Portage County – True heroes earn their place of honor by doing the hard work over the long haul and making repeated sacrifices for the benefit of others until the work is done… so to pause from their labors for a night of fine dining and a turn under the spotlight is a rare and welcome respite.

portage-parks-district-awardsFive heroes of environmental conservation were so honored during the 16th Annual Portage County Environmental Conservation Awards Benefit Dinner on April 5. Recipients of the 2014 awards each made a significant contribution to improving quality of life in Portage County through natural resource conservation and environmental awareness and protection.

Environmental Conservation Heroes were selected through a nomination process, in five categories. Under the spotlight for the record, 2014 awardwinners are as follows:

Green Business ~ Lucky Penny Creamery in Kent (owned by Abbe and Anderson Turner of Lucky Penny Farm in Garrettsville) was recognized for providing farm-to-table local cheeses according to sustainable agricultural practices. Lucky Penny Creamery is dedicated to food, family, simple living, and sustainable business practices. Their focal product is homemade artisanal cheeses produced from goat milk and goat milk Cajeta — a rich and creamy Mexican caramel sauce. Lucky Penny manages the entire food production process from pasture to plate, and is committed to getting children outdoors and involved in the process of understanding where food comes from. Abbe and Anderson believe that being a part of a local business community also means being the first to give back to that same community. The Turners recycle their farming waste products and are good stewards of the land.

Environmental Education ~ Crestwood Outdoor Education Committee in Mantua — represented by educators Jo Cobb, Cheryl Brugmann and Rosemary Krupar — was recognized for educational programming and outreach. The Crestwood Outdoor Education Committee has provided many years of innovative environmental education programs for elementary and intermediate students in the Crestwood School District. Students in the program receive handson outdoor educational experiences at the school campus to learn about science and the world around them. Guest speakers from area agencies expose students to the growing field of environmental careers. The committee’s efforts earned Crestwood a special designation as a “green school.” To receive this award, the Crestwood Outdoor Education Committee guided the school to make improvements to their infrastructure, including bioswales for innovative stormwater management.

Environmental Activism and Advocacy ~ Friends of the Crooked River was represented by Elaine and Harold Marsh. This group meets monthly in Peninsula for education, activism and watershed health. Founded in 1990, their focus is on programming and education that improves the water quality and health of the Cuyahoga River and its watershed. Staff have organized and participated in countless river cleanups and advocacy events for water quality legislation. They have provided a voice for the Cuyahoga River in regional planning meetings and advocated for ordinances and setbacks to protect the river and its floodplain. Friends of the Crooked River have been instrumental in removing dams from the Cuyahoga River, allowing water to flow freely and improving water quality. Their flagship program is River Day, an event that stretches across several northeast Ohio counties and focuses on events aimed at education, advocacy, and action in the Cuyahoga River watershed. They are also helping to develop a Cuyahoga River Water Trail to showcase this iconic asset.

Lifetime Achievement and Stewardship ~ Rick Strebler of Ravenna Auto Body was honored  for community leadership, volunteerism and beautification. Strebler is a tireless volunteer and community leader who has served as the president of the Garden Club of Kent  for more than a decade. There he has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for gardening, greening, and beautification projects in Kent and Portage county. The purpose of the Garden Club is to promote an interest in and knowledge of horticulture as it applies to the growing of lawns, vegetables, flowers, shrubs and trees. In addition to this educational function, the club engages in programs and activities that inform the public, benefit students, encourage better gardening practices, promote community beautification, and promote social fellowship among the members of the organization. Strebler’s leadership has allowed Kent Garden Club to offer scholarships to area youth, and develop the Ode to Joy Garden Center, a  greenhouse and popular public community garden program. Strebler also volunteers as a trustee on the Portage Park District Foundation Board and donates the services of his business to keep the park truck on the road.

Honor Roll for Land Conservation ~ Fred and Carol Maier own farmland in Randolph Township. In 2013, they placed a conservation easement on 22 acres of their property, which they donated to Western Reserve Land Conservancy, ensuring its preservation and protection for all time, regardless of its future ownership. The Maiers raise sheep for wool and have restored their Civil Warera farmhouse on the property. Fred is a former Farmland Preservation Board Member for Portage County, where he advocated for the conservation and protection of farmland and the character it provides to county residents. The Maiers hope that their donation might inspire others to consider farmland preservation through conservation easements, as well.

Sponsored by the Portage Park District Foundation, the Annual Portage County Environmental Conservation Awards Dinner is held each April to honor and thank local environmental heroes, socialize, and raise funds to support park district initiatives, fulfilling its mission to conserve Portage County’s natural and cultural heritage. This year’s emphasis is to support park and trail maintenance and to promote the 2014 levy campaign, Issue 10, which will ensure adequate funding for park operations.


Previous articleStudents Explore On Nature Treks
Next articleRotary Report
Estelle R. Brown is a freelance writer who lives in Garrettsville with her family. She has written and taken photos for newspapers, magazines and e-zines for the past 25 years. She also enjoys working on public relations projects, including web content, newsletters, posters, brochures, press releases, and other creative endeavors. She enjoys writing compelling stories about her community as a contributing reporter for the Villager.