January Volunteer of the Month: Alex Roller-Knapp

ALEX ROLLER-KNAPP

Alex Roller-Knapp is our January Volunteer of the month! Alex is an avid volunteer with FLOW, spearheading our Macrofest and Earth Day River clean ups. He volunteers with FLOW because he finds it “very rewarding to see water quality improvements made as a result of volunteering  his time, particularly how much plastic we remove from the river banks at the Confluence (referring to the junction of the Olentangy and Scioto Rivers) every spring during Earth Day.” He credits other “great volunteers” who play a critical role in making these events successful.

Alex loves extreme sports like whitewater kayaking, mountain biking, and snowboarding. Anything outdoors is always an adventure for him. 

Alex has a degree in Environmental Health and Safety and is an EPA Level 3 Qualified Data Collector (QDC) for benthic macroinvertebrates.  He has worked for 11 years at Midwest Biodiversity Institute sampling macroinvertebrates throughout the Midwest. 

Here is a short video of his work in 2018 on the Olentangy   https://youtu.be/eUc1n_m317w

Thank you Alex for all your time, dedication, and expertise you lend to FLOW. We couldn’t accomplish anything without our fantastic volunteers!

Friends of the Lower Olentangy Watershed (FLOW)‎Education and Outreach: Heather Robinson, Environmental Crimes

Monday, November 11, 2019 at 6 PM – 7 PM

Columbus Metropolitan Library – Whetstone Branch   3909 N High St, Columbus, Ohio 43214

Heather Robinson is the Director of the Environmental Crimes Unit of the Franklin County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office in Columbus, Ohio. Ms. Robinson specializes in the prosecution of environmental crimes, including air, water, and land pollution, as well as wildlife trafficking. Over the course of her career she has prosecuted nearly the entire spectrum of criminal activity, from drunk driving to aggravated murder. In addition, Ms. Robinson brings civil suits to enjoin nuisances involving narcotics and prostitution.

Ms. Robinson is also a Special Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, specializing in federal environmental and wildlife crimes prosecution.

Ms. Robinson has conducted numerous trainings for attorneys, law enforcement officers and regulatory personnel, and has instructed at the National Advocacy Center, the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center and the Ohio Police Officer Training Academy. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Michigan State University and her Juris Doctor degree from The Ohio State University College of Law.

Friends of the Lower Olentangy Watershed presents: BluePrint-Clintonville Rain Gardens: Impacts on Storm Water and Habitat, by Dr. Jay Martin

 

Please join FLOW for this presentation by Ohio State University Professor of Ecological Engineering, Dr. Jay Martin, on Thursday September 26th from 6 – 7 pm.  This presentation will take place in the Whetstone Library Conference Room. After Dr. Martin’s presentation, there will be time for questions and answers. All are welcome.

On the Hunt for Conservation Easements: Past, Present, and Future

A major goal of FLOW’s Lower Olentangy Greenspace Plan project was to inventory and map existing green and open spaces within the Lower Olentangy Watershed. This not only includes the obvious suspects such as parks, but also more obscure parcels such as conservation easements. Conservation easements are voluntary legal agreements between landowners and a qualified organization in which the landowner places restriction on the use of the property to protect the natural value of the land. Donation of a conservation easement typically protects land permanently while keeping it in private ownership.

Locating conservation easements proved harder than one might imagine. It might seem that one could go down to the local court house and simply request a list?  Or perhaps one could go on-line to the county recorder’s database and do a simple search for easements? As a FLOW researcher recently discovered, it’s not quite so simple.

Some easements are old and discovery requires examining the ownership history of the land parcel and plat. A plat is a map of a land area, usually on the scale of a neighborhood and a parcel is a piece of land used for a single purpose (such as a park or a home). Essentially a plat map shows the collection of parcels that make up a neighborhood. While old plat maps may be photographed and stored electronically, original public land survey plats were hand drawn and the artistry and penmanship of each plat is unique. Some were drawn with color, others in shades of gray, and others in black and white. The level of detail captured in each plat map was dependent on the diligence and accuracy of the individual surveyors. Some surveyors created maps of remarkable detail, while other surveyors were less meticulous

Figure 1. 1803 Plat Map                                             Figure 2. 2004 Plat Map and Conservation Easement (Worthington, OH)                                                                                (Kempton Run Drive, Columbus,OH)

Another challenge is that multiple organizations currently hold conservation easements. And no single clearinghouse exists. The Lower Olentangy watershed spans two counties and multiple government jurisdictions. Each has its own record keeping, its own type of database, and its own policies and procedures. To complicate matters, the costs of surveying land is sometimes prohibitive and electronic files are not even available or accurate.

So what role will conservation easements play in the future preservation efforts?  As central Ohio strives to accommodate population growth and ensure enough green space – both for healthy humans and healthy functioning ecosystems, the conservation easement may need to evolve as well. Climate change and other potential landscape changes raise questions about the effectiveness and adaptability of permanent instruments.

Attracting Wildlife to Your Property

Attracting Wildlife

Emilee R. Hardesty, Private Lands Biologist with Ohio DNR Division of Wildlife, discussed changes you can make to attract pollinators to your yard spoke at the March 2017 FLOW public meeting. Many pollinators are in decline, but there are simple things you can do at home to make your yard a friendly place for pollinators. Slides from her presentation are at the link above.

Webster Park History

Jeff Caswell of Friends of Webster Park

by Lucy Caswell

The area now known as the Webster Park subdivision was sold to Amason Webster (not “Amazon,” despite the street name) by the Rathbone heirs on May 29, 1846.  Webster’s daughter Orell inherited the land upon his death in 1900.  In 1909 she and her husband Lewis Legg subdivided the land, and the initial plat shows “Webster Park” at the 1.8 acre site now bounded by North Delta Drive, East Delta Drive, Webster Park Avenue and Olentangy Boulevard (the entire subdivision runs from High Street to Olentangy Boulevard, and from Erie Road to the edge of Whetstone Park).  

The City Bulletin of May 8, 1926 records the transfer of this park plot to the city: ”Whereas, the tract…has been preserved in its natural state and protected as a wild bird asylum and wild flower preserve and it is well suited and adapted for such purposes…the same is hereby set aside…as a wild bird asylum and wild flower preserve.   …The superintendent of parks…is hereby directed to maintain and protect the same as nearly as possible in its native state…”  Columbus Recreation and Parks Department is the city’s administrative unit responsible for Webster Park today.

The provision that the park must be maintained in its “native state” means that, insofar as possible, it should be left alone to allow the native species to follow their natural progression.  For example, naturally fallen trees in Webster Park remain where they land, to decay and provide shelter for small animals.  The city must provide special permission before any plants can be removed from or added to the park.  

For many years, neighbors kept the park litter-free by picking up refuse when they saw it and by organizing occasional clean-up days within the park.  In recent years, growth of invasive plants such as euonymus (wintercreeper), English ivy, Asian honeysuckles, and garlic mustard changed the ecosystem of the park significantly.   As a result, the volunteer group Friends of Webster Park was organized in 2005 to remove invasive plants under the supervision of the Recreation and Parks Department, and generally to protect and care for this natural area.  In 2014 the city’s Nature Preserve Advisory Council voted to name Webster Park as a Nature Preserve.

In the years since the Friends began work, the park has seen a resurgence of wildflowers that had been smothered by the groundcovers, many trees have been saved from damage by removing invasive vines, and the native bushes are thriving with less competition from honeysuckle.  One of the park’s outstanding features is the wetland on its west end, unique because it hosts one of Ohio’s very few stands of skunk cabbage.