park district for granting the easement. Munger said there would be none, other than a payment to the park district for the easement. The amount of that payment is unknown. A representative of American Electric Power is scheduled to attend the park district board meeting in January, to make a pitch for the easement along the Slippery Elm Trail. Seiler, whose last meeting with the park district board is in December, expressed regret that she wouldn’t be present to vote on the request. “Can we vote on it before I leave – please,” she said with a grin.


Park district hands out grants to 11 community parks

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Thirty years ago as the Wood County Park District worked to pass its first levy, a promise was made to share the wealth with community parks throughout the county. That promise has been kept, and continued again this week as the park board approved $100,000 in grants to 11 Wood County communities. Over the years, the grants have helped municipalities add to park playgrounds and repair shelter houses – expenses many smaller towns could not afford on their own. The grants have also been used by several communities to make their parks more accessible to people with disabilities. Following is a list of those communities approved for grants for 2018, the projects funded, and the amounts approved: Bloomdale – $4,157 for six picnic tables with two being ADA compliant. Bowling Green – $4,332 for a scaler tunnel net on a playground. Bradner – $2,479 for an 8-inch balance beam and merry-go-round. Custar – $6,900 for a sway bench and rain garden. Cygnet – $7,835 for ADA sidewalk, and $1,176 for safety surfacing. North Baltimore – $9,873 for safety surfacing, and $4,999 for shelter house roof replacement. Pemberville – $6,150 for shelter house conversion, and $2,485 for safety surfacing. Perrysburg – $10,000 for shade structure for ballfields, and $1,949 for porch swing bench. Walbridge – $14,372 for new basketball court. West Millgrove – $9,991 for swing set and safety surfacing, and $4,997 for trash containers and safety surfacing. Weston – $8,305 for two shade structures. Though the Wood County Park District serves all of the county, the grants go a step further. “This is a way of giving back to some of those communities,” said Neil Munger, director of the county park district. To make sure the grant selection process is fair, the team that reviews and selects the winners is made up of park professionals from outside Wood County, explained Jeff Baney, assistant director of the county park district. Also at Tuesday’s park board meeting, Munger went over the district’s draft budget for 2018. The board members will vote on the budget during their December meeting. Included in the budget are salaries raises of 1.5 percent for park district staff. In other business, park board chairman Denny Parish announced that three members will be leaving the board. Parish thanked John Calderonello, Bob Dorn and Christine Seiler for their service on the board…


BG Healing Garden to get some doctoring of its own

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Some doctoring of the Healing Garden is planned for next year in Simpson Garden Park. The Bowling Green Parks and Recreation Foundation recently donated $27,500 for concrete work at the Healing Garden to make it accessible to all. That work will be part of a complete redesign of the garden, Park Natural Resources Coordinator Chris Gajewicz told the city’s park and recreation board Tuesday evening. The Healing Garden is located on the far east end of the Simpson Garden Park, with access from Wood County Hospital. In the past, the garden has had more of a medieval medicine garden feel, Gajewicz said. But next spring, the garden will be replanted to have a more holistic philosophy. “There will be more of a mind, body and spirit approach to it,” he said. “It will be less of a curiosity and more interactive.” For example, the plantings will include some “interactive thyme,” that will generate a calming scent as people walk through or even recline in it. “We want the garden to be less of a walk-by,” Gajewicz said. Programming outside of gardening may include relaxation, Tai Chi, yoga and other forms of exercise that are low impact but would benefit from a garden surrounding. The area will promote peace and calm and will have a collection of healing plants and trees to provide shade in the otherwise open sunlight environment, according to Gajewicz. In other business at the board meeting Tuesday evening, a letter from a soccer coach was read by Parks and Recreation Director Kristin Otley. The letter told of the impact the park and recreation’s D-League soccer program had on one family. The coach said he was recently approached by a mother, who said her foster daughter had come from an exceptionally difficult background, was very shy and rarely spoke or showed emotion. The mother, who was visibly moved, said she wanted to get the girl involved in an activity and saw the notice about the soccer league. She didn’t know anything about soccer or the league, but signed up her daughter. According to the letter, the mom saw a transformation in the girl. “She loved soccer and loved playing with the other kids, and was so excited to hear when it was a day of practice or games.” “To think we can have this kind of positive influence over the…


Have to deal with guts to get glory of jack-o-lanterns

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   As Breanna Serrato reached into the pumpkin and pulled out the guts, she got a huge grin on her face. “I love it, actually, getting messy. The squishiness of it,” the 17-year-old from Bowling Green said. Not everyone shared those feelings. At a nearby picnic table, Jessica Nekoranec, of Risingsun, grimaced as she scooped out the juicy innards. She was enjoying the carving, but the “sticking your hand in – not so much,” she said. Nearly 40 people picked out pumpkins Thursday evening for the annual jack-o-lantern making sponsored by the Wood County Park District. The pumpkins were carved at a shelter house on the Wood County Historical Center grounds, where they will be put on display for the annual Folklore and Funfest this weekend. Some came armed with their own carving equipment, accessories and definite ideas for their pumpkin art. Others just let the spirits take them. With spooky music playing in the background, the carvers got to work. “I thought at home what I’m going to do before I got down here,” said Pam Douglas, of Portage. Her plan was to turn the pumpkin into Mickey Mouse, with two Folger coffee can lids acting as the big mouse ears. “He may not end up looking like Mickey Mouse, but that’s my plan,” she said. Mary Grzybowski, of Bowling Green, won last year for carving a cat. She was hoping to repeat that winning design. “I had an idea, but it’s not turning out right,” she said. Grzybowski wore her gardening gloves for the task – more out of habit than due to the gooey guts. “I’m a gardener, nothing bothers me,” she said. Sheila Kratzer, of Bowling Green, had no grand plans for her pumpkin. “Just your basic jack-o-lantern,” she said. But she was hoping for good placement on the historic center grounds for the Folklore and Funfest. “You don’t want to be by the outhouse,” she said with a smile. Kratzer’s friend, Monica Bihn of Bowling Green, was struggling with her pumpkin design. So Kratzer offered a bit of advice. When all else fails, “go Frankenstein.” At the same picnic table, BGSU student Michael Borowski had just finished cleaning out the stringy, seedy guts. If awards were given for the insides, he would have won the spic and span prize. But the outside remained a mystery. “I’m still trying…


County park district eyes projects for next year

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The Wood County Park District Board got a first look at projects planned for next year – from parking lots and playgrounds, to orchard trees and fencing for goats. Neil Munger, director of the park district, stressed Tuesday that the numbers attached to each project are very preliminary. But the draft budget gave an idea of the planned improvements to the parks in 2018. The biggest project will be turning a house at Sawyer Quarry Preserve, in Perrysburg Township, into an interpretive center. Those renovations are expected to cost about $350,000. Trail construction is also planned at that park. “There are not a lot of huge projects this year,” Munger said. Following is a list of proposed projects at each of the county parks: Buttonwood Recreation Area – parking lot repairs. Cedar Creeks Preserve – parking lot sealcoat and painting of restrooms. William Henry Harrison Park – new playground equipment, with an estimated price of $50,000. The district will seek grants for this project. W. Knight Preserve – nature center deck repairs, window replacement. Otsego Park – parking lot sealcoat, and playground equipment also estimated at $50,000. Grants will be sought for the equipment. Wood County Historical Center – shelter repairs estimated at $8,000. Zimmerman School – brick repairs to cost about $9,500, plus a new entrance ramp and entrance door replacement. Slippery Elm Trail – paint bollard posts, and make repairs to pole barn in Rudolph Savanna area. Baldwin Woods – bridge and parking lot construction, estimated at $125,000. Carter Historic Farm – barn roof beam repair, stone path to school, pasture fencing for goats and chickens, orchard trees and parking lot repairs. Bradner Preserve – deck and patio construction, picnic tables and grill. Beaver Creek Preserve – building furnishings. Reuthinger Memorial Preserve – miscellaneous. Fuller Preserve – miscellaneous. Sawyer Quarry Preserve – interpretive center renovations and trail construction. The park district board will get more information on the capital improvement projects at the next meeting in November, then will approve the budget in December, Munger said. Also at Tuesday’s meeting, the board agreed to spend about $18,500 to retile 18 acres at the Carter Historic Farm. The park district rents out 55 acres for farming at the site. The oldest clay tiles are failing in 18 acres of the farm. Munger informed the board that as the landowner, the park…


Park district takes step toward renewal levy next spring

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The Wood County Park District will be going back on the ballot next year – but the board won’t be asking for any additional funds. The county park board voted Tuesday afternoon to start the levy process by asking the Wood County Auditor to certify the current valuation for the park district. The board then plans to place a renewal of its 1-mill, 10-year levy on next year’s spring ballot. “I believe that will suffice to serve our financial needs for another decade,” Board President Denny Parish said. Wood County voters have a history of supporting their parks, and will appreciate the district’s decision to not ask for more money, Parish said. The current levy brings in a “pretty steady” amount of approximately $2.8 million a year. “I believe we can operate for another 10 years on the same millage,” Parish stressed. Board member John Calderonello mentioned that some voters may still be stinging from issues on this November’s ballot. But Parish said the park district can choose between spring and fall of 2018. “We can’t wait till 2019,” he said. And board member Bob Dorn reminded that if the park levy fails in the spring, it can be repeated in the fall. Parish said many residents of Wood County don’t realize how the park district if funded. “There’s a misconception that we get funded by the general fund of the county commissioners,” he said. The park district first passed its 1-mill levy in 2008. Since then, the district has made several improvements and acquired much more property. “It’s all been done with prudent management with available funds,” board member Bob Hawker said. Parish noted that some school districts and other agencies in the county are finding it necessary to ask for increased millage. “That will shine a nice light on Wood County Park District,” he said. Also at the meeting, the board was introduced to Bob Callecod, who will be acting as levy chairman. Callecod, of Bowling Green, is a former county park commissioner, is active with the park district, and helped get the first levy passed. “It’s a cause well worth working for,” Callecod said. The Wood County Park District currently has sites throughout the county, including Adam Phillips Pond, Baldwin Woods Preserve, Bradner Preserve, Beaver Creek Preserve, Black Swamp Preserve, Buttonwood Recreation Area, Carter Historic Farm, Cedar Creeks Preserve,…


Zombies to stalk runners in obstacle course event

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   As if the muddy obstacle course isn’t hard enough, a bunch of moaning zombies will be on the prowl again for the second annual Zombie Mud Run. At the conclusion of last year’s event, participants had a suggestion – more zombies. So Ivan Kovacevic, recreation coordinator with the Bowling Green Parks and Recreation Department, hopes to double the number of zombies this year. Each contestant starts out the run with three flags on a flag football belt. The goal of the runners is to complete the one-mile course with at least one flag left to be deemed a “survivor.” The goal of the zombies is to rip off the flags, leaving the participant “infected.” Last year, about 150 people participated, with ages ranging from 5 to 74. Kovacevic is hoping for even more this year. The event is Oct. 22, with registration starting at 1 p.m., at the Bowling Green Community Center. Participants will be divided up with ages 5 to 12 and some parents in the first heat, followed by heats of ages 13 and older. Kovacevic, a fan of “The Walking Dead,” TV series, said the zombies add an extra thrill to the course. “Obstacles courses are becoming one of the fastest growing fitness trends,” he said. So why not throw in some zombies? “Get that adrenaline flowing right off the bat.” In addition to the zombie threat, there are also a lot of man-made and natural obstacles along the course located behind the community center. There’s a 5-foot climbing wall, balance beams, a bungee cord obstacle, tire pyramid, log hurdles, trenches full of water, an Army crawling obstacle, a tunnel, and plenty of mud. The “zombified” humans along the course are students from the Bowling Green High School DECA program. Last year there were 35 to 40 of them. But upon request, Kovacevic has boosted the blood thirsty predators. “We’re hoping to have about 80 zombies,” he said. “It’s really a cool collaboration,” Kovacevic said about working with the DECA students, who get some experience working with the business community for donations as well. “Instead of just working on theoretical projects, they get to see one put into action,” he said. A BGHS art class also created art for the Zombie Mud Run T-shirts, with the winning entry showing a green arm emerging from the mud and grabbing a…


Taming invasive plants so they don’t take over nature

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   When Bowling Green Natural Resources Coordinator Chris Gajewicz took over at Wintergarden Park 17 years ago, he led Jennifer Windus, of ODNR, on a tour of the wild acres. He proudly showed her the woods and the prairie. But Windus, now retired from ODNR, couldn’t help but notice all the non-native invasive plant species that were taking over the park. She zeroed in on the 4-foot tall impenetrable garlic mustard plants. “You are the poster child for everything that can go wrong,” Gajewicz recalled her saying. That was then. After years of volunteers and staff pulling out the stubborn garlic mustard and other non-native invasive species, Wintergarden is a back-breaking success story. “My sons can both identify garlic mustard while going 60 mph down the highway, and insist that we stop to pull it out,” Gajewicz said. The efforts have worked, according to Windus, who is now president of Ohio Invasive Plants Council. “I am really impressed with all the work you are doing,” she said last week after taking a tour of the park that she once called a “nightmare.” Windus returned to Bowling Green last week to talk about “Good Plants Gone Bad,” at the annual Kuebeck Forum offered by Bowling Green Parks and Recreation. Many of the non-native invasive plant species look like beautiful wildflowers or vines to the inexperienced eye. But if left to roam, some can rapidly take over natural areas, Windus said. They reproduce quickly and have no natural controls. “They out compete native species,” she explained. “Vines tend to creep and crawl over other vegetation and smother it out.” There are more than 65 non-native plants that are documented as invasive in Ohio natural areas. Many of them were introduced in the U.S. for good reasons – like soil stability, medicinal, herbal, horticultural, or agricultural purposes. But the fast growing plants then ended up creating problems of their own. Multiflora roses were introduced in the 1930s as a “living fence.” And Mexican bamboo was brought in as erosion control. However, “they choke out everything else,” Windus said. On the most-wanted list of invasive species in Ohio are Garlic Mustard, Purple Loosestrife, Buckthorn, Multiflora Rose, Japanese Knotwood, Winter Creeper, Asiatic Bittersweet, Reed Canary Grass, and several types of Honeysuckle. Some become urgent economic and conservation challenges. The impact of the plants can drastically change natural areas,…


City athletic fields taking shape by community center

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The 20 acres behind the Bowling Green community center are gradually taking shape – with soccer goals to score, obstacles to climb, and soon open grassy fields to play on. Last year, four of the 20 acres just south of the community center were turned into “pristine game fields,” said Kristin Otley, director of the parks and recreation department. That was the first goal for that site in the five-year master plan, Otley reported to the Bowling Green Parks and Recreation Board last week. Then an obstacle course was built for those wanting an extra challenge. And a portion of the acreage is being restored as a natural prairie area. Next the remaining 12 acres or so will be leveled and reseeded for an open grassy play space. “The plan has always been to level and seed,” so the site will be “playable for anything.” In time, the space could be used for some outdoor fitness classes, Otley said. Parking for the athletic site is in front of the community center, so a trail will be paved between the parking lot and the fields. And since Newton Road has flooded twice in recent years and required closure of the community center, the paved trail may be wide enough to be used as an emergency roadway from Haskins Road to the community center. Eventually, restrooms and more storage may be added to the athletic fields as well, Otley said. A fence was erected last year along Haskins Road to keep soccer balls from bouncing in the road and kids chasing after them. And earlier this year, a fence was constructed between the athletic fields and the fairgrounds to the south by the National Tractor Pulling Association. The policies approved by the board for use of the fields state that the space is designed for sports such as lacrosse, rugby, soccer and volleyball. The site will be used primarily as a game field site for various sport leagues and tournaments. Upon approval of the parks and recreation department, the fields may also be used for sports camps or clinics. The policies document gives the parks and recreation department the first priority for scheduling and usage of the fields. Groups that partner with the department will have top priority, followed by sanctioned clubs/organizations with a non-profit status, and then for profit organizations. The fields may…


Plans revealed for new building in BG City Park

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   By this time next year, the Veterans Building and Girl Scout Building in Bowling Green City Park may be reduced to piles of rubble. In their place a new building will be constructed. The community got a sneak peak at the new City Park building plans Tuesday evening. The drawings were displayed in the stifling heat of the Veterans Building, and portrayed a design much different than the existing structure. The new building won’t be unbearable in the heat, it won’t have cracks in the walls, it won’t have crumbling blocks, and it won’t have mold on the ceiling. “It’s an idea whose time has come,” said Bob Callecod. “I’m very impressed with the design.” The new building will incorporate design elements of the historic depot at the park entrance and Needle Hall which stands next to the Veterans Building. “This building will add so much vitality,” Callecod said. “It will be a wonderful view as you come into the park.” Joan Callecod appreciated the flexibility of space in the new building, which includes a catering kitchen. “It’s very attractive,” she said. The new building is estimated to cost $4.5 million – with that price including furnishing, landscaping and moving of the depot building to another location. The city parks and recreation department will not be seeking new money for the project, explained Kristin Otley, director of the department. “It did not make sense to keep pouring money into these buildings,” she said. The city passed a park and rec levy recently, with the thought of using some of those funds to pay off bonds for the new building. “We’re not asking for additional money for this,” Otley said. Plans for the new building were presented by Larry Rancour, of Schorr Architects. Following are some details of the project: The park entrance will be squared off on Conneaut Avenue. The number of parking spaces for the building will increase from 37 to 137. Efforts will be made to save as many trees as possible. “We want to keep the majority of the trees,” Rancour said. The Depot building near the entrance of the park will be relocated. The new building will be 12,000 square feet, compared to the current 5,700 square feet in the Veterans Building. A large meeting room will be able to accommodate 250 people. Two smaller meeting rooms will…


Wood County Park District employees get 2.5% raises

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County Park District employees have been granted cost of living pay increases of 2.5 percent, retroactive to the beginning of this year. The pay raises cover the district’s 27 full-time and four permanent part-time staff members, according to Wood County Park District Director Neil Munger. Munger said the park district did not give cost of living raises at the end of 2016, when the Wood County Commissioners granted 3 percent raises to other county employees. The park board members said at that time they would reconsider and discuss the raises at a later date. In September of 2016, the park board did approve pay raises recommended by an outside consultant which performed a compensation study. The raises were granted to 20 park employees in three phases starting in September and completed in April. Munger saw his salary go from $71,697 to $86,587. The assistant director’s salary increased from $55,224 to $67,572; the operations manager’s went from $49,982 to $59,167; the field operations manager’s changed from $49,982 to $60,714; and the chief ranger pay increased from $48,360 to $55,300. Most of the other raises ranged from $1,000 to $2,000 annually. In April, other hourly raises were granted to get park employees up to minimum standards. Those raises affected 12 workers, with hourly raises ranging from 16 cents to $1.46. The park district is still trying to recover after exorbitant raises were recommended by the board in 2010 based on a consultant study. After an outpouring of criticism, those raises were rejected. That resulted in delayed pay raises and a new salary study conducted by the same consultant used by the county commissioners. Also at last week’s meeting, the park district board talked about the need to replace the restrooms at Harrison Park, on the edge of Pemberville. The current restrooms are too small to be ADA compliant, Munger reported. “We’ve had a lot of complaints over the years about wheelchair access,” he said. Park district officials are discussing standardizing all restrooms in the county parks, he added. The cost to build new restrooms at Harrison Park is estimated at $187,370. “There’s plenty of money in the budget to do this,” Munger said, pointing out that other projects this year have come in under estimates, and that the shelter houses at Harrison Park are all ADA compliant, and the restrooms should be as…