Health Department, SWCD partner for healthier community

The Meigs County Health Department and the Meigs Soil and Water Conservation District partnered this year to help create healthy communities, both human and wildlife, with the planting of 14 nut and fruit trees and bushes at the Meigs SWCD Conservation Area between Rutland and Harrisonville. Creating Healthy Communities is a program administered by the Meigs County Health Department. CHC Director Ciara Martin is shown here with one of the trees planted earlier this month. 

                RUTLAND – “The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.”

                To that famous quotation, by the late Canadian farmer Nelson Henderson, we could add, “or whose fruit you do not expect to eat.” However, with any luck, people and wildlife won’t have to wait that long to benefit from the trees and shrubs planted earlier this month at the Meigs SWCD Conservation Area.

                The planting of 14 fruit and nut-bearing trees and bushes was the result of a Creating Healthy Communities Grant secured by the Meigs County Health Department and awarded by the Ohio Department of Health.

The Meigs SWCD Orchard Project was initiated between Laura Cleland, former health educator with the Meigs County Health Department, and Jenny Ridenour, former education coordinator with the Meigs Soil and Water Conservation District.

The health department provided the trees and secured the grant, while the district provided the public space for the trees. After meeting at the Conservation Area with Ann Bonner, regional urban forester for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Forestry, they decided upon a mix of Hazelnut, Blueberry, and Elderberry bushes, and Apple and Pecan trees.

According to the Meigs County Health Department, Creating Healthy Communities is committed to preventing and reducing chronic disease statewide, through cross-sector collaboration, activating communities to improve access to and affordability of healthy food, increase opportunities for physical activity, and assure tobacco-free living where Ohioans live, work and play.

The Meigs SWCD Conservation Area consists of roughly 174 acres and is located along New Lima Road between Rutland and Harrisonville. The Meigs SWCD purchased the property in 2003 through Clean Ohio-Green Spaces Fund and maintains it as open space with a special emphasis towards outdoor and environmental education.

“The CHC grant works as a catalyst that allows the health department and other commendable local organizations form and foster relationships that lead to the betterment of the Meigs County and its inhabitants,” said CHC Project Director Ciara Martin.

“We hope that this orchard will not only address the concern of healthy food access for Meigs County residents, both human and wildlife alike, but will also encourage the continued use of the conservation area for educational and physical activity pursuits as well.”

Jim Freeman, Meigs SWCD wildlife specialist, said the mission of the Meigs SWCD is to provide assistance for the wise use of our natural resources for present and future generations.

“While our mission, and the mission of the health department may seem rather different, it is apparent that healthy soil and healthy water also makes for healthy people and communities,” Freeman said.

“These are trees that make fruit and nuts for people, but they are also valuable wildlife species. So, people are encouraged to enjoy them, but they will have to beat the wildlife to them,” he added. “These species are also beneficial to honey bees and other pollinators.”

The trees were purchased from a local vendor, Hupp Landscaping Lawn Service of Long Bottom, who planted the trees on Dec. 3 for a total project cost of $2,960. The trees are large enough that they should start producing fruit as soon as next year.

Numerous projects have been supported by the CHC Coalition. They include: Eastern Local School District Multi-Use Trail (2015); Meigs County Farmer’s Market -Although this has ended, the CHC Coalition plans to reinstate the market in 2019; Improvements to the Ferman Moore Park (2015); Shared-Use Agreement for the Meigs Cross Country Trail (2015); Playground Equipment for the Mulberry Center (2015); Meigs Co. Health Department Tobacco Free Campus Policy (2015); Middleport Splash Park (2016); Meigs County Master Transportation Plan (2016-2018); Eastern Local School District Greenhouse (2017); Refrigerator purchase for Meigs Cooperative Parish (2017); EMS Shared-Use Agreement of Fitness Facility (2018); Healthy Micro Market at Meigs County Health Department (2018); Implementation of “pocket park” in Middleport near Farmer’s Bank ATM (2018); Greenhouse and Garden at Mid-Valley Christian School in Middleport (2018): NEOS ADA Playground Equipment at Star Mill Park in Racine (2018).

The CHC Vision is making the healthy choice the easy choice and is designed to help local communities to develop and implement strategies that can help prevent or manage health-risk factors for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer and obesity. This is accomplished by focusing on three core areas: tobacco, physical activity, and nutrition. For more information, contact Creating Healthy Communities Director Ciara Martin at the Meigs County Health Department at 740-992-6626, extension 1031.