The following article appeared on Chagrin Valley Today, the online edition of the Chagrin Valley Times/ Geauga Times Courier. It describes some of the excellent work still being produced by the naturalists, support staff and volunteers at the Geauga Park District despite the political turmoil that has surrounded the Parks for much of the past three years. Such events had long been the primary focus of the Parks since their inception over fifty years ago. They involve many members of the public, provide enrighment to school programs and give Geauga County citizens a way of being involved with the Parks that does not damage the environment or close the door to other activities.
Our thanks to the Chagrin Valley Times/Geauga Times Courier for permission to republish the article here. To stay informed on local Geauga County news, visit the Chagrin Valley Today website.
Bainbridge: Fascination with nature: Frohring Meadows backdrop of environmental exploration during Earth Day
Posted: Monday, May 2, 2016 10:15 am | Updated: 11:35 am, Mon May 2, 2016.
An opportunity to see birds of prey, learn about native plants and look through a high-powered telescope drew visitors to Frohring Meadows in Bainbridge last Saturday for the Geauga Park District’s Earth Day Extravaganza.
Park district Naturalist Dan Best said the event helps people appreciate the efforts being made for wildlife habitat and to show how nature pays us back.
Bainbridge resident Dorothy Decourcey and her three children learned about the milkweed plant.
“I liked the turtles,” said her 6-year-old daughter, Lilly. They were part of the reptile and amphibian display at the park pavilion and included tadpoles, frogs, newts and toads. She made a bug in the kids crafts projects.
Lilly and her twin brother Noah, 6, both liked seeing Vinnie, the turkey vulture perched atop the gloved hand of Harvey Webster, director of wildlife resources at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. He spoke to a standing-room only group of fascinated onlookers.
Mr. Webster explained the variety of birds of prey, including falcons, hawks, eagles, owls and vultures. He introduced Omega, the Eastern screech owl, most common in Geauga County. Omega is blind in one eye after being hit by a car and would not be able to survive in the wild. Mr. Webster noted the screech owl “is the worst enemy” of those little mice in the wild.
The natural history museum takes in animals from rescue centers that help rehabilitate injured animals.
Visitors were also fascinated by Tamarack, the female great horned owl that is blind in one eye. They are common in Geauga County and called the “tiger of the air,” because they can “pretty much tackle any animal,” he said.
Radar, the barn owl, rare now in this area, brought gasps of awe from everyone. Mr. Webster also introduced a red-tailed hawk, an American kestrel, and a peregrine falcon, known as the fastest bird in the world.
Mr. Webster praised the Geauga Park District staff and noted the amazing habitats in the Geauga Parks that are not found anywhere else.
Visitors browsed displays that encouraged them to plant milkweed to help the declining monarch butterfly populations. Monarch larvae only eat milkweed and lay their eggs on the plant. Free milkweed seedlings were given out along with car bumper stickers with a similar message.
Park volunteers Sue Berger of Bainbridge along with husband Bill, helped visitors pick out free flowers along with white pine and red oak tree seedlings, which were grown at the park. People were enthusiastic about taking them to grow at home, she said.
Out on the Frohring Meadows trails, park Naturalist Tami Gingrich led visitors on a walk to learn about bluebirds. She explained how the bird boxes are placed in pairs, one for the bluebirds and one for the tree swallows that protect both boxes. Sometimes, however, the swallows take over the bluebird boxes. The boxes have to be monitored for invasion by house sparrows, English sparrows and the blow fly parasite, Ms. Gingerich explained.
She noted that the records kept on the bluebirds show that in 215 bluebirds were fledged in 2014 and 233 last year.
Volunteers monitor the bluebird boxes at the parks weekly from March through mid-September, she said.
As visitors strolled the walk around the Frohring wetlands, they could see a mallard duck and her offspring and Virginia rails, a small waterbird.
At the pavilion, Gail Prunty with the Geauga Soil and Water Conservation District opened her discussion with a riddle: “What sometimes runs, but never walks, has a mouth but never talks, has a bed but never sleeps and has a head but never weeps?” The answer: a river.
She talked about the agency’s commitment to natural resources and care for the invaluable resources of backyard streams.
Geauga County has streams that drain into three main separate watersheds: the Chagrin River, the Cuyahoga River and the Grand River. A small portion of the county is in the Mahoning River watershed, which drains to the Ohio River.
Over the years, a lot has been learned about conserving soils and keeping it functioning to grow food and trees, which supply oxygen and habitat for organisms and filters water.
Development can have significant impact on land and streams. An undeveloped acre produces 1,361 gallons of storm water run-off. An acre of developed land produces 25,800 gallons of run-off water because of all the impervious surfaces, from blacktop to rooftops. This extra storm water is channeled to ditches and waterways. It often holds chemicals, fertilizers and sediment and erodes stream banks.
Mrs. Prunty gave tips for property owners to keep from adding to the pollutants going to streams including composting and mowing grass taller, allowing for higher grass and deeper roots. She encouraged planting ground cover and using native plants and trees. Insects can be beneficial to lawns and she advised not to spray them. The goal is to keep soil acting like a sponge by feeding it, monitoring it and protecting it.
In another program, Garrett Ormiston gave a presentation on gardening and landscaping with native plants and trees. He represented the Lake Erie Allegheny Partnership for Biodiversity.