Nominations Being Accepted for Portage Parks Award Dinner!

Save the Date!

The Portage Park District Foundation’s 2023 Environmental Awards Dinner will be held on April 22, 2023, beginning at 5:30 p.m. at the American Legion Hall.

Nominations Being Accepted for Environmental Awards!

The awardee is honored at the Portage Park Foundation dinner in the Spring.

2023 Edith Chase Conservation Award Nomination Form (Due Monday, February 20, 2023)

The awardee will be honored at the Portage Park Foundation dinner on April 22, 2023 (Earth Day).

Portage Park District Foundation’s Environmental Awards  

The Portage Park District Foundation is seeking nominations for potential awardees to be honored at the April 22nd Environmental Awards dinner at the American Legion Hall in Kent..  Nominations should include the nominee’s name and contact information, along with a paragraph or two describing his/her/their contribution to environmental conservation in Portage County.

Nomination categories include:

  • Environmental Education
  • Green Business
  • Green Building/Development
  • Environmental Activism
  • Stewardship

More Information

2023 Nomination Form (Due March 3, 2023)

Environmental Networking Event Returns!

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Hobbs Hall

Unitarian Universalist Church of Kent

217 N. Mantua Street, Kent, OH 44240

Photo from a previous Networking Event

The KEC board is excited to be hosting another in-person World Café style Crooked River Environmental Network event after its annual meeting. (We did something similar at 2020’s annual meeting, just before the pandemic.)

The World Café is an opportunity to talk and network with others. Each table will have a sign with the name of a topic. Participants can choose a topic that interests them. After about 45 minutes, participants can move to a different table and topic, or network with some of our partner organizations.

5:00 p.m. – Community Potluck (Please bring a covered dish to share – Table service provided)

6:00 p.m. – World Café with Topic Tables (including renewable energy, bike/pedestrian-friendly community, permaculture, wetlands/clean water)

7:00 p.m. – More World Café Topic Tables or Networking with Partner Organizations

7:45 p.m. – Harvesting Insights and Connections

8:15 p.m. – Cleanup/Safe Travels

Registration for the event is required. On the registration form, please indicate the environmental issues that are most important to you.

If you are interested in being a community partner organization in the Crooked River Environmental Network, please contact Renee Ruchotzke

KEC Fall Forum November 2 – Permaculture at Kelly’s Working Well Farm

Kelly Clark from Kelly’s Working Well Farm in Chagrin Falls is the featured speaker at the Kent Environmental Council’s Fall Forum. Clark will talk about how she incorporates permaculture in the design of the farm, the educational programming the farm offers, and her vision for navigating changing times.

Wednesday, November 2, 2022, 6:30pm
Kent Free Library, 2nd Floor meeting room
312 W Main St, Kent, OH 44240

The event is free and open to the public.

For more information about Kelly’s Working Well Farm, click here.

To download the flyer, click here.

Save the Date! June 25, 2022 “Make Kent Wild” Garden Tour

Saturday, June 25, 2022     1 – 3 pm
Starting at the Thomas-Anderson Memorial Garden
1110 Walnut St., Kent, OH

In these times of lost habitat and food supply disruptions, the Kent Environmental Council is encourgaging people to “Wild Your Yard.”  (Last year we sponsored a wildly popular tour of gardens in the Crain to Main neighborhood.)

This year, we are sponsoring another free tour, this time of the Historic South End of Kent (with a few gardens east of South Water Street).

Several local residents who are growing edible perennials and/or pollinator/wildlife-friendly and edible plants will be giving tours of their gardens!

No Mow May Conservation Initiative Helps Create Habitat, Forage for Early Season Pollinators

by Brad Brotje

Learn more about creating pollinator habitat at The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation

May. It’s the month that signals to Northeast Ohioans that winter is indeed behind us and that the cycle of life continues. Take a good look around in May as life springs eternal, April’s offerings of returned abundance come to fruition and, most importantly, that abundance displays itself in the form of wildflowers of all kinds: white and red clovers, dandelions, chickweed, goats beard, fleabane and blackberry brambles to name a few. It’s also the month when we drag out our cumbersome and polluting lawn-mowing equipment. Unfortunately, a green, weed-free lawn has become a misguided hallmark of property value and has grown to represent a homeowner’s membership in a productive society. To the contrary, when we choose to mow early, we are depriving nature’s pollinators of the nectar they need to survive and to do the work that supports agriculture; without the health and abundance of these pollinators, many food crops would go unfertilized and fail to produce fruits, seeds, nuts and young plants.

Currently, 40 million acres of land in the United States is maintained as lawns, making this vegetation not only typically free of wildflowers but also the biggest consumer of irrigation in the country. In addition, these lawns often rely on fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides that eventually end up in stormwater systems and then in streams, rivers and lakes. These issues have spawned the growing national movement known as No Mow May. No Mow May is a conservation initiative first popularized by the United Kingdom-based organization Plantlife that now is gaining traction across North America. The goal of No Mow May is to allow grass to grow without a “haircut” for the entire month of May, thereby creating habitat and forage for early season pollinators. The monthlong pause in mowing is particularly important in urban areas where floral resources are often limited.
Not only are lawns burdensome for the people maintaining them, but the millions of acres they encompass also fail to provide benefits to wildlife because the traditional monoculture lawn lacks floral resources or nesting sites for bees and other pollinators. In a 2018 experiment conducted by Susannah Lerman and the USDA Forest Service’s Northern Research Station, Lerman and her collaborators explored whether different lawn-mowing frequencies influenced bee abundance and diversity. The team mowed herbicide-free suburban lawns at different frequencies (i.e., once a week, every other week, or every three weeks) in Springfield, Massachusetts. The results of the study showed that bee abundance increased when lawns were mowed every other week. Mowing every three weeks resulted in more than double the number of flowers available in lawns and increased bee diversity. The efficacy of reducing mowing may be expanded upon by altering the composition of your lawn to include more flowering species. What the researchers described as a “bee lawn” may include Dutch clover, for example, while some plants, such as native violets, may already be present and should be encouraged as they are valuable host plants for fritillary butterflies. You may even want to consider replacing that lawn altogether—planting instead a rain garden, a pollinator garden or a wildflower meadow.

Many cities and municipalities have weed ordinances that dictate not only the types of plants a homeowner is permitted to grow but also the height of any vegetation. Here are a few things you can do to avoid urban conflicts:

  • Engage with your local authorities and encourage them to remove or postpone the enforcement of these out-of-date regulations.
  • Suggest an “opt-in” program to your local health authorities, such as a Natural Lawn Registration program, to sidestep the need to rewrite a health-code ordinance. This registration could, for example, excuse the requirement for mowing in the month of May.
  • Maintain a mowed buffer in front of or around natural plantings to differentiate “lawn” from “garden” and remain in compliance with local ordinances or homeowner association guidelines. Or, maintain a tidy mowed edge to help a busy natural planting look less overwhelming and more intentional rather than neglected.
  • Educate your neighbors and passersby about your landscaping choices. Displaying a simple sign designating your yard as pollinator habitat can let people know that the area has been neglected and instead is an important part of a thriving landscape. A limited number of these signs are still available from the Kent Environmental Council. Look for our booth at the River Day celebration in Kent on Saturday, May 21. This event celebrates the importance of the Cuyahoga River in Kent and surrounding communities. Displays and information will be available from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Haymaker Farmers’ Market on Franklin Avenue. Pollinator seed packets also will be available.

Finally, keep in mind the importance of minimizing your carbon footprint as you reduce your need to mow, and consider replacing your polluting gas-powered lawn equipment with battery-operated electric models. As you reduce the area you choose to mow, these electric alternatives become even more practical and efficient.


Upcoming Event! From Food Desert to “Agrihood” – Resilient Community Gardening

Climate disruption, agribusiness, and big box grocery chains are making fresh and nutrient-rich food inaccessible in many of our communities, a phenomenon known as “food deserts.”

The term “agrihood” (first coined in Silicon Valley to describe edible landscaping) is now used in urban communities like Detroit to describe the repurposing neighborhood land into urban farms and community gardens.

Local leaders will share their stories and vision of how this movement is happening in our communities.

Co-sponsored by the Portage County NAACP.

Register Now!

Speakers Include:

Doria Daniels, Chairwoman of the Kent Historic South End Association.

Doria will share the story of the Thomas-Anderson Memorial Garden, located near the corner of Walnut and Dodge in Kent.

Kashava Holt, Executive Director of Akron Urban Agriculture.

Kashava’s passion is creating a local food network of locally-raised, fresh, quality food, especially in food deserts.

Richie Jones, President of the McElrath Improvement Corp. in Ravenna.

Richie’s fond boyhood memories included enjoying fruit from neighhood vines and trees. Part of his vision for the McElrath neighborhood includes a community garden.

Event Details:

Thursday, February 17, 2022

5:45 pm – Kent Environmental Council Annual Meeting

6:30 pm – Speaker Presentations

This is a hybrid event!

In Person:

Kent Free Library
312 W. Main St.
Kent, OH 44240

Or on Zoom

Register Now!

Make Kent Wild June Garden Tour!

Save the Date!

“Make Kent Wild” June Garden Tour

Saturday, June 26, 2021     11am – 1:30pm
Walls / Crain to Main Neighborhood

“Chances are you never thought of your garden–indeed, all of your property–as a wildlife preserve that presents the last chance we have for sustaining plants and animals that were once common throughout the U.S. But that is exactly the role our suburban landscapes are playing.”   -Douglas Tallamy, author of Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants

This year, the Kent Environmental Council is encourgaging people to “Wild Your Yard.”  Several local residents who are growing edible perennials and pollinator/wildlife-friendly and edible plants will be giving tours of their gardens!

More Details to come!

Environmental Justice Series Part 1: The Other Side of the Tracks–What Is Environmental Racism?

When you go from the wealthiest neighborhoods in New York City to the poorest and blackest neighborhoods, you’ll notice that there is more and more trash on the streets and sidewalks. Reasons often given for this phenomenon is that the poor don’t value their home. But in a recent article in The Atlantic, Mychal Denzel Smith points out that the rich neighborhoods have public trash cans on every street corner, where there are fewer trash cans as you move toward predominantly Black neighborhoods. 

In spite of a state law prohibiting the practice, the Los Angeles Unified School District continued to add schools close to freeways during the past decade. Research has shown that ultrafine particles from vehicle exhaust is hard to filter, causing higher incidents of asthma and bronchitis among students attending these schools. The Los Angeles Unified School District is 10% white.

In 2014, decisions in Flint were being made by governor-appointed emergency managers. One of the decisions was to stop buying treated Lake Huron water from Detroit, and to instead get its water from the contaminated Flint River. To save money, they did not treat the water with corrosion inhibitors, which led to the release of lead from old pipes. There were immediate problems with complaints of contaminated water coming out of the taps of homes and businesses. With weeks, General Motors was allowed to switch back to water from Detroit, because the highly chlorinated water was causing corrosion of car parts on the assembly line. The citizens of Flint, which is 54% Black, waited 20 months for the state government to admit that it made a mistake, in spite of reports of lead poisoning in 40% of homes and an outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease.

In 19th century treaties between the U.S. government and the Sioux, the Sioux people–as a sovereign nation–were given “undisturbed use and occupation” of certain tracts of land in perpetuity including the sacred lands of the Black Hills. When gold was discovered in the Black 

Hills in the 1870s, trespassing prospectors asked for government protection, eventually ending in the massacre of women, elders and children at Wounded Knee. In 1927, white men dynamited the face and carved the faces of the European colonizers whose policies killed Native Americans and appropriated their land–a further insult to the Sioux’s sacred relationship to the Black Hills. In 2016, the pipeline company Energy Transfer Partners planned pipeline was deemed too dangerous to build near Bismark, North Dakota, lest a spill compromise the municipal water system. The alternate location supported by the company went through Sioux sacred burial grounds and 10 miles upstream from the reservation’s water supply. #NoDAPL (No Dakota Access Pipeline) protests were met with violence from local police and the U.S. government, at first with attack dogs, pepper spray, and strip searches of women protesters, then–in subfreezing temperatures–with water cannons, teargas, less-lethal bullets and concussion grenades, injuring hundreds. 

Benjamin Chavis

The term environmental racism was coined by Black civil rights leader Benjamin Chavis and defined as “racial discrimination in the deliberated targeting of ethnic and minority communities for exposure to toxic and hazardous waste sites and facilities, coupled with the systematic exclusion of minorities in environmental policy making, enforcement, and remediation.” His landmark national study Toxic Waste and Race in the United States of America, statistically revealed the correlation between race and the location of toxic waste. 

Black, indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) communities have long felt the impact of economic and environmental policies that have favored profit over people and planet. Decisions and actions by the government over land and property rights favor wealthy and white owners over BIPOC owners even when violence has been involved. In this time of #BlackLivesMatter and other uprisings, this is also a time to learn more about how racism impacts environmental decisions.

Next: What Is Decolonization?

Join the Crooked River Environmental Network!

Logo by local artist and activist Kevyn Breeden.

As a part of the visioning for the next 50 years, the Kent Environmental Council (KEC) recognizes that a lot has changed since its inception in 1970. There is much more environmental awareness, and there are many groups, organizations and individuals working toward similar and related goals to those of the KEC.

The KEC has formed a wider communication and action network, to be known as the Crooked River Environmental Network (CREN). It’s first networking event was held on February 17 and the feedback was positive.

The pandemic set us back a bit, but we are back in action!

Additional World Cafes (using Zoom) are scheduled for:

Tuesday, November 24, 2020, 6:30pm – 8:30pm
Thursday, January 21, 2020, 6:30 – 8:30pm

Register for World Cafes!

(Additional World Cafes will be scheduled depending in interest and participation)

Join our network and mailing list!

Facebook Group:

Email Group:!forum/crooked-river-enviromental-network

Renee Ruchotzke, KEC President