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Bath hosts State of the Parks event

3/27/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Julia Kazar

BATH — The annual Bath State of the Parks meeting had a little something for everyone March 20.

The meeting began with Bath Trustee Elaina Goodrich giving a history of the parks. Goodrich said there are four parks located in Bath: Bath Community Activity Center, Bath Baseball Park, Bath Hill Park and the Bath Nature Preserve.

According to Goodrich, Bath Community Activity Center, 1615 N. Cleveland-Massillon Road, is the oldest park in Bath. In 1967, the Bath trustees put a 0.5-mill levy on the ballot to fund a place for families to play and spend time together. It was defeated, but a second levy the next year passed, and Bath Community Activity Center, a 41-acre park, was created, she said. It was built with a NatureWorks grant, with the township providing matching funds, and gives visitors a variety of things to do, including: a picnic area; 12 miles of hiking, walking and jogging trails; tennis courts; soccer fields; and more.

According to Goodrich, Bath Baseball Park, 4600 Everett Road, was established in 1998 when the township acquired 26.5 acres to be used for baseball parks. The park hosts eight fields, restrooms, a picnic area, playground and parking, she said, and was built with donations. Goodrich said more than 1,400 games were played at this park last year alone. It also was built with the NatureWorks grant and a township match of funds, she said.

According to Goodrich, Bath Hill Park, 763 N. Revere Road, is a 16-acre park that offers tennis courts, basketball courts, an activity field, playground, a picnic area restrooms and parking. It also was built with a NatureWorks grant and a township match of funds.

The Bath Nature Preserve, 4160 Ira Road, is by far the largest park Bath has to offer with over 400 acres of land and several different habitats, including: wetlands, woodlands, riparian and old field habitats, according to Goodrich. The Nature Preserve was established after a survey conducted in 1996 reported Bath residents wanted more green space in the township. It features several multipurpose trails, as well as the Field Station, which is used by students and faculty from The University of Akron (UA) for research and study.

After Goodrich’s presentation, former Parks Supervisor Michael Rorar gave a presentation on goals that had been accomplished for the parks in 2013. Some of the highlights of the year included: purchasing a new truck to replace an old pick-up the department had been using, constructing an observation/fishing deck on Bath Pond, the restoration of the Moore’s Chapel Cemetery wetland floodplain and the restoration of the Garden Bowl.

Interim Park Supervisor Alan Garner reported on the 2014 goals for the Bath Parks Department. His plans included: replacing a trail vehicle, replacing a driveway culvert across from the tennis courts at the Bath Community Activity Center, installing under-drains at Field 4 at the Bath Baseball Parks to prevent infield flooding, continuing work on a path around Bath Pond that started last year and restoring the Tamarack Bog and boardwalk.

The last presentation of the evening was given by UA Professor Greg Smith, who talked about some of the research that is done at the Field House.

Smith spoke about anthropocene, a term used to mark the evidence and extent of human activities that have had a significant global impact on the Earth’s ecosystems. Smith said since humans have been in existence, they have transformed more than 33 percent of the Earth’s land surfaces and have damaged or diverted most major rivers as examples of anthropocene. Smith and other researchers at UA investigate these impacts, study the change and the unintended consequences, he said.

According to Smith, the Tamarack Bog is a hidden gem of the Bath Nature Preserve. It provides a snapshot of Ohio’s ice age and is a great example of anthropocene. The bog was once a large ecosystem home to many different species of plant and animal life, but thanks to man-made drainage, it has shrunk to just 4 acres, he said. Park staff is now working to restore the bog to its full glory and allow park visitors to enjoy this unique habitat for years to come, Smith said.

Smith also spoke about the importance of keeping an ecosystem in balance. He said an example of this are white-tailed deer and earthworms. Neither are native species to Northeast Ohio and were introduced by humans, and both can be harmful to ecosystems if they get out of hand. Smith said if you only take care of half the problem, such as the deer, the area will not be able to fully restore itself because it will still be overrun with earthworms. He said both species must be controlled at an equal rate.

Smith also talked about some research currently being done to keep the bat population safe while installing wind turbines on Lake Erie to harness wind energy. Smith said that there are a lot of positives to wind energy, but the turbines are very dangerous to bats, which are already threatened by white nose syndrome. So, researchers are tracking the flight paths of bats on Lake Erie and determining where the best locations are to place turbines so they will have the smallest impact possible on the environment.

The meeting concluded with a bonfire and light refreshments at the Regal Beagle at the Bath Nature Preserve.

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