By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
Fire can be a tricky land management tool. Thus, the Wood County Park District and the City of Bowling Green are officially partnering for future prescribed burns.
The two entities have agreed on a memorandum of understanding for the management of fires in the parks. For years, the two park systems have aided each other with prescribed burns to control unwanted growth.
“It finalizes this deal,” Wood County Park District Manager Chris Smalley said.
The arrangement benefits both entities because coordinating prescribed burns is a specialized skill — and the more park employees practice, the better, Smalley said.
The Bowling Green Parks and Recreation Department periodically conducts prescribed burns at the Wintergarden/St. John’s Nature Preserve as a land management tool.
These controlled burns have improved natural habitat for wildlife and aided in plant management – effectively removing non-native invasive species that invade local habitat and shade out native plants. According to Cinda Stutzman, Bowling Green’s natural resources specialist, prescribed burns are considered a natural resource manager’s most cost-effective tool for managing natural habitat.
If weather conditions are favorable, the nature reserve conducts a prescribed burn in the spring to maintain the prairie grasses and flowers.
The Wood County Park District uses controlled burns to manage growth in several parks, including Cricket Frog Cove, Bradner Preserve, Baldwin Woods, and some locations along the Slippery Elm Trail.
Some burns are done in the spring, others in the fall, Smalley said.
“It depends on what we’re managing,” he said.
Adrien Lowien-Kirian, who coordinates prescribed burns in county parks, described the process last year to the park board.
“Fire is a very good management tool,” Lowien-Kirian said. “It’s really good for mitigating some invasive species.”
Controlled burning is the most effective method for restoring oak forests and savannahs, Lowien-Kirian said. Fires can reduce leaf and organic matter layers, increase nutrient cycling, improve seed germination and increase biodiversity.
Other methods can be used, such as herbicides, mowing, raking and blowing. But all take longer than controlled burns, Lowien-Kirian said. In some cases, a combination of methods is the best option, she said.
In all prescribed burns, the Wood County Park District follows detailed regulations of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the Ohio EPA. All personnel involved are trained, according to Lowien-Kirian.
Burning in grasslands and woods is only carried out when conditions are ideal. Factors such as wind, humidity, temperature, fuel moisture and fuel load must be taken into consideration, she explained. Very often, planned burns have to be delayed until the right conditions present themselves.
Also at Tuesday’s meeting, Park District Commissioner Denny Parish expressed concern that the seawall created next to Buttonwood Park does not appear to be smaller after an order from the Wood County Planning Commission. that the size of the mound should be reduced. The levee has been partly blamed for causing massive damage to the park from the ice pack along the Maumee River.
Smalley said he checked with planning commission officials, who said the owner had until September to reduce the levee.
Until then, the park district makes a minimal investment in the site. Buttonwood offers “very simple services,” including access to the Maumee River and portable toilets, Smalley said.
Jim Witter, the park’s district program coordinator, also pointed out that the site is used for wading programs and a catfish fishing tournament.
In other business at Tuesday’s meeting:
- Witter distributed new guides for the Portage River Water Trail, which begins at William Henry Harrison Park in Pemberville and ends at Lake Erie. The newly opened water trail “connects people to local natural resources”, he said.
- Deputy Park District Manager Andrew Kalmar reported water damage to the basement beams of the Otsego Park Stone Shelter. The concrete will be recast to repair the water deterioration, he said.
- A Friends of the Parks representative spoke about the upcoming Native Plant Sale scheduled for this fall, featuring fall-blooming shrubs and flowers, a scarecrow contest, a birdseed sale, a photo contest of the park and a lending library in the Cedar Creeks Preserve.