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Village Council — What about the beavers?

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What to do about the beavers at Ellis Park?

Members of Council, the Yellow Springs Tree Committee and local environmentalists considered that question at Council’s Oct. 17 meeting, following a report by Village Manager Patti Bates that beavers, previously believed to have taken up residence only at the Glass Farm wetlands, are now making a home, and a dam, at Ellis Park.

The problem, according to Bates, is that since beavers arrived in the park, they’ve destroyed several trees in the park’s Lloyd Kennedy Arboretum, and are also building a dam in a ditch used to help drain neighboring farmland.
The location of the arboretum contributes to the problem, according to Tree Committee President Anna Bellisari at the meeting.

“We’ve created a perfect habitat for beavers, plenty of trees next to water,” Bellisari said. “It’s a temptation that beavers can’t resist.”

Beavers eat trees and they’ve totally destroyed several trees in the arboretum, some of which were memorial or tribute trees planted by the Tree Committee.

“This is a valuable asset to the village,” Bellisari said of the arboretum. “We need to figure out a way to protect the trees.”

Since Village staff discovered the tree damage, Council member Marianne MacQueen and Vickie Hennessy of the Beaver Management Task Force have worked to wrap tree trunks in an attempt to prevent further damage. So far, the strategy seems to be working, as the wrapped trees have been left alone, according to Hennessy.

While in warmer weather beavers will eat algae and duckweed, in colder months beavers prefer trees, where they eat the cambian layer of wood beneath the bark, according to Hennessy, a biologist.

Hennessy said she was “here to defend the beavers” who have in recent decades come back to Ohio after becoming extinct in the state in the mid 1800s, following the popularity of trapping beavers for pelts. Now, according to Hennessy, the animals can be found in the Little Miami River, Yellow Springs Creek and DeWine Pond, along with Ellis Pond and the Glass Farm.

Because the beavers are in residence in the wider area, disposing of the animals wouldn’t be a sustainable solution to the Ellis Pond tree problem, because other beavers would simply take their place, according to Bates. And no one speaking at the meeting was promoting killing the beavers.

While the longterm solution to preserving the trees in the arboretum isn’t clear, a combination of wrapping trees, constructing a flow device to allow the drainage ditch to function and providing an alternative source of food seems the best way forward, according to Bates.

In other Village business:

• Council members heard from villager Sommer McGuire, who urged the Village to join other municipalities in celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day on Oct. 12 rather than Columbus Day. Sommers said she was surprised to learn that Yellow Springs had yet to make this switch, which would honor native peoples rather than the Italian explorer, who many historians believe not only treated Native Americans harshly but also enslaved them, one of the first Europeans to initiate a slave trade.

“Columbus committed atrocious crimes and his policies justified theft and destruction of indigenous peoples,” she said. “What happened then has real modern-day implications.”

Council members expressed support for McGuire’s proposal, which will be written into a resolution by the Human Relations Commission and brought to Council.

“I think we as a village should take a stand and support this,” Gerry Simms said.

• Council approved Manager Bates hiring a company to conduct soil borings on the Glass Farm. Soil borings already performed for the proposed Glass Farm solar farm revealed that the depth of the water table on the land varied significantly, from about 3 feet to 18 feet. Because Council will soon begin discussions on a potential housing development on the Glass Farm, it makes sense to know first where a shallow water table might prevent development.

“It’s very important that we know exactly what we’re talking about, because we can’t develop if the water table is 3 feet,” Bates said.

• Assistant Village Manager Melissa Vanzant appraised Council of several small changes in the 2017 Village budget, which Council will vote on at its next meeting. The budgets for all departments except the general fund are projected to end in the black, while the general fund is projected to have a deficit of $33,446, a fairly small amount according to Vanzant. Because she tends to be conservative when determining the budget,Vanzant said she expects that the actual general fund deficit will be smaller, if there’s a deficit at all.

• Bates discussed with Council Police Chief Dave Hale’s request to add a third supervisory staff member to the department, at the position of sergeant. The new sergeant would ensure that a supervisor is on duty on weekends, Hale said, which is not currently the case. The request is in line with current Village code that allows three supervisory positions in the department, two sergeants and one captain. Hale’s request does not add a position to the code but would change the third supervisory position to that of a sergeant rather than a captain, according to Bates. She will bring legislation for the wording change to an upcoming meeting.

• Council unanimously approved the placement of new stop signs at the intersection of High and Whiteman streets north and southbound, at the request of a villager who expressed concern about safety on High Street, where the villager said cars tend to drive too fast.

• Council approved the vacation of an alley located between High and Limestone streets, at the request of Carl Champney and Charlotte Prespotino.

• Council approved a lease extention with Stoney Creek Botanicals.

• Council unanimously approved a resolution that authorizes Bates to enter into a one-year contract with Dental Care Plus for dental insurance for Village employees.

• Council unanimously approved a resolution that declares the necessity of the Village acquiring parcels of foreclosed land that would be part of the Safe Routes to School project.

Council’s next regular meeting is Monday, Nov. 7, at 7 p.m. in Council Chambers.

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