Local group fights to save Kent Bog from development

Erin Roof

A local environmental group is determined to keep the Kent Bog free of pollution from a proposed 312-unit development.

While a recent board of zoning appeals decision leaves the future of the apartment complex undetermined, members of Friends of Kent Bog said they won’t stop fighting until they know the bog is safe.

“We have been raising public awareness of the importance of the bog and keeping public officials aware of their responsibilities,” Caroline Arnold, a member of Friends of the Kent Bog, said. “I think we have shown the bog is important to the people in the community, and we have made it clear we want to have this area developed in a way that is respectful to the environment and to the community.”

The Kent Board of Zoning Appeals rejected two key requests by EQK Portage development firm last week that would have allowed the apartment complex to be built as designed, plans administrator Gary Locke said.

The complex is slated to be built on Meloy Road, behind Mike’s Place, directly across the street from the bog.

“One key issue was trying to maintain the natural buffer between the apartment complex and the bog,” Locke said.

EQK Portage requested to build with less than the 30 percent required open space around the development, he said.

Dave Williams, the attorney representing EQK Portage, could not be reached for comment.

Arnold said if plans for the apartment complex go through, the resulting pollution could poison the bog. She said pollutants in runoff water from Meloy Road and the apartment complex could easily flow into the bog.

“We feel the bog needs to be thoroughly protected from runoff from roads and incoming traffic,” she said. “The pollutants carried in the water would destroy sphagnum moss and most of the plants that are sensitive to the salts.”

Ferenc de Szalay, a Kent State associate professor of biological sciences, said the pollution’s impact would be great due to the nature of the bog.

“The plants grow really slowly because of low nutrient conditions,” he said. “That means if you destroy it, it would take a long time to grow back.”

The bog contains many plants that only grow in this special low nutrient environment, de Szalay said. He said the bog is home to pitcher plants, tawny cotton grass and tamaracks, along with raccoons, mice, snakes and spotted turtles.

Arnold said she believes the city government understands the bog’s value.

“Our city administration is actually very sympathetic to this. They want to do the right thing. The system has been working,” Arnold said.

Locke said EQK Portage now has three ways to move the project forward.

“They can appeal to the county Common Pleas Court,” Locke said. “The second option would be to redesign the project. The third option would be to walk away and forget.”

Gordon Vars, facilitator of Friends of the Kent Bog and Kent State emeritus professor of education, said he doubts EQK Portage will give up.

“I don’t think they are going to pack up and go away,” he said.

Vars said Friends of the Kent Bog will host a winter walk through the Kent Bog Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m.

Contact public affairs reporter Erin Roof at [email protected].