2018 Year in Review: Village Life
- Published: January 3, 2019
NONPROFITS & ACTIVISM
BCP continues justice efforts
The Beloved Community Project continued its work on social justice, offering free community meals throughout the year. It also presented a free six-week course on nonviolent communication.
Food pantry gets boost
The Yellow Springs Community Food Pantry got a boost, thanks to a new project called PORCH and the efforts of local resident Libby Hammond. The monthly pickup of food from local porches — with the food destined for the YS Community Food Pantry — started in February.
Responding to suicides
After four suicides in and around the village in late 2017 and early 2018, several local organizations teamed up to offer public education events and share resources to prevent suicide here. The area branches of the National Alliance for Mental Illness and the Mental Health and Recovery Board led the efforts, along with local police.
Students protest gun violence
In April, about 70 local high school and middle school students — about one-third of the student body — walked out of their classes, marched through the village and held a rally downtown to protest gun violence. It was the second walkout organized by local students in two months. The actions come after 17 were killed in a school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., in February. Students advocated for stronger gun laws as a way to safer schools.
LGBTQ+ activism continues
YS Pride was held once again during Pride Month in June. The News reported that although LGBTQ+ people have begun to see widening cultural acceptance, including marriage equality, which was federally mandated in 2015, bigotry, discrimination and even violence remain a fact of life for many LGBTQ+ people. In addition to YS Pride, LGBTQ+ activism is prominent at the local high school/middle school, where large numbers participate in the Gender Sexuality Alliance, the News reported.
Restorative justice work continues
The second Restorative Justice Conference in Yellow Springs took place in June with a focus on using restorative justice techniques in situations of sexual violence. The conference, “Are We There Yet?” featured a panel of national experts on using restorative justice strategies in sexual and domestic violence situations. The effort was once again led by Jalyn Roe and Jennifer Berman.
Gabby Day celebrated
For the third time in local history, Yellow Springs celebrated “Gabby Day” in honor of the late Ellie “Gabby” Mason, who was well known for his kind heart and delicious barbecue, which he served at a downtown restaurant, out of his South Stafford Street home and at many community events from the 1960s through the 1980s. Mason was also involved in local human rights group H.U.M.A.N., or Help Us Make A Nation, and the Mystic Knights of Nowhere, a diverse social club. Carmen Lee and Brittany Griffith co-organized the event, held in August.
Villagers part of WSU union dispute
With the threat of a looming strike, about 200 Wright State University faculty members and their supporters packed the university’s board of trustees meeting in October to express their frustration and anger about the ongoing impasse in contract negotiations, the News reported. A number of WSU faculty, staff, students, alumni and retired employees have historically been members of the Yellow Springs community.
Resident helps incarcerated
The News profiled Story Chain, a project of resident Jonathan Platt that gives inmates the opportunity to read to their children from the confines of incarceration. Platt has completed five cycles of Story Chain since he started the program in 2014. Through the project, inmates in local correctional facilities record themselves reading books aloud. Each audiobook is then matched with a paper copy and given to the child of the inmate.
Locals seek migrant, immigrant justice
The situation at the U.S.-Mexican border in which Central American citizens are seeking asylum sparked deep concern among Yellow Springs residents who the News reported in December are spearheading humanitarian aid responses and working to raise wider awareness about the crisis. Among them are a documentary filmmaker, Antioch College community members visiting the Mexican border, Quakers focusing on immigrant justice and Antioch students hosting a clothing drive in cooperation with resident Cristina Hipp, who collected basic supplies for the migrants.
Earlier in the fall, the local Quaker community spread the word about the increasing peril for illegal immigrants in Ohio at a public event, “Building a Sanctuary Support Network in our Village.” Local groups are exploring various ways to offer sanctuary to those who may be targeted because of their immigration status.
Promoting a local food system
In March, Community Solutions and Tecumseh Land Trust joined forces to host two back-to-back day-long conferences on land conservation and regenerative agriculture. The land trust’s event, “Conservation Funding 2.0,” covered unique ways to preserve farmland, and Community Solutions’ “Regenerating Landscapes” focused on sustainable farming practices. They are twin approaches to promoting a local food system that conserves area soil and water quality, the groups’ directors told News reporters.
Agraria gets grants for education
Community Solutions stepped up its efforts at its Agraria Center for Regenerative Agriculture, a 128-acre property west of the village that the nonprofit purchased at auction in 2017. Expanding its work in the areas of agriculture, research and education, this year farmers were brought in to work the land, and school groups visited and studied at the site regularly.
The News reported that in October Community Solutions won a $50,000 Ohio EPA grant to educate K-12 students in Yellow Springs, Xenia and Springfield — and their teachers — for its Soils for Life project. That’s in addition to an earlier $50,000 grant from the Dayton Foundation and $2,500 from the Greater Dayton Conservation Fund, also directed to educational initiatives at Agraria.
Encore Fellows program starts
In December, the Yellow Springs Community Foundation and Antioch College announced an expansion of the successful Miller Fellows program, which places Antioch students at local nonprofits. The Encore Miller Fellows aims to unleash the talents of retired or “late-career” villagers who will mentor Miller Fellows and help spark collaboration among local nonprofits. The first four Encore Miller Fellows are Len Kramer (work, world and resilient communities), Jalyn Roe (deliberative democracy, diversity and social justice), Melissa Heston (well-being) and Kat Walter (environmental sustainability).
Organizations celebrate milestones
• The 365 Project celebrated its 10th anniversary in March. The local nonprofit continues to engage the Yellow Springs community on the issue of racism, preserve and celebrate the achievements of local black people and mentor young people of color growing up here. Also this year, the group was featured for the release of its “Blacks in Yellow Springs” online encyclopedia, which profiled, at the time, 50 local residents whose lives span three centuries.
• The First Baptist Church of Yellow Springs celebrated its 155th anniversary in May. The First Baptist Church was founded in 1863 by members of the Conway Colony, a group of former slaves brought to Yellow Springs by Moncure Conway, the son of a Virginia slaveowner. The church is currently led by Pastor Bill Randolph.
• The Dharma Center celebrated its 25th anniversary in the village in June. Although founded in 1993, the local center actually dates its history further back, pointing to a visit by Japanese Buddhist teachers Yasutani Roshi and Kokai Fukui in 1963 and the beginnings of the Antioch Education Abroad Buddhist Studies program in 1979. The center hosts open mediation 365 days per year.
• This year the Women’s Park turned 20 and was also granted the Village Inspiration in Design Award, or VIDA. At the park, located between the bike path and Corry Street, more than 800 ceramic hand-crafted tiles honor specific Yellow Springs women, while tended gardens draw bees and butterflies during the season. The park was the vision of local women’s rights activist Gene Trolander.
Turnout was high for this year’s midterm elections in November, with an impressive 82 percent of registered voters here heading to the polls.
Yellow Springs native Mike DeWine was elected governor of Ohio. A Republican, DeWine garnered only 10 percent of votes in his hometown. DeWine has lived outside of Cedarville for the last 40 years but is a parishioner at St. Paul Catholic Church and has family in town.
Also winning from the village was AJ Williams, a Republican who retained his seat as the Greene County Clerk of Courts despite a challenge from fellow resident Cyndi Pauwels.
Yellow Springs Schools got a win with the renewal of a five-year, 1.2-mill permanent improvement levy, 76–24 percent.
Elections for both county and statewide offices maintained the Republican-dominated status quo, in contrast to the direction the village voted. But the News reported that despite the losses, the Democratic party infrastructure in the area was revived.
HEALTH AND WELLNESS
Free clinic opens
A resource for the uninsured, underinsured and underserved, a new free clinic opened once a week in Yellow Springs, Tuesdays from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. The clinic is located at Central Chapel AME Church at 411 S. High St. and run by Reach Out of Dayton.
Dementia-friendly effort continues
Leaders of the 18-month-long Dementia Friendly Yellow Springs project organized a series of events for September, World Alzheimer’s Month. Organizers seek to make the community more sensitive and welcoming to those with dementia-related diseases.
In other awareness raising efforts around health issues, the News profiled Lynda Terry’s work to draw attention to heart disease, which many don’t know is the No. 1 killer of women. Terry had suffered a heart attack in 2011.
In other health news —
• Dr. Jessica Gallagher, M.D., joined Dr. Donald Gronbeck at Yellow Springs Primary Care, where she specializes in family medicine. Yellow Springs Primary Care is an independent medical office that opened in May 2014.
• Dr. Keith Watson, who practiced obstetrics and gynecology in the village for more than 30 years, retired.
• Lynn Hardman, a local fitness instructor with a passion for senior wellness, started a new workshop for local seniors at the Antioch Wellness Center. This year Hardman also celebrated three years of her twice-weekly Sit Strong classes, held at the Bryan Center.
EPA criticizes Vernay cleanup plan
In a letter to Vernay, the EPA told Vernay the company has more work to do before it signs off on a final contamination cleanup plan for its former rubber parts manufacturing plant at 875 Dayton St.
Vernay has been working under order of the agency to develop a cleanup plan for 16 years. In October, the U.S. EPA responded to Vernay’s latest plan — an update to a 2009 draft — with 11 pages of exhaustive requests and further questions. In its comments, the EPA noted that the update “provides a more robust remediation strategy.” However, the agency added, Vernay’s plan “is not sufficient for final approval at this time.”
Specifically, the EPA asked for more details from Vernay about how the company will remove “hot spots” of highly contaminated soil at site, which continue to flush contaminants into the groundwater and storm water runoff that leaves the property.
The Village also sent a letter to the EPA requesting a more thorough cleanup of pollution both on and off the site.
The contaminants of concern from Vernay’s facility, operational from 1951 to 2004, include known and likely carcinogens and neurotoxins such as the chlorinated solvents TCE and PCE, their breakdown product, vinyl chloride, and several other volatile organic compounds.
Quarry fight continues
A fight over a proposed limestone quarry north of the village continued this year. Among the developments in 2018: Clark County Commissioners rejected a settlement with the mining company, Enon Sand and Gravel, in October, which would have allowed the company to move ahead with mining on part of its 420-acre property. The parties are likely headed for federal court.
Citizens Against Mining is also planning to appeal the mining permit to the Clark County Court of Common Pleas after a previous appeal at the state level was denied this summer. And the group is awaiting a decision from the Ohio EPA on a discharge permit for mining operations, which it has commented on extensively. This year the Ohio EPA designated several wetlands in the area that would be affected by the mine in a development that was encouraging to neighbors.
Study eyes pollution in the Glen
For seven years, Audrey McGowin of Wright State University has led her students in the sampling and testing of water at 12 points in Yellow Springs Creek, Birch Creek and the Little Miami River, along with area wells and springs. McGowin’s conclusion: While the water leaves the Glen far cleaner than when it enters, water contamination is a threat to the ecology of the Glen and those who come in contact with it. E. coli and nitrates were two of the most concerning contaminants that McGowin’s students have found at elevated levels in local waters.
Natural lawn care strategies spread
Efforts to make Yellow Springs more pollinator-friendly by promoting natural lawn care strategies — rather than herbicides and insecticides — stepped up this year. Nadia Malarkey relaunched her Yellow Springs Pollinator Regeneration Project, originally started in 2014, and helped organize, as part of the Environmental Commission, a training for Village grounds crew on natural turf care. The work continues the steps the Village took in 2013, when it placed a moratorium on Village use of pesticides after an over-application incident at the local pool.
Biodigester upgrade raises stink
In September, the News reported that a Bath Township biodigester upgrade will move ahead, but at a much smaller scale than originally proposed.
The Renergy Herr Road biodigester, located four miles west of Yellow Springs, cancelled its initial plan for a major expansion after neighbors complained about the potential negative impact to the local environment. In addition, neighbors drew attention to the related issue of the application of Renergy’s liquid fertilizer product to nearby farms, which they claimed was polluting area waterways and wells.
The facility turns waste from area food manufacturers, farms and wastewater treatment plants into electricity and fertilizer. The Village was sending some 72,000 gallons of sewage sludge to the biodigester each month.
Yellow Springs native Kumar Jensen was named by GreenBiz — a trade magazine covering the field of environmentalism — in their “30-under-30” list of promising young environmentalists. Jensen currently works just outside of Chicago as the sustainability coordinator for the city of Evanston, Ill.
Former first lady speaks at TLT event
Former First Lady of Ohio, Hope Taft, spoke at the Tecumseh Land Trust’s annual meeting in June. Taft has founded both the Little Miami River Kleeners and the Little Miami Watershed Network in her mission to cleanup the Little Miami River, which she calls the “backbone of Greene County.”
Water protection plan updated
Environmental Commission updated the Village Wellhead Protection Plan in April. According to the update, in order to protect its water supply, the Village should stay vigilant about pollution threats, test local water more often and educate citizens to prevent groundwater pollution.
The good news is that no new sources of potential pollution have been found in the wellhead protection area. But previously identified potential threats are still there, such as the Morris Bean and Company aluminum foundry and residential lawn care chemicals, according to the report.
Overall, the Village should do more to protect the source of local drinking water, especially since the local aquifer is highly susceptible to pollution due to geologic factors, the report noted.
POLICE & FIRE
In April, Dr. Charles Hosket, 65, was found dead of a gunshot wound at his local veterinary office on U.S. 68 North, just north of the village. The shooting was determined to be self-inflicted. Hosket opened the office in 1985.
Armed robberies in the Glen
On Saturday, June 30, two armed robberies took place in the Glen Helen Nature Preserve, according to the Yellow Springs Police Department. Two people were approached by five teenage males and robbed at gunpoint, while a third victim hiking nearby was also robbed at gunpoint. No injuries were reported.
Community rallies after fatal fire
In August, the community rallied to support a local family devastated by a house fire. The fire, on Glen View Drive, claimed the life of a Yellow Springs man, Trevor A. Nared, 26, and also hospitalized his grandmother, Barbara Coffey, the homeowner, who was transported to the hospital for smoke inhalation after passersby helped her get out of the house.
Officials concluded that an open flame located too close to combustibles in the living room was to blame for the blaze. According to the Ohio State Fire Marshal’s Office, the fire was accidental.
Merrick brothers sentenced
In September, Dustin and Bret Merrick pleaded guilty and were sentenced in a double murder that rocked the village in early 2017. Both brothers had been charged with two counts of aggravated murder and faced the death penalty for the shooting deaths of local residents William “Skip” Brown and Sherri Mendenhall in the 4000 block of East Enon Road, Miami Township.
Dustin Merrick will serve a life sentence without the possibility of parole, while Bret Merrick, who had not shot either of the victims, entered a guilty plea to two counts of involuntary manslaughter, and was sentenced to serve 25 years.
Brown, 44, and Mendenhall, 63, lived in neighboring apartments on property owned by the Brown family. Skip Brown also maintained an art gallery featuring photographs by his great-grandfather Axel Bahnsen.
Sidewalk slur discovered
In October, a newly poured block of concrete was defaced with a racial slur — the N-word — at the corner of Wright and West South College streets Before the concrete dried, it was smoothed over by the construction crew, so that by the next day the word was gone.
Although the new, accessible crosswalk no longer carries the racist insult, its brief existence highlights the persistence of racism in Yellow Springs, according to several villagers interviewed as part of a News series on racism.
Villager dies from gunshot wound
In December, local police reported 40-year-old Kenneth Livingston of Yellow Springs deceased from a gunshot wound at a Corry Street apartment balcony. Livingston’s death was apparently the result of a self-inflicted gun shot wound, according to the YSPD, which is still investigating. According to several sources familiar with the incident, the shooting is believed to have been accidental.