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Heroes of Conservation

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Three Protect Geauga Park scholarship recipients are: (le-r) Ava Thomas, Isabelle Krzys and Michael Concilla. (MP Photo/ Frank Gwirtz)

By Nancy Huth

Young Michael Concilla, a senior at West Geauga High School, is avid about his interest in water conservation, marine animals and his favorite, Environmental Science class. He is one of three students to receive a $500 scholarship award from the Protect Geauga Parks’ Bob McCullough Memorial Conservation Scholarship. The other two senior high school winners were Isabelle Krzys (Kenston High) and Ava Thomas (Gilmour Academy). The scholarships are a memorial to Bob McCullough, an educator, community leader, and passionate protector of our environment. For 38 years Mr. McCullough, a nature lover, served as a Geauga Park District Commissioner. The first recipients of these scholarships have demonstrated their passion and commitment to conservation through their actions, their studies and in their hopes to pursue conservation related careers.

At their third annual reception, held at the Munson Township Hall on Nov. 12, Protect Geauga Parks, a non-profit organization, honored two Geauga Heroes of Conservation: Dr. James (Jim) Bissell and The League of Women Voters of this county, represented by President Rosemary Balazs.

In 1976 Jim Bissell was named Cleveland Museum of Natural History’s Coordinator of Natural Areas. Since that time the Museum’s natural areas holdings have increased from 8 to 44 properties, encompassing more than 5,400 acres. Born in Ashtabula County, Jim grew up on a dairy farm and pursued an education in plant ecology at Ohio State University. At age 24 he became the Curator of Botany at the Museum. He has organized 22,000 specimens in the Herbology Collection of the Natural History Museum, making him an expert on rare plants in Ohio. For all his work, Jim has received many awards including numerous ones from the Nature Conservatory and the Audubon Society.

Although we usually connect the League of Women Voters to our political process and helping educate voters, they also work at defending the environment and supporting legislation that protects our country’s natural resources and public health. Back in 1919 there was an Ohio law on the books establishing county park districts, but no one had taken the initiative in Geauga County. Members of the League recognized this law and formed a committee to study the conservation needs of Geauga County. Soon the trustees of Munson Township petitioned Probate Judge Robert Ford to establish the Geauga Park District which he did at a public hearing on
Aug. 21, 1961.  The League of Women Voters are really the founding mothers of our park district and true heroes of conservation.

The approximate 100 attendees at the reception were treated to a poetry reading by local poet Grace Butcher, who entertained with tales of deer, bees and a walking crow. Bill Lestock, a local musician, who writes music about northeast Ohio, soothed us on his mandolin with two of his compositions: “Chardon Snow” and “Munson Home”.  Tasty appetizers, desserts and beverages were served.

The land protected within Geauga Parks is important to clean air, clean water, wildlife habitats and erosion control.  The environmental health of our county depends on our parks. The healthier the land, the healthier the people.

Nancy Huth has been writing for the  Middlefield Post since 2007. Before moving to Middlefield in 2005, she taught English as a second language in Germany where she lived for 30 years with her German husband, Dieter.

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