Jurich: A place to call homeWritten by Stacy Jurich | | firstname.lastname@example.org
I was at a Mud Hens game last week, enjoying a sunny day in Toledo in first-row seats behind the catcher with the best company. We lingered after the game talking to two older gentlemen who had driven down from Detroit. They asked, “Why do they call it the swamp?” referring to the Swamp Shop, and the word “SWAMP” written on the back of some stadium employees shirts. I answered, “because it [Toledo] used to be a swamp.”
Our daily lives and the place and community we live in were shaped by a history of people and nature, whether we know it or not. To bring this history, our stories, and a sense of place into our awareness deepens our relationships with each other, our ecosystem and our city.
Part of what defines where we are in Northwest Ohio is our ecosystem, and our area is often referenced as Western Lake Erie and also the Black Swamp. Until the 1850s when draining began to make way for farmland, this region was a swamp and wetlands carved out by glaciers.
Part of our locally unique biosystem remains in the designated Oak Openings Region, where approximately 6,000 acres is protected by a biological and recreational corridor or “ribbon.” The Oak Openings Region is an ancient beach ridge where the western prairie meets the eastern forest.
It’s home to 180 rare plant and animal species whose survival depends upon the region’s combination of wet and dry, sand and clay, forest and prairie.
It is a natural community as rare and significant as the rainforest. The Green Ribbon Initiative (GRI) is an organization dedicated to saving this globally distinct ecosystem, which has been designated by The Nature Conservancy as “One of the last great places on earth.”
Julie Auger, Transformational Change Consultant, and Ann Krause, member of the GRI and biologist, are currently focusing their efforts on the Green Ribbon Initiative. Auger works with The Powers of Place Initiative, which is grounded in the belief that “places are alive”. She says, “By partnering with place and becoming place-makers we begin to reconnect to ourselves, each other and nature.”
Nature, design and community add elements to our view of where we are and ultimately who we are. Auger is facilitating the Oak Openings Community Collaborative, where all members of the greater Toledo area are invited to share stories, ideas and opinions in order to build and preserve a sense of community.
Through stories, we can nurture relationships and develop a rooted sense of place and shared purpose. Oftentimes our purpose, identity and sense of self-worth can be lost because of expectations of our culture and society. We can get wrapped up in trying to fulfill certain roles and seeking what we can get or what we can become in the eyes of others, instead of giving our unique individual gifts.
Through dialogue within the community, and an awareness of our interconnectedness in place, we can eliminate expectations and create new perspectives and energy for the benefit of all.
The Oak Openings Community Collaborative is on June 11 from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Lial Renewal Center, 5908 Davis Road, Whitehouse. Visit the website www.oakopenings.org for more information.
I personally would like to invite all of the artists and activists who participated in our roundtable discussion in April. This community forum will allow us to broaden our scope and incorporate nature into our concrete jungle, in a way that allows the ecosystem in and around Downtown — including Swan Creek and the Maumee River (estuary) to be as much present in our awareness as is Fifth Third Field, The Secor Studios, the paved roads we ride on and the cement buildings we drink in.