Friday, May 22, 2015

Letters to Editor
August 14, 2014 by Staff Report | No Comments

‘Preserve, Conserve and Protect?’

Ever since its inception, the mission of the Geauga Park District has been to “preserve, conserve and protect the natural features of Geauga County and to provide the opportunity for people to enjoy and appreciate those resources.”

For decades, the people and voters of Geauga County have embraced that mission and our parks, providing not only their tax dollars, but also their time and, in some instances, even their property, until the park district has become what it is today, a true jewel.

All of that work and sacrifice is now at risk. The current Board of Park Commissioners, after being hand-picked and appointed by Judge Tim Grendell, has developed a new “Statement of Purpose” for our parks that will subject them to the very insults and degradation that we thought they would be forever protected from.

In direct contrast to all that has been done before, the last paragraph of Article I now reads:

“Portions of the Park areas may be physically developed for recreational use as needed to meet the recreational needs of Geauga County Residents and portions may be preserved in their natural state for future generations.”

When you read what they envision such recreational use to include, you will see that it is no accident that they have now moved the preservation of natural features to the end of the line, and only as a “may be”, no longer a “will.”

As stated in the new Bylaws, scattered among traditional park district activities such as picnicking and bird watching, those promised “recreational activities” will now include: gas and oil drilling; all-terrain vehicles (ATVs, dirt bikes, UTVs); recreational hunting; recreational trapping; animal propagation; recreational logging; and firearms ranges.

It is truly difficult to imagine a list of allowed activities more at odds with the historical uses of our parks than the above.

This past summer I took a trip out west that included a drive through the small town (not much bigger than Chardon ) of Williston, N.D. That town is one of the centers of the oil and gas industrial boom that is happening in this country. It is currently literally being bulldozed under so that the development needed by and for the industry can take over. In the meantime, the parking lot of the local WalMart serves as home for dozens of people living in their cars and RVs, apparently because the low wages that they earn is not enough for them to afford any other housing.

Anyone who currently loves Geauga County would do well to do a bit of research themselves on the town of Williston. If 10 percent of what is happening to Williston happens here, you will no longer recognize your county, and that doesn’t even take into account the environmental damage that can result from the wells themselves.

Our park district commissioners (remember “Preserve, Conserve and Protect?”) should have no part in bringing that industry and all of its baggage into our community.

It is understandable why hunters would want to have access to our parks. It is because they contain good populations of game animals in addition to the other wildlife. They contain those animals precisely because they haven’t been hunted for recreation in the recent past. After a few years of recreational hunting, most of those animals would be gone from our parks.

Now you have a chance of seeing and sharing with your children beavers, muskrats, mink and even otters in the wild in our parks. Under this board’s vision of the future, they could all be trapped, so that they can be skinned and their pelts sold or tacked up on someone’s wall.

After a bit of research, I found that Ohio contains more than 771,000 acres of public hunting areas. That equates to just over 1,200 square miles, or a few acres less than three times the size of Geauga County (408 square miles). That’s a lot of land already dedicated to pubic hunting.

If hunters want even more public hunting and trapping land, they should take the matter up with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. It is the responsibility of ODNR to provide for and regulate public hunting in the county and the state, not the Geauga Park District’s.

ATVs and dirt bikes are dangerous, loud and destructive to the landscape. With the small size of our parks, and the noise they generate, their presence would make any park unusable and unsafe for anything or anyone else. With a chance of serious injuries (and even death), why would the park board even consider allowing and promoting their use?

A quick check of the internet shows that there are already dozens of commercial and public lands available to ATV users in Ohio, including ODNR properties. There is no need to add our parks to that list.

And what about the current neighbors to our parks? Don’t they matter? This week they live next to peace and quiet. This time next year they may all be subject to the high-pitched whine and dust of ATV’s and dirt bikes, and to the staccato bursts of semi-automatic weapons fire, not to mention the insult of oil and gas drilling.

This Board of Park Commissioners was supposed to preserve, conserve and protect. With a single document they have shoved all of that aside, and will instead turn our parks and their wildlife over to those who would destroy both.

What a waste. What a shame.

Chris Parker

Keep Them Wild, Serene

I recently stopped to have a quick lunch at Sunnybrook Preserve. I was interested to see that there was a pit of gravel. I’m assuming intended for a horseshoe pit and a tether-ball court set up by the bathrooms.

I have been challenged in my health the last 10 years, so I will admit, I am not up to date on all the news.

I was surprised as I was under the impression that funds were an issue for our parks. This seemed like a luxury expense and something that didn’t fit the philosophy of the park district, especially since we had rented this facility just a month or so before and weren’t allowed to have music for our church service due to the close neighbors. I completely understood. They deserve the right to peace.

As I enjoyed the quiet at the nearby picnic table, my mind wandered to the new additions. I am grateful that even in my diminished state of energy, I can still go and enjoy some peace and quiet and nature. I pondered what this lunch would be like if the horseshoes and tether-ball additions were being used by enthusiastic and boisterous picnickers.

The clang of the horseshoe hitting the metal spike would have jarred my already sensitive body and made it impossible to have this lunch. The banging on the ball, which to most doesn’t seem like much, would have made my system jump, like most would respond to a surprise firecracker.

I am still amazed at the state of agitation that my body experiences at sounds that most people wouldn’t even notice. I know that most people don’t even consider this, as in many cases they don’t know it exists. My condition, according to the head of rhumetology at Cleveland Clinic, is not my imagination and he sees three to four people a day experiencing similar symptoms.

As you can see, the addition of these recreational amenities, although you may see them as harmless, for me they are not. If these items were in use, I would not have been able to tolerate eating lunch at that spot. Because of my health, I don’t have the leisure, most days, to go hiking into the trails to find the peace and solace — a peace and solace that is so rare and virtually unavailable in most areas of the country.

I can attest to that, as I have researched where else I would like to live and was stunned at the lack of green space available in most communities. I treasure our park systems and frequent them at least two and up to seven times per week.

As an entrepreneur and small business person, I understand paying the bills. I also understand that we all have our perceptions and do what we feel is correct. I ask that you consider, my perception and situation.

I don’t understand the choice of amenities that create noise in a place that is designed for quiet, nature, solitude and leisure? I understand that the park is placing sports fields in some of the parks. Really? We have so much groomed recreational space devoted to sports, many of which seem to have much idle time already.

I also question what our sports are teaching our children. The win or lose idea that they then take into life. We need more people in this world that can see beyond games in life and to the depth of meaningfulness — a meaningfulness and depth that comes from spending time in nature.

There is also the scientific research that we heal more quickly if we have exposure to nature. You can just Google “fact of healing from nature” and you can see numerous studies that are easily understood and a quick read. I won’t add links to this email, as it may end up in your spam if I do. I am confident you can research it yourself if you are not familiar.

If you want to create interest in the parks, lets educate our children and adults about nature. Education is what keep our lands preserved for the future. Teach our children about the value of the plants in our parks. Healing and nourishing items that cost nothing except the investment to go find them, once one is educated. A wisdom that is quickly vanishing from our knowledge base.

This is just one answer. There are so many classes that could be offered at a charge to generate funds, utilizing volunteers to teach.

We can’t expect you to have all the answers. Maybe you should consider a community segment, that would brainstorm new ways of thinking for the future of our parks and ways to pay for them.

As the sign in Einstein’s office at Princeton reads, “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.” And, in his words, no problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.

Please consider the incredible value our parks offer the people, all people, of Geauga County. Please … keep them wild, keep them serene!

Bazia Zebrowski

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