Bog provides green sights among Kent’s construction

Sean Joseph

It only takes five minutes to drive from the constant noise of construction on campus to a quiet area that has not changed since the end of the Ice Age.

The Tom S. Cooperrider-Kent Bog State Nature Preserve is located just east of State Route 43 on Meloy Road. Tom S. Cooperrider, an emeritus professor of biological sciences, said his name is attached to the bog because he was the first professional biologist to visit it and collect plant specimens.

The Kent Bog was originally a small lake formed by a large chunk of ice from a glacier that covered this region and receded about 12,000 years ago, according to “On the Fringe,” an essay Cooperrider published in September 2004.

“The huge ice block was quickly buried under enormous amounts of clay, silt, sand and gravel newly released from the melting glacier,” Cooperrider wrote.

Boreal (northern) plants moved south when the glacier began to cover the region, said Gordon Vars, who has been frequenting the bog since the ‘60s and started the group Friends of the Kent Bog.

“Following the Ice Age, the boreal plants were in most areas displaced by plants more typical of northeastern Ohio today,” Cooperrider wrote. “But in the bog that formed around the lake, the northern plants survived.”

As plants around the Kent Bog died, they decomposed slowly into a material called peat, which choked off the lake before European settlement, Cooperrider wrote. And not much has changed since then.

A small parking lot leads to the foot of a boardwalk that cuts a half-mile walkway through the thick vegetation. Information about the bog’s natural history and species of plants and animals can be found on several signs posted around the trail.

The boardwalk is actually floating on a 30- to 50-foot deep layer of moss that has accumulated over thousands of years, Vars said as he reached down beside the boardwalk and picked up a chunk of wet, slimy moss.

“If someone steps off the path they would be up to their neck in the stuff,” Vars said.

The bog is also home to a rare species of spotted turtles living in the bog that have only been seen a handful of times.

“The Kent Bog is not as well known as it could be, which is both a blessing and a curse,” said Vars, who is an emeritus professor of education. “There aren’t a lot of people to stick up for the bog, but it’s nothing like some of those parks that are trashed from top to bottom.”

Developers threatened to build a mall in the area years ago that would have ruined the water table that feeds the bog, Vars said. The friends’ organization Vars is putting together would be there to speak up for the area and lobby politicians.

Vars said funds for nature programming are being cut and there is always the risk of development in the area.

“I want to know how many people care about this place, and, if we need their help, how to contact them,” Vars said.

Contact off-campus reporter Sean Joseph at [email protected].