Flanegan named Cooperator of the Year


Submitted story

William R. Flanegan Jr. was awarded the Richland Soil and Water Conservation District (Richland SWCD) Cooperator of the Year at the joint Annual Celebration held with Richland County Farm Bureau on Sept. 7 at the Kehoe Center in Shelby.

In addition to being recognized by Richland SWCD, Ohio Sen. Mark Romanchuk, Rep. Marilyn John, and the Richland County commissioners acknowledged Flanegan’s Cooperator of the Year Award with commendations.

Flanegan was awarded for his work at the Nature Park at the Richland County Fairgrounds. Over a 10-year period, the life-long master gardener has transformed and maintained the landscaping into a beautiful green area adorned with native plants. He has coordinated the work at the Nature Park with help from other volunteers, including his wife, Tonya, Howard Harriman, Linda Bixler, Barb Keller, Vickie Eichof, Doug Versaw, Jim Kulig, Carol Sheppard, and Randy Hanlon.

On most Wednesdays at 4 p.m. from March through November, Bill and other volunteers can be found at the Nature Park mowing, planting, watering, dividing plants, installing landscape art, putting up signs, and enjoying each other’s company. They are happy to point out pollinators who land on a plant and share their knowledge about the plants. Spotting a pollinator never gets old.

Flanegan’s love for native plants was inspired by a book he read by Doug Tallamy titled “Bringing Nature Home.” Now, he inspires others to use native plants for the benefits they provide like having a strong root structure that helps prevent soil erosion, being acclimated to the climate so they require less watering, and helping pollinators and other wildlife.

Other projects he has been involved in at the nature park include removing non-native species, reconstructing a wall, and providing plant identification. Has anyone ever planted a dead tree upside down on purpose? Flanegan has, and he is unapologetic.

“These are bird attractors and for some reason, they just feel safe perching in them,” Flanegan said. “We also planted some dead Black Locust trees upside down to display contorted root systems. I love watching people’s reactions to this oddity. I think it is natural art.”

Flanegan is also devoted to educating the public and fellow volunteers on the importance of planting native plants. He invites groups to the Nature Park to learn more about native plants and conducts an annual program highlighting the native plants during the Richland County Fair.

Submitted by the Richland Soil and Water Conservation District.

Submitted by the Richland Soil and Water Conservation District.

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