Farmer, conservationist both prove praiseworthy at SWCD banquet

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RANDOLPH, Ohio – Portage County Soil and Water Conservation District members gathered Oct. 3 to honor the county’s conservationist of the year and to honor Richard (Dick) Wetzel’s 29-year career with the district before his retirement this winter.

In addition to being honored by his county’s conservation district and the Izaak Walton League of America, county commissioners named Oct. 3, 2002, as Richard Wetzel Day.

Wetzel has more than 30 years of conservation work to his name, and his contribution to the county’s tree sale program has made it the largest in the state.

Wetzel will retire as district coordinator at the end of the year.

Top conservationist. Prior to Wetzel’s recognition, Charles Wise received the 2002 Outstanding Conservation Farmer award.

Wise, of Randolph, Ohio, farms more than 600 acres and practices no-till farming to minimize soil loss.

He recently installed waterways to eliminate erosion and gullies.

Student recognition. Another conservation award winner at the 56th annual banquet was sixth-grader Bobby Paolone. Paolone won the fifth grade conservation poster contest earlier this year.

The theme was The Gift of Trees, and 1,102 students from 10 schools participated.

In addition to winning the county’s contest, Paolone’s poster won first place at the Area II competition and second at the state level. Paolone attends James A. Garfield schools.

Kelsey Corbett from Crestwood schools placed second. Laura Lansinger of Rootstown, Ohio, placed third, and Amber Saviers of Waterloo schools, took fourth place.

Looking back. In the year in review, Jennifer Eckroate, education specialist, said more than 2,100 students were instructed on conservation practices through classroom and outdoor activities.

In addition, student participation in this year’s Envirothon increased. Ten teams from six schools in the county participated and Streetsboro won the traveling trophy for the highest placing school in the county.

A grant was also established for students to perform tributary monitoring.

Eleven people, with more than 600 total acres, signed up with the Wetland Reserve Program, which Wetzel said was the most in the state.

Participants in the easement program can still hunt and fish on the reserve program land, however the land cannot be clear cut nor have new construction built on it.

In other conservation efforts, the district put in 30 acres of strip crops for erosion control.

Election. Carl Rufener Jr. and Warren Tisher were re-elected to the board of supervisors. Their three-year terms will begin Jan. 1.

(You can contact Kristy Alger at 1-800-837-3419, ext. 23, or by e-mail at kalger@farmanddairy.com.)

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