Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of stories that will promote the activities planned to commemorate Tawawa Park, which celebrates its 70th anniversary this year with events in the park, June 30. Today: nature walk and stream study.
SIDNEY — As an eighth-grader, Justin Aselage, of Russia, made a momentous decision: he would be a park ranger, not a veterinarian, when he grew up.
Fourteen years later, Sidney’s only park ranger has never looked back.
“It was the right decision,” he said, Tuesday, April 24.
Aselage will lead two programs in Tawawa Park during the 70th anniversary celebration of the city’s premiere green space. A nature walk will take place in the Brookside area of the park. A stream study is scheduled in the creek near the Corky Davis Bridge.
Aselage graduated from Fort Loramie High School in 2008 and from Hocking College, where he earned degrees in natural resources and law enforcement, in 2010. He earned his Ohio peace officer training certificate at Edison State Community College. Before joining the city’s law enforcement team, he was a volunteer reserve deputy for the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. He is currently a member of Russia’s volunteer fire department. He has been a park ranger since 2013.
“It’s like being a police officer in the parks,” he said. Besides patrolling the city’s 23 parks and Graceland Cemetery on a regular basis, Aselage leads summer programs about nature for children in kindergarten through sixth grade.
“I explain what’s in the park: plants, animals, poison ivy,” he said. The anniversary celebration nature walk will be a lot like that, but it will be for all ages.
“Anybody that’s interested in nature, whether they know a lot or they don’t” is who will enjoy the event. “I want them to ask questions. I like to help people with questions that they have.”
The nature walk will will be about a quarter of a mile along established trails, he said.
If people choose to get wet during the stream study, they will be welcome to. But wading in the creek will not be required, Aselage said.
“If people want to roll up their pants and walk in the water, it’s OK,” he said. “I’m going to be in my chest waders.” If the water is high or the current strong, Aselage may ask all participants to stay on the bank.
“I know how fast the current can be,” he noted.
Aselage will take nets into the creek to scoop up things to talk about. That might include fish, crayfish and insects.
“That’s something people don’t realize: there are a lot of insects that live in the water,” he said. He hopes to find things that participants can put their hands on.
“If you actually hold something, it sticks in your mid a little bit better,” he said.
He also will discuss some history about how Native Americans used water to transport things and how water moves seeds that get planted along river banks. On either the nature walk or the stream study, he might talk about invasive species of plants and how they need to be cut down to allow native species to thrive.
Each program will last about and hour.
As a park ranger, he’s found that he has to know about a lot of things. His schooling prepared him well.
“We studied dendrology — that’s trees, ornithology — that’s birds, ichthyology — that’s fish, water ecology. We had a whole bunch of ‘ology’ classes,” he said. He’s still studying, preparing to take the test that will certify him as an arborist.
“By June 30, maybe I’ll be able to say I’m an certified arborist,” he said.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4824.