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Posts Tagged ‘ohio’

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Photos: The Wilds
In Columbus, Ohio, you can camp overnight at the zoo.

A couple of my grandchildren brought sleeping bags on their latest visit, hoping to try camping — if not in a tent, then on the bedroom floor. A tent might be a little too exotic for where they are in life, although it worked for Suzanne when she was five weeks old.

Exotic camping makes me think of my friend Cathy. I saw her on the train the day she retired, and she told me that she was planning an overnight at the Columbus zoo. Apparently, you can sleep in a yurt. It’s not cheap. There is also a lodge or cabins, if you prefer.

The website says, “Today, it’s difficult to imagine The Wilds and its 9,000 plus acres as anything but a home to rare and endangered species from around the globe living in open range habitats.

“However, the park that has transformed wild life conservation practices was once devoted to strip mining.”

I loved reading this description of how the landscape was rescued from that devastation.

“The immense landscape of The Wilds and its mining history provides an ideal setting to study the process of ecological recovery and restoration. Ongoing biological inventories have recorded over a thousand species and provide an essential baseline for studying changes in populations over time.

“It is difficult for trees to survive on reclaimed mine land due to soil compaction and low nutrient availability. Instead, The Wilds has successfully established nearly 700 acres of prairies at The Wilds which provide beneficial pollinator and wildlife habitat.  Now we are conducting research to see how prairies change soil properties over time and whether the deep roots of prairie plants can prepare the land for the return of forests. …

“Wetlands are considered the most biologically rich ecosystems in the world.  However, development has caused these habitat types to become among the most endangered. The Wilds has restored a 20-acre area into a quality wetland refuge that supports a diversity of vegetation, waterfowl, and aquatic wildlife.  The removal of invasive species such as cattail is an ongoing effort. The ultimate goal is to increase native wetland vegetation and improve habitat for waterfowl and other aquatic wildlife. …

“Many of the reclaimed forests at The Wilds are in poor health, with low species diversity and overgrown with invasive species. The restoration department is currently working on restoring ~30 acres of forest. In order to accomplish this, invasive plant species are removed and native ones are planted in their place. Removal and replacement is a long and tedious process, but ultimately it will increase the biodiversity of the area. In addition, we intend to create native amphibian habitat by constructing two vernal pools and improving existing wetlands in the area. The end result of these combined efforts is expected to encourage more native animal and insect species to not only inhabit the area, but to thrive. …

“We have expanded our scope to improving the reclamation process immediately after mining. One essential step is seeding the land with new plant species. Traditional seed mixes used in land reclamation are not designed to create diverse habitat for wildlife, they simply aim to revegetate the land. We helped [the Ohio Department of Natural Resources] create more ecologically friendly seed mixes and monitored to see if sites planted with the native mix could revegetate the land as well as the traditional mix. Thus far, we have seen that mixes including native grasses and pollinator plants can definitely be successful, and that they undeniably increase native cover over traditional mixes. We are still working on long term monitoring of this project.”

To the conservationist side of me, this is all very impressive. But having just read a deep, thoughtful history of the destruction of Appalachia called Ramp Hollow, I can’t help but think that mining destroyed not only the environment but the ability of families to make a living off the land. I’d really like to see restoration for the people, too.

More.

Restoration Ecology

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Photo: Terry Smith/ AthensNews.com
“The American Woman,” a sculpture by the late David Hostetler in the Wolfe Garden on Ohio University’s College Green, is part of the 144-mile Ohio Art Corridor.

How encouraging to see communities embrace initiatives that lift people’s spirits and to read that towns are actually spending money on those things! It’s true that parks, trees, and art in a municipality offer economic benefits, but things are also worth doing just because they’re good.

I bet that Ohio’s 144-mile arts corridor, which is meant to lure tourism dollars to an area that has been struggling in recent years, is pretty successful at making the locals feel happy. Nothing wrong with happiness. Nothing wrong with a sense of pride and well-being.

Nancy Trejos writes at USA Today, “Southeastern Ohio is trying to attract visitors by giving them something unique to look at. … The founders believe The Ohio Art Corridor is the largest outdoor gallery in the world, surpassing one in Stockholm that covers 70 miles.

“ ‘Our desire is to draw people out of the big cities, to take a drive through the beautiful Appalachian country of Ohio, to learn, grow, and have experiences that they otherwise would not have,’ says Rebekah Griesmyer, executive director of The Ohio Art Corridor.”

Reporter Fred Kight from Athens News has more.

“The corridor extends 144 miles through Athens, Morgan, Fairfield, Muskingum and Pickaway counties. It currently consists of eight sculptures and two large murals, and organizers hope to add new works.

“ ‘I love the idea. … Public art is wonderful,’ said Athens Mayor Steve Patterson. …

“Griesmyer said, ‘We are attempting to draw people to small cities and towns with outdoor art. It is a huge project, and we couldn’t be more excited to see it implemented and adopted by cities like Athens.’ …

“In order to be included on a Corridor map, the art must [now] meet three criteria. It must be outdoors and free; it must be large; and if the art is not large (over 12 feet) as one piece, it must consist of three sculptures in one place.”

The idea’s originator is Griesmyer’s brother-in-law, David Griesmyer. He “operates a metal fabrication business in Malta, across the Muskingum River from McConnelsville. Creation of the Corridor combines his love of art with a desire to bring new life to the region.

“ ‘This part of Ohio is so rich with beauty, talent and creativity,’ he said. ‘I see southeast Ohio as a large stone ready to be carved, only to reveal a masterpiece hidden within.’ ”

More at the Athens News, here, and at USA Today, here.

Photo: WGRZ-TV
This section of the Ohio Art Corridor is located on the Muskingum Parkway across from the Morgan County Fairgrounds.

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Photo: NCCAkron
The National Center for Choreography is an initiative of the University of Akron in Ohio.

There’s a national center for everything else, why not choreography? Why not Akron? This Midwest university is thinking big.

Steve Sucato writes about its new concept at Dance Magazine. “For countless dancemakers without their own space, there is no place to call home. Enter the new National Center for Choreography at The University of Akron. Its mission: to support the research and development of new dance by providing choreographers, dance companies, arts administrators and dance writers access to the world-class facilities in the University’s Guzzetta Hall and other venues on campus. …

“The Center opened with the support of the University of Akron and a $5 million grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. [Last] month it [hosted] its first official artist residency when it welcome[d] choreographer Tere O’Connor, July 17–28.

“The Center’s founding executive/artistic director, Christy Bolingbroke, says it needs to be adaptable so as not to impose a certain way of working on any artist.

“One way of doing that is to offer several types of residencies: space, for use of the studio facilities; research, in which choreographers can explore alongside academic scholars; laboratory, in which choreographers and dancers can work without the expectation of a finished project; technical, for dancemakers and/or production designers to experiment in a theatrical venue; and commissioning, where artists receive funds in addition to time and space. …

“Overall, the Center is interested in curating dancemakers it can support on a long-term basis. ‘We are trying to shift the paradigm from just final-product–oriented residencies,’ says Bolingbroke.”

More at Dance Magazine, here. And kudos to the Knight Foundation for recognizing that the coasts do not have a monopoly on the making of art.

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Back in 1987, Frank J. Popper and Deborah Popper argued that the former manufacturing hubs of the Midwest should accept that they were now shrinking and that new realities called for new approaches.

Youngstown, Ohio, never saw itself going as far as the Poppers envisioned (turning large swaths of the country back into “Buffalo Commons“), but it did adopt its own way of making lemonade out of lemons.

As Alexia Fernández Campbell writes at City Lab, “Youngstown, Ohio, created quite a stir a decade ago when it unveiled a novel plan for the city: It would stop trying to return to its glory days as a city of 170,000 people and instead embrace the idea that maybe smaller is better.

“The Youngstown 2010 plan reoriented the former steel-mill town toward providing services to the neighborhoods with the most people, converting abandoned land into green space, and supporting the burgeoning healthcare industry. In doing so, it hoped to keep the remaining 66,000 people from leaving. Since unveiling the plan in 2005, the city has lost only about 1,000 people.

“The Youngstown plan … put into motion aggressive action to fight urban decay and revitalize many parts of the city, says Ian Beniston, director of the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation … Part of his group’s job is to identify the healthiest neighborhoods and fix up the houses there, while demolishing abandoned ones and finding new uses for the land. …

“Ian Beniston: The way I view that is, planning within the realms of reality. It’s not that we don’t want to grow. Given the option to shrink or grow, anyone is going to pick grow. But we’re not operating in such a way as if we’re going to grow tomorrow or even growing now. I think it’s really a common-sense approach. …

“That impacts everything you do … Embracing shrinkage has to do with the fact that we had the infrastructure for 250,000 people and we currently have 65,000. …

“The 2010 plan was very basic, so there was the clean-and green-portions of it, improving quality of life, redefining the regional and local economy, but it didn’t get down to the property level of detail. [The Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation] has taken the next step to developing detailed plans with a more market-and-data-driven strategy on the varying health of neighborhoods …

“In stable neighborhoods, for example, we really shouldn’t be demolishing housing. This is oversimplifying this, but if there is a vacant home there, it is likely something that should be rehabilitated, whereas the neighborhood that is already 70 percent vacant, the strategy is probably demolition and reusing the land for another purpose. For example, recently we started working with a company that grows hybrid poplar trees on these acres of vacant land, which are then harvested.” More at City Lab, here.

Here’s hoping efforts like these improve life for all residents in Youngstown. Pretty sure you have to have everyone on board to make it work.

Photo: Brian Snyder/Reuters  

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Do we praise the work of librarians enough? I started following the Ferguson Library on twitter and Facebook after reading how it was the calm eye of the storm in Ferguson, Missouri, amid the 2014 riots. As a result, I now get good leads about other libraries. Here is a report on Ohio librarians who go the distance — and beyond.

Katie Johnson at School Library Journal describes her experience with “Play, Learn and Grow, a pop-up storytime and early learning program created through a collaboration between Twinsburg (OH) Public Library and Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority (AMHA). …

“I noticed that none of the children living in the housing development were coming to storytime at our library. I reached out to AMHA representatives, hoping they would be open to the idea of the library hosting a weekly program at the development. They were, partnering me with one of their employees, Kellie Morehouse, who was already working with families within the complex.

“We set up Play, Grow, and Learn in an unused room behind the apartment leasing office. Our initial goal was to get to know children age five and younger and their families through storytime, crafts, and free play. As the weeks went on, we saw everything that these families lacked: employment, education, transportation, healthy food, proper healthcare, access to preschool, even reliable phone service.”

They got involved in all those areas — helping children get vaccinations and nutritious food, for example, and arranging for isolated young mothers to address depression.

“Early experiences with storytime revealed a desire of the young mothers to interact with one another.  This led the AMHA representative to suggest teaming storytime with one of the organization’s programs for moms.  AMHA and a local behavioral health agency had been working together to provide maternal depression support groups to low-income women in other parts of the county. …

“Twice a month, the moms in our storytime are able to meet in a group setting with a professional to discuss their frustrations and worries. Mom-ME Time has become key, as so many of our moms are dealing with heavy pressures every day, and most do not have a strong support network. Being able to vent and get helpful parenting advice can be crucial to the choices they are making for their young children.”

It is worthy of applause when a librarian sees the whole child, not just a child in storytime, and tries to tackle the barriers to a better life. More here.

Photo: Katie Johnson/School Library Journal
Moms are included in programming for children.

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ICYMI (that’s twitter-speak for “in case you missed it”), a young man who decided to go on the crowdfunding site Kickstarter to raise money to buy ingredients for one small potato salad got more than $55,000.

According to the Associated Press, “A man who jokingly sought $10 from a crowdfunding website to pay for his first attempt at making potato salad and ended up raising $55,000 is making good on his promise to throw a huge party.

“Zack Brown is planning PotatoStock 2014, an all-ages, charity-minded party Saturday in downtown Columbus featuring bands, food trucks, beer vendors, potato-sack races, and definitely potato salad.

“His effort on Kickstarter in early July to buy potato salad ingredients took on a life of its own and attracted worldwide attention as the amount grew.

“The 31-year-old eventually raised $55,492. The Idaho Potato Commission and corporate sponsors have donated supplies for Brown and volunteers to whip up 300 pounds of potato salad for the event.

“The Columbus Dispatch reported that Brown partnered with the Columbus Foundation to start an endowment to aid area charities that fight hunger and homelessness. The account, started with $20,000 in postcampaign corporate donations, will grow after proceeds from PotatoStock are added.” More here.

By golly, I do love quirky.

Photo: Chris Russell/The Columbus Dispatch via AP
Zack Brown’s PotatoStock 2014, an all-ages, charity-minded party, is set for Saturday in Columbus, Ohio.

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Yvonne Zipp wrote a nice article about a Christian Science Monitor-designated Difference Maker. He is Mario Morino, a philanthropist based in Rocky River, Ohio, outside Cleveland. He wrote the free book Leap of Reason to help large nonprofits demonstrate that they are serving the public in the ways they think they are.

Zipp writes that in 2009, after a day of meetings with three different nonprofit boards, Morino was about to burst from frustration.

“At each, a board was discussing how it would assess its nonprofit group. The problem? ‘There wasn’t a nonprofit executive in the room,’ he says.” How could the people who run nonprofits and the boards that assess them ever get agreement on worthwhile measures?

“Morino, who owned his own software development business in the 1980s before setting up the Morino Institute and later Venture Philanthropy Partners, went home and fired off one e-mail, then another. After a fourth, he had what became the core of his book, Leap of Reason, which has more than 40,000 copies in circulation so far – an impressive number for a book about the rarefied topic of nonprofit management. …

The book isn’t aimed at small nonprofits or “civic-minded individuals, Morino says. ‘They represent the strongest core of philanthropy in the US. You don’t want to touch that.’ He likens these folks to his long-ago neighbors in Cleveland, where, ‘if somebody’s building a garage, everyone helped build the garage.’

However, “of the 1.5 million nonprofit groups in the US, 40,000 have budgets of more than $1 million, according to Bridgespan [an organization that consults to nonprofits]. They are the targets of Leap of Reason.”

More here on how the data-driven approach outlined in the book has helped some large nonprofits become more effective.

By the way, the Center for Effective Philanthropy, where WordPress blogger Judith once worked as a writer, addresses the same issue. And Zipp’s article lists other organizations that advise charities.

Photograph of Mario Morino, Ken Blaze / Special to the Christian Science Monitor

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