New Director gives Kent Parks and Recreation update

New Kent Parks and Recreation director Kevin Schwartzhoff gave a presentation to the KEC breakfast meeting on Friday, February 28. He shared several initiates including:

Artist’s rendition of Main Street access to bike trail with a bike ramp.
  • mitigation of wetlands
  • widening of The Portage bike trail between Brady’s Leap and Main Street
  • Creating of an access point from the Main Street bridge to The Portage Bike trail

For more detailed information about upcoming initiatives, peruse the powerpoint from the presentation.

Dozens of Citizens Meet to Express Concern for Local Environmental Issues

The first round of networking conversations.

Local food resilience. Incentives rather than penalties for green energy initiatives. The changing market for recyclables. These were a few of the many topics that were brought up by more than 50 local citizens, politicians, activists and others representing local organizations at a networking event held as part of the Kent Environmental Council’s (KEC) annual meeting on February 17. The Social Justice committee of the Kent United Church of Christ (and KEC member organization) offered their fellowship hall for the event.

The evening started with the annual all-member KEC meeting. Renee Ruchotzke was elected president and Bob Heath was elected vice-president. Bob Wilson and Brad Brotje continued in their roles of treasurer and secretary. There was also a declaration of appreciation for Lis Regula, who had served for many years as president before relocating to Columbus for a new job. This was followed by a potluck dinner as other members of the community joined the gathering.

Facilitator Renee Ruchotzke used Art of Hosting principles, a facilitation style that makes space for all of the voices and experiences in the room. Everyone sat at round tables marked with a topic that interested them. They interacted “council style” using a process called “rounds,” where each person around the table sharded and was listened to in turn.

Everyone in each circle shared why they were passionate about the topic, then what they were doing, or would like to do. The rest of the time was an opportunity to suggest ideas about connections. Attendees then had an opportunity to participate in a discussion around another topic.

At the end of the evening the participants were asked if they wanted future networking events and they enthusiastically endorsed the idea.

The topics and themes from the evening included:

Food: Local / Natural / Sustainable

  • It seems to connect to all of the other issues
  • We need to prepare for resiliency as climate changes
  • It can be an opportunity to build community
  • We should do more to connect to and support the local food system, especially by eating locally

Conservation: Land / Water/ Wetlands 

  • Help people to understand that the wetlands have an important function for water quality and carbon capturing
  • Create opportunities for children to learn more about and feel connected to nature

Recycling: Plastics / Waste Stream

  • There seems to be a huge knowlege gap around the impact of waste, especially plastics (bags, micro-plastics)
  • There are mixed signals about what is and isn’t recyclable
  • Trash from other states coming to Ohio
  • Need more opportunities for re-use (e.g. refillable glass milk bottles)
  • Share information like the the video The Story of a Spoon

Poisons and Pollution

  • Stop the local use of Glyphosate (commercially available as Roundup®)
  • Stop the local use of Fracking Brine as a de-icer on local roads (commercially available as AquaSalina®)
  • Stop spraying for mosquitos

Renewable Energy / Peak Oil

  • Frustrations that the Ohio state government has missed opportunities to promote renewables — instead they are discouraging renewables
  • Choose renewable options for current electric providers
  • Need more local control since the state is failing us
  • More infrastructure for electric cars

Promoting Awareness: Social / Psychological / Educational

  • We need to change hearts and minds to help with action steps
  • Engage youth and young adults
  • Focus on grass roots actions — they can have a cascading effect

Preparing for Disruptions: Shortages, Climate Refugees

  • We should do a lot of networking and constituency-building now
  • Prepare to welcome climate refugees into our homes and communities
  • Develop more community gardens
  • Develop a socially responsible prepper mindset
  • Work on a Community Climate Action Plan

Political Action

  • Change building codes to make it easier to install solar panels
  • Work on home rule to prevent big money from negative local impact
  • Vote for candidates who care about mitigating climate change
  • Community solar on lands like the Mogadore Road contaminated fields.

Indigenous Rights

  • How might we be in right relationship with the land in the way the original inhabitants were?
  • How might we re-wild part of our county

Panel on “Climate Action Plans of U.S. Cities” at UU Church

COME JOIN the Panel on “Climate Action Plans of U.S. Cities”

February 26, 2020 (Wed.) 7:30-9:00PM
Unitarian Universalist Church (Fessenden Hall), 228 Gougler Ave., Kent

Sponsored by the UUCK Environmental Justice Action Group. Panel coordinator: Bill Wilen

What action plans do cities have to combat climate change? Since we have a president that does not believe in human-caused global warming, it is up to city governments and their citizens to become active and devise ways that C02 and other greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced within the next decade –  then eliminated in order to become sustainable communities.

The attendees of this session will each do their own research to identify primarily midwestern U.S. cities that are creating and implementing climate action plans. Try googling “cities climate action plans” and you will find a variety of environmental actions that small, medium and large cities are taking. Each attendee will then have 5-10 minutes to tell the rest of us about the plan he or she has researched and then entertain any comments and questions. So, we all become “panelists” by sharing what we have learned about the cities we have selected.

Let me know the city you have selected (wwilen@kent.edu) to avoid duplication.

If you would prefer just to come, listen and learn, that’s okay because we all will be gathering to learn from each other. I will be presenting on Kent’s movement to create a plan and Cincinnati’s climate action plan. See you, fellow panelists, the evening of Feb. 26th.

KEC Annual Meeting and Community Networking Event on February 17

Thank you for your support of the Kent Environmental Council and our important work!

This year is our 50th anniversary!

A lot has changed since our inception and we are re-imagining KEC so we will continue to be a good partner and leader in local environmental issues for the next 50 years!

The KEC board hosted a visioning retreat last month and invited leaders from a few community partners. The gathered group came up with some new possible initiatives and we want to learn what you think would best serve the community.

  • We need more communication and connection and KEC is well-positioned to fill that role. We would like to create The Crooked River Environmental Network with KEC as the hub. 
  • Look for ways to create awareness and action about our local food supply (local farms, farm-to-table programs, food hub, foraging, planting edibles, etc.) We brainstormed a “Black Walnut Festival” with a focus on local food, but there are many more possibilities.  
  • We want the children in our community to feel at home with and connected to nature.

These join our ongoing focus areas of active living, green energy, local food, clean water, our support of the bog and other green spaces, as well as communication, publicity and education. 

We want to widen the conversation, so we are doing something innovative for this year’s annual meeting! Instead of a program, we are hosting a networking event to help local individuals/groups with an environmental focus to build relationships, find synergies and launch the Crooked River Environmental Network. (Please share this invitation with people in the community that care about the environment.)

Here are the details:

Monday, February 17, 2020

Kent UCC Church, 1400 E Main St, Kent, OH 44240

  • 5:30pm  KEC Member Annual Business Meeting (election of officers [details below], short update)
  • 6:00pm  Community Potluck (Please bring a dish to pass and your own table service)
  • 6:30pm  Networking conversations (based on interests from participants’ registrations)
  • 7:45pm  Harvesting Insights and Connections
  • 8:15pm  Clean up / Safe Travels

Officer slate:

President:  Renee Ruchotzke

Vice President: Bob Heath

(Secretary Brad Brotje and Treasurer Robert Wilson will be serving the second of their 2-year terms.)

Please let us know you are coming and what matters to you by registering:

Sincerely,

Your Kent Environmental Council board

Bob Heath, Acting President

Renee Ruchotzke, Acting Vice President

Brad Brotje, Secretary

Robert Wilson, Treasurer

Action Alert: Ohio SB33 Anti-Protest, Anti-Free Speech Bill

The SB 33 bill dramatically increases the penalties for non-violent protest at fracking sb33sites, oil and gas pipelines, petrochemical plants and other ‘critical infrastructure” sites.  It makes non-profits and organizations and congregations liable for punishment if they support protesters charged under this bill. This is a direct threat to basic rights of freedom of speech and assembly.

This bill directly attacks our first amendment rights to engage in non-violent protest and speak truth to power

It looks like the State House will hold a hearing on Jan. 28 or 29, 2020.

Jan. 29 is the most likely date, at 10 am, if the Utilities Committee follows its usual pattern.

See the Greenpeace summary at: https://polluterwatch.org/OHIO-Oil-Gas-Critical-Infrastructure-Anti-Protest-Bills-alec-csg

  • Under SB33, penalties for trespass are dramatically heightened if they occur on so-called “critical infrastructure”:
  • While general criminal trespass “on the land or premises of another” is a fourth-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $250 fine, the bill would make the same offense punishable by half a year in jail and $1,000 if it takes place on a critical infrastructure facility.
  • The definition of “critical infrastructure facility” is sweeping, and includes a vast array of oil, gas, electric, water, telecommunications, railroad facilities, and other locations.
  • It includes oil and gas sites, fracking wells, petrochemical plants, pipelines and other places that destroy the environment and put our children’s health at risk.
  • Under the bill, an individual peacefully protesting in the wrong place could be sanctioned with half a year in jail.
  • The bill also substantially expands the definition of felony “criminal mischief” in ways likely to chill and put a stop to peaceful protest activity.
  • The bill’s vague definition of the new offense, a third degree felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine, includes “knowingly [and] improperly tamper[ing] with” a critical infrastructure facility.

Lawmakers have attempted to define “improperly tampering,” but their definition (“changing the physical location or physical condition”) does not provide sufficient precision or clarity for individuals facing potential felony charges and a decade in prison.

In the absence of a clearly-defined offense, individuals cannot be expected to know what conduct is or is not criminalized. Rather than face the risk of draconian penalties, they will likely censor themselves, and avoid exercising their First Amendment rights.

It was  designed by the American Legislative Exchange Council – ALEC – to establish special protections especially for the oil and gas industry.  And put an end to any public protest or opposition to the activities of these industries.

It is also designed to punish non-profits, environmental groups  and even congregations who dare to support the people protesting  at these sites with fines up to $100,000.  The Senate version contains criminal and civil liabilities for non-profits and organizations.  The House version tried to amend the criminal liability, but made it even more murky in its definition of organizational improper action.

What you can do.

  • Share this with your networks
  • Write a Letter to the Editor
  • Show up and pack the Hearing Room  when the House Utilities Committee meets on Jan. 28 or 29, probably in the morning.
  • Attend the House session that might follow to be present during the floor vote.
  • Provide Written Opposition Testimony.
  • Offer Spoken Opposition Testimony from those of you willing to speak for 3 minutes.

(Thanks to UUJO for this information.)

SAVE THE DATE: 7TH ANNUAL KENT STATE ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE & DESIGN RESEARCH SYMPOSIUM

March 17-18, 2020

Biodesign – Designing with Life for Environmental Sustainability

SYMPOSIUM OVERVIEW

The Environmental Science and Design Symposium, formerly the Land and Water Symposium, is a multidisciplinary forum that promotes the exchange of ideas related to the resiliency of natural and built systems. Now in its seventh year, the symposium (formerly known as the Water and Land symposium) is organized by Kent State’s Division of Research and Sponsored Programs, and the university’s Environmental Science and Design Research Initiative (ESDRI), which supports multidisciplinary research related to the impact of human influence on natural and constructed environments. We are assembling a diverse group of speakers around the symposium’s theme, ‘Biodesign – Designing with Life for Environmental Sustainability’ representing topics ranging from natural resources management to art, architecture, and design thinking. 

Registration is free and open to the public.  We hope you will support the symposium, attend, submit abstracts for poster presentations, and encourage other students and colleagues to attend!

More information is available at https://www.kent.edu/ESDRI-symposium

Fall Forum Explores Lessons from Urban Activist Jane Jacobs

In her 1961 book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, community activist Jane Jacobs described the elements that made cities vibrant and safe. She predicted how segregating work, home and play would destroy the fabric of communities. She also described how mixed use neighborhoods (shops and homes, rich and poor, arts and entrepreneurs) created the best quality of life.

In this year’s Fall Forum: Making Kent More Sustainable, Just, and Successful , Jennifer Mapes, Assistant Professor
Geography Department, Kent State University, will share her admiration for Jacobs, and look at how we can use her ideas to think about Kent today.

Jennifer Mapes

• Jacobs was particularly concerned about the increasing dominance of the automobile and loss of sense of community in neighborhoods.
• She stressed the importance of walkability and community driven planning cities designed by people and for people.
• This approach has slowly made its way into the mainstream and into Kent’s urban fabric there’s much to celebrate about the evolution of Kent’s downtown and neighborhoods, but much more work to do.

So how can the city, and we, as residents, learn from Jacobs as well as the successes and failures of cities in the past 100 years and move forward to a more sustainable, just, and successful community?

We hope you will join us to find out.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019 7pm
Kent Free Library
312 West Main Street
Kent, OH 44240

Image © James Gulliver Hancock

The Changing Climate of Northeast Ohio: Future Directions

by Bob Heath

The climate is changing all over the United States but not at the same rate in all places. Ohio is among the regions where 

the climate is changing most rapidly. It is predicted that this region will be an average of 4 to 5 degrees warmer by 2050. Such rapid climate change puts at risk the economic and environmental sustainability of ecosystems, a situation that will require people to adapt to the changes or move elsewhere. 

Ohio is getting warmer and wetter. Both the average daily low temperature and the average daily high temperature are increasing; the low temperatures are increasing faster than the  high temperatures. Likewise, the winters are warming faster than the summers. The consequences of the accelerated warming are fewer frozen fields and frozen lakes, both of which threaten traditional agricultural practices that take advantage of the ability to drive heavy equipment over frozen fields. Lakes without ice cover will experience increased evaporation and increased light penetration into the bottom waters, altering temperature-dependent lake processes.

The threat is increased flooding–not lakes drying up. Lakes will be replenished by increased rainfall. Since 1900, precipitation in Ohio has increased by 15%. Five of the 10 wettest years in Ohio have occurred since 2003. Snowfall will decrease, rainfall will increase, and episodes of rainfall will be more intense than in the past. The seasonality of precipitation also is changing. Farmers have depended on the usual scenario of a dry spring (so they can plant early), followed by even rainfall amounts throughout the summer, followed by a dry autumn (so they can harvest their crops). That scenario, however, is changing to a wetter spring, followed by a droughty summer, followed by a rainy autumn. It is a worst-case scenario for agriculture, as farmers will have to alter long-standing best practices in the face of a potentially shorter growing season and the need to plant drought-tolerant crops.

Aaron Wilson

Imagine how great it would be if Ohio had a state climate  office to address these issues. Actually, such an office does exist–at The Ohio State University–and it publishes online a Quarterly Climate Summary. The director of the climate office is Aaron Wilson. Wilson spoke at the Understanding Harmful Algal Blooms: State of the Science conference held on September 12 at the University of Toledo.

The quarterly report for June through August 2019 shows the following: 

  • The summer of 2019 was the 12th wettest summer on record, while June 2019 was the fifth wettest June on record.
  • Portage, Summit and Stark counties were among the counties receiving the most precipitation at 125% to 175% percent above normal (“normal” is the average during the period 1981-2010).
  • The summer of 2019 was warmer than average, achieving the rank of 30th warmest summer since 1895 (about 2 degrees warmer than average over that period).
  • The warmth was driven by warm overnight temperatures.

Kent Health Department Interim Commissioner Talks about Mosquito Management, Bats, Ticks, Much More at KEC Breakfast Meeting

by Lorraine McCarty

Mosquito management and other matters involving the Kent Health Department were the topics of discussion when the interim commissioner for the department, Justin Smith, spoke at the KEC breakfast meeting on July 30. 

Mosquito Management

Smith, who came to his position with a degree in conservation from Kent State University, said that trapping mosquitos is his passion, but he realizes that other methods must be used for the health and safety of residents. Smith then discussed the city’s four-part mosquito-control program–education, surveillance, larviciding and adulticiding–which runs from May through September.

Education. People need to know that mosquitos breed every five days in stagnant water and that they need only very small  amounts of water, such as a tire track or a bottle cap, to multiply. The health department uses interns as customer-service representative to talk to people about the risks of rain barrels, the need to empty buckets and other sources of standing water, and the need to change water in birdbaths every five days. Smith noted that a bubbler helps if you have a have a small fountain in your yard. He added that it is important for people to keep their properties free of possible breeding grounds.

Surveillance. The health department identifies locations throughout the city where mosquito populations are building up at both natural and man-made breeding sites. Staff set traps for mosquito specimens on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and come back the next morning to identify what is in the traps. Smith said his staff has found up to 3,000 mosquitos in one trap. They count the number of mosquitos and then send the mosquitos to Columbus, where the insects are tested for viruses. The results come back in a week. If something dangerous was found, Smith said, the health department will issue a news release within one week and spray the quadrants of the city where the problem mosquitos were found. 

Smith said the health department recently caught a mosquito that tested positive for West Nile virus. The virus, he added, probably was brought into the area by migrant birds. No human cases of West Nile have been reported in Kent or in Portage County, said Smith, adding that mosquitos with West Nile virus are found throughout Ohio. The Asian tiger mosquito, said Smith, often comes from the south and usually is found in junkyards, in places where scrap tires are left in the open and in garden shops. The tree hole mosquito, on the other hand, poses the danger of encephalitis. Smith said he knew of one local case that involved a mosquito bite and the development of encephalitis–that of a six-year-old boy in Stow.

Mosquito larvae

Larviciding. The daytime treatment of areas of standing water helps reduce the mosquito population, said Smith. He noted that when staff are driving around and see potential breeding sites, they dip a scoop into the water and, if they find larvae, they get the landowners to correct the problem or they treat the larvae with a naturally occurring bacterium called Bti, which is toxic only to mosquito and black-fly larvae and won’t harm beneficial insects. Daytime treatment and the use of Bti, said Smith, are the most effective controls and are the ones used the most. Cold weather can kill the larvae but, if the larvae do survive, it is in storm drains. Smith noted, however, that storm drains in Kent are difficult to treat because water in those drains flows into the Cuyahoga River.

Adulticiding. The evening spraying of residential streets to reduce the number of adult mosquitos is the last resort and is used when a virus has been found or when the nuisance value of the mosquitos has exceeded a certain threshold. The health department gets many calls, both positive and negative, about  The chemicals used have changed from the past. Kontrol 4-4, said Smith, is not the most environmentally friendly product, but it is what the department can afford. Zenodex also is used and has a toxicity level that Smith describes as “less than a cup of coffee.” It is water-based rather than oil-based and therefore leaves no residue, Smith noted. The health department does not spray until sundown, which helps to protect dragonflies, bees and moths by limiting their exposure to the chemicals, although moths, said Smith, can be collateral damage. He said the health department does its best to be less toxic to bees and uses a product called Mavrick Perimeter to spray on a tree line in mosquito-infested areas but only as a last resort.

It’s important to try to avoid being bitten by mosquitos, said  spraying. Smith. He noted that mosquitos are attracted to odors–especially body odors. They also look for carbon dioxide, starting with birds and on up the food chain. Covering up outside also is important, said Smith, adding that health department workers use a product called Repel, which contains 45% DEET, as they complete their outdoor tasks. Smith stressed that when using DEET, spray it on clothes and not on skin. “Drench from the knees down with the stuff. It stinks but works,” said Smith.

When asked about climate change, Smith said that it can affect the types of mosquitos found in the environment. “We got rid of malaria, which is transmitted by mosquitos, but it could come back,” said Smith. For more information about the Kent Health Department’s mosquito-management program or for a form to request mosquito-control services, click here

Bats

Purple martins (the largest North American swallow) and bats both eat mosquitos. There has been an increase in the bat population, said Smith, adding that about one in 12 bats has rabies. They bite or spit the virus, which is 99% fatal. Smith noted, however, that the benefit of bats outweighs the rabies threat. The health department has a brochure on bats with more information.

Ticks

Ticks are among the southern bugs can make their way up to Northeast Ohio, said Smith. The increase in the number of  ticks is getting worse and worse, he added. This year is the first time that Smith has seen blacklegged ticks in Kent. The ticks transmit Lyme disease, which is common in the South. Smith added the health department also is on the lookout for the American dog tick, which causes Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and the Lone Star tick, which we have not been seen in Kent. Both ticks are very susceptible to cold weather but, as the climate warms, they could come here and survive, said Smith. 

Because ticks can cause disease, it is crucial to get a tick off of you within 24 hours, said Smith. “Don’t grab and pull. Use tweezers instead. Just tug on it like you would taking off a Band-Aid, and it will pop out. You want to avoid backflow of toxins into the body,” said Smith.

Deer-Population Control

Deer population control is on Kent City Council’s agenda, said Smith. The health department, he said, is trying to get council to allow sharpshooters to kill deer for population control and  then donate the meat to food banks. Once in a while, said Smith, the health department has moved a deer. No one else can remove deer, he added. Deer also are involved with the spread of ticks. Smith explained that ticks fill up by biting a deer, and then they drop off the deer and are left where people and animals can pick them up when they walk in the area. Smith noted that the walking path to Dix Stadium from Kent State University is one that deer also use because it is easier for the deer to use. This path, said Smith, is where the health department finds the most deer ticks.

Food Safety, Housing and More

The health department also oversees food safety (and teaches classes on it), housing violations and many other health-related activities. Smith also noted that beehives and monarch  butterfly sites can be registered with the state for $10. Registration is helpful, said Smith, because it lets the health department know where beehives and monarch butterflies are located and thus try to avoid these sites when spraying. The transportation of queen bees, said Smith, requires a different license. The county bee warden checks beehives annually to be sure the bees are healthy, said Smith, adding that bee health is seen as a homeland security issue.

Kent State Announces 2019 Fall Environmental Events and Speakers

___________________________________
Friday, 10/18/19 

Alex Crawford, College of Wooster
“Using satellites to understand the impact of Arctic sea ice decline on marine phytoplankton”
Geology Colloquium, 1:15 pm, McGilvrey Hall Room 234

___________________________________
Friday, 11/1/19 

Walt Carson, University of Pittsburgh
“Biodiversity collapse and the future of the Eastern Deciduous Forest biome”
Biology Seminar, 12:00 pm, Cunningham Hall Room 13

Derek Sawyer, Ohio State University
Marine sedimentology/Geomechanics/Hurricanes 
Geology Colloquium, 1:15 pm, McGilvrey Hall Room 234

___________________________________
Friday, 11/8/19 

Sarah Carmichael, Appalachian State University Geochemistry/Geomicrobiology
Geology Colloquium, 1:15 pm, McGilvrey Hall Room 234

___________________________________
Friday, 11/15/19 

Ryan Martin, Case Western Reserve
“The sources of variation for evolutionary change”
Biology Seminar, 12:00 pm, Cunningham Hall Room 13

Richard Becker, University of Toledo
Geology Colloquium, 1:15 pm, McGilvrey Hall Room 234
Remote sensing/Hazardous algal blooms

Matt Crawford, Kent State University
Geography Colloquium, 2:30 pm, McGilvrey Hall Room 310
https://www.kent.edu/history/profile/matthew-crawford

___________________________________
Friday, 11/22/19 

Carly Ziter, Concordia University
“Thinking outside the park: a landscape ecology approach to urban ecosystem services”
Biology Seminar, 12:00 pm, Cunningham Hall Room 13

Kevin Befus, University of Wyoming
Surface-water groundwater interactions/Ecohydrology/Critical zone
Geology Colloquium, 1:15 pm, McGilvrey Hall Room 234

___________________________________
Friday, 12/6/19 

Daniel Herms, Davey Tree
Geography Colloquium, 2:30 pm, McGilvrey Hall Room 310