Kent’s critters

Allison Remcheck

81-year-old resident expresses passion, interest for hometown wildlife

Edith Chase of Franklin Township worked as a zoning inspector for her township for 15 years. Her husband also worked for the zoning commission in the 1970s. In August 2004, Chase Park, located off Rhodes Road, was dedicated to Chase and her husband. JESSI

Credit: Steve Schirra

Edith Chase’s home sits slightly back from the street in a den of trees. She’s lived here since 1958, when she was a young chemist with small children.

Her kitchen table is cluttered with papers, and in the center of it sits a 35-year-old, pale blue typewriter she uses to write the newsletters for the Ohio Coastal Resource Management Project – she’s the president and founder.

She’s also 81 years old.

Chase said she had an interest in the outdoors and wildlife ever since she was a child growing up in Minneapolis during the Great Depression.

She pours cups of coffee into china mugs with birds and butterflies, settles on her red retro, ’60s-style sofa and gets ready to talk about it.

Some people think of certain animals, such as deer and raccoons, to be nuisance animals, Chase said, but people should think about what that really means.

“Are we really a nuisance to them because we moved in when they lived here for years and years and years?” she said.

As most Kent State students know, the little black squirrels, were brought from Canada in the ’30s for an experiment.

“Well, they liked it,” Chase said, laughing. “They’ve been spreading ever since.”

Chase said the Kent State campus has both black and gray squirrels.

“The black ones are smaller, but I think they are more aggressive,” she said.

One time Chase had an experience with a black and gray squirrel.

“It must be pretty much standard for the black squirrels to mate with the black ones and the gray ones to mate with the gray ones,” Chase said. “But one year there was a black- and gray-striped squirrel running through my backyard . So there was a little hanky-panky going on there.”

Chase said Kent is also home to red-tailed hawks and Cooper’s hawks.

Chase’s story about a Cooper’s hawk does not end well. She said one day she was watching a Cooper’s hawk from outside of her window.

“Their eyes go like this,” Chase said darting her eyes to the right, “And they go like that,” she said darting her eyes to the left. “And they hardly move a muscle.”

Chase said this particular hawk flew away, and about five minutes later a little, gray feather came falling down from the sky.

“It was obvious he had just been lunching on one of my Juncos,” she said, showing a picture of a gray bird the size of a chickadee from her bird book. “If I saw him again, I’d ask him to leave,” she said.

But especially important to Chase are water animals.

“One thing that you may not think of are some of the aquatic animals,” she said. “At the bottom of the river live a whole variety of aquatic insects.”

These water insects are studied as a determinate of water quality, said Ferenc de Szalay, an associate professor of biological sciences.

“The community (of aquatic insects) is showing that the water quality has improved over time,” de Szalay said. “Now it is much more diverse and there are much more species that are pollution sensitive.”

Mayflies, caddisflies and stoneflies are more pollution-intolerant aquatic insects, de Szalay said. Their presence indicates a good water supply. Some pollution tolerant species are segmented worms, midge larvae and pouch snails.

The water all around Ohio was becoming polluted from acid rain, as a result of the factories along Lake Erie, she said.

When the water pollution came to Kent, Chase became active.

“The Cuyahoga River goes straight through the center of town,” Chase said. “It was pea green. It was like pea soup! It smelled. It was really bad.”

Chase has been working to keep the water in Kent and all of Ohio clean ever since. She said she feels the Ohio Coastal Management Resource Project has been successful.

“The water quality, it’s just marvelous now,” she said. “The river is happy, the fish are happy, the fishermen are happy.”

Chase said it’s important for people to know about their own water around them.

“If people can see the water and put their hand in it, then they’re willing to defend it,” Chase said.

Chase said the job isn’t finished with clearing up pollution and educating the public about it – therefore, she isn’t finished either.

“I’m not one to sit around and look at four walls,” she said.

Chase said her generation, with DDT and chemical waste, did a lot to harm the environment and, “It’s up to you folks to straighten it all out.”

Contact features reporter Allison Remcheck at [email protected].