By Peter H. Milliken
Two walking tours Sunday showcased the natural beauty of Mill Creek Park to mark Earth Day.
Under cloudy and cool conditions and intermittent drizzle, a retired naturalist led one of the Sunday walks from the Ford Nature Center to many notable natural and historic sites.
The park’s assistant horticulture director led the other walk through Fellows Riverside Gardens, ablaze with color at the peak of their springtime glory.
Park officials and the retired naturalist said Earth Day, which has been observed since 1970, provides an opportunity to remind people of their responsibility to live in harmony with nature.
“It’s one day of the year when we want to call our attention to our environmental problems and how we, as human beings, are contributing to those problems, and also what we can do in our everyday living to make changes to help heal the planet,” said Bill Whitehouse, the retired park naturalist, who led 14 people on a 3-mile hike.
Since the first Earth Day, progress has been made in environmental legislation through the Clean Air and Clean Water acts, the Endangered Species Act, and the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Whitehouse said.
“Recycling has become a way of life for many, many people,” Whitehouse added.
In deciding who to elect to office to make progress in environmental protection, Whitehouse urged the public to examine the declared positions and voting records of political candidates on environmental issues.
“We’ve got to be more careful from now on in who we put into these offices” to make environmental policy decisions, he added.
With the drilling sound of a woodpecker beckoning them into the woods, Whitehouse led the hikers to a garden in a former stone quarry below Glenwood Avenue; Slippery Rock Pavilion; the Wall Garden, a rock wall featuring a colorful array of blooming flowers; Orchard Meadow; the Artist’s Trail, a scenic path along the west side of Mill Creek; the 1821-vintage Pioneer Pavilion and the 1830-vintage Mill Creek Furnace.
“It’s a time to sit back and reflect on God’s creation and what we see all around us every day in terms of the natural world and our place in it,” John Paul Tolson of Salem, a hiker on the Whitehouse-led walk, said of Earth Day.
“It’s important, I think, that we respect that and treat it as we treat our homes because, in fact, it is where we live,” Tolson added.
The Earth Day observance offers an opportunity “to take a day to reconnect people with their natural environment, to understand how important the natural environment is and how much we depend on it,” said Ellen Speicher, assistant horticulture director.
“We kind of get separated from it in our daily lives sometimes,” added Speicher, who led nine people on the gardens tour.
“It’s a good reminder about how our lives impact the earth, and it’s a good time to take an assessment of the way we live, and how our daily actions impact the Earth,” Speicher said of the annual observance.
“It’s a day we can reflect upon our relationship with Earth and how we treat it, but also celebrate our connection with Earth,” said Park Naturalist Ray Novotny.
Considerable progress has been made since 1970 in waste reduction and in reuse and recycling of materials, Speicher said.
“We need to keep doing that and keep developing products that can be completely recycled and continue our support of safe water and clean air,” and cleaner energy sources, Speicher said.
Speicher encouraged composting of yard waste. “It’s fertilizer and it’s a soil amendment. It’s one of the best things to break up our heavy clay soil,” she explained.
The early blooming of daffodils, which peaked in March, forced the gardens to cancel its daffodil show that had been scheduled for Saturday and Sunday.
However, the gardens were otherwise at their spring peak with viburnums, rhododendrons, crabapples, lilacs, dogwoods and redbuds in bloom during Speicher’s walk.
Another annual Earth Day took place Saturday despite the rain and cool conditions.
Some 300 Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts and scout leaders fanned out throughout Mill Creek Park in Youngstown and Boardman, Yellow Creek Park in Struthers, the Vickers Nature Preserve in Ellsworth and the MetroParks Farm in Canfield to collect and bag litter during the 30th annual Boy Scout Earth Day cleanup.
“The park is really appreciative of these young men and the adults coming in to clean up the debris from winter. There’s a lot of accumulated litter during the winter, and it doesn’t get picked up until spring,” said Carol Vigorito, park naturalist.
Also during Earth Day weekend, anglers lining the shores of Lake Glacier caught some of the 2,500 rainbow trout, with which the Ohio Division of Wildlife had stocked the lake on Friday.