ROCKSPRINGS — The Athens-Meigs Farm Bureau and the Meigs Soil and Water Conservation District held their first-ever joint annual meeting and banquet Tuesday, Oct. 2 in the Meigs High School cafeteria with 162 guests in attendance.
“Bridge to the Present” was the theme for the evening, which marked the Meigs SWCD’s 75th anniversary, with the district recognizing past supervisors, employees, and USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service district conservationists.
Nine past Meigs SWCD supervisors attended including Don Mora (1952-1958), Rex Shenefield (1960-1987, 1991), David Gloeckner (1975-1992), Tom Theiss (1979-2002), Alan Holter (1983-1991), Ron Eastman (1988-1990), Charles Yost (1991-1999), and Kim Romine (2010-2015). Past NRCS district conservationists attending included Bob First, Mike Duhl, and Jason Crislip, while former SWCD employees attending were Opal Dyer, Dee Kimes, Janice Carnahan, Cynthia Bauers, and Mike Gosnell. First has also served as coordinator of the Buckeye Hills Resource Conservation and Development District since July 1, 1986.
Those being honored received commemorative Meigs SWCD anniversary tumblers.
Current Meigs SWCD employee Jim Freeman gave a historical overview of the district, entitled “Bridge to the Present,” which highlighted certain landmarks and anniversaries of the soil and water district. The bridges are people, and the connections and ties between them and the land, that stretch from the past to the present, and will connect us to the future, he said.
He observed that perhaps centuries of conservation and agricultural experience were present in the room that evening.
The first organizational meeting of what was then called the Meigs County Soil Conservation District was held June 4, 1943 at the Agricultural Extension Office in Pomeroy, with the meeting called to order by Charles E. Blakeslee, county agent with the Ohio State University Extension Service.
The first officers of the Meigs County SCD were Harold Carnahan, chairman, W.F. Hawley, treasurer, Harley Musser, secretary, with the other board members Everett Colwell and C.E. Humphrey. Visitors were Blakeslee and R.R. Barker, district conservationist with the Soil Conservation Service (now the Natural Resources Conservation Service).
The first supervisors made an initial list of “conservation” practices which included leaving corn stalks in the fields, “straightening crooked creeks,” terracing, contour farming and tile drainage. Another emphasis was on addressing soil acidity, particularly the application of lime along with the admonition “Do not burn broom sedge.” Farmers were also encouraged to forget about rough pasture land which is “too steep for mower or drill,” and to plant trees, if possible, on extremely broken land and to protect trees from fire and grazing.
The district completed its first farm plan later that same year, and in 1944 supported the creation of what would become the Shade River State Forest. The district held its first annual banquet, a fish fry, at the Rock Springs Fairgrounds in 1948.
The district changed its name to the Meigs Soil and Water Conservation District in 1963.
Today, the Meigs SWCD is a legal subdivision of state government that provides natural resource management assistance to county landowners and other units of local government in line with its mission statement of “providing assistance for the wise use of our natural resources for present and future generations.” The district is funded by the Meigs County Board of Commissioners, and county funds are supplemented by funding from the Ohio Soil and Water Conservation Commission. The district is governed by a five-member board of supervisors, all county residents. Board members serve staggered three-year terms.
Since January 1, 2016, conservation districts in Ohio operate in partnership with the Ohio Department of Agriculture, Division of Soil and Water Conservation, and their county boards of
commissioners. Prior to that time, they operated in partnership with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
Over the years, 41 people have served on the Meigs SWCD Board of Supervisors. Some long-term board members included Rex Shenefield, who served a total of 27 years and 11 months (ironically including both the longest and shortest terms held); current board member Joe Bolin, 26 years and 10 months; Thereon Johnson, 26 years and four months; and the late Harold Carnahan, 26 years.
The Meigs SWCD office has been in several locations over the years including inside the now-demolished Masonic Temple in Pomeroy, above the old Farmers Bank Building in Pomeroy, and on Hiland Road near Pomeroy from July 1990 to December 11, 2012. The district is currently housed in a county-owned annex building on East Memorial Drive in Pomeroy.
Since its inception, the Meigs SWCD has shared its office with the USDA Soil Conservation Service, now known as the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Freeman explained how the district’s mission has evolved over the years even as the nation changed to adapt to the times, yet remained true to its mission of assisting landowners and local governments in protecting soil and water resources.
In 2003 the district secured $172,493 from the Clean Ohio Green Space Conservation Fund to purchase 174 acres of property on New Lima Road in Rutland Township. Now known as the Meigs SWCD Conservation Area, the property is used for outdoor and conservation education. It features the 1.5-mile Pauline H. Atkins Memorial Trail, named for Meigs SWCD Board of Supervisors member Pauline H. Atkins (the first woman on the board of supervisors) who passed away on Jan. 2, 2006, a wetland (designed by the NRCS and constructed in 2008 using the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program), a warm-season grass and wildflower prairie and a quarter-mile walking path. A 40-by-60-foot picnic shelter was constructed at the Conservation Area in 2010 and a restroom in 2012.
In concluding, Freeman noted that the current Meigs SWCD chairman, Tony Carnahan, is the grandson of the first chairman, and that he recently purchased a farm in Sutton Township that came with an old SWCD/SCS Conservation Plan – a plan signed by his own grandfather. Carnahan also pointed out that the conservation plan was written for the grandfather of a current supervisor, Tonja Hunter.
The district received congratulatory proclamations from the Ohio Department of Agriculture-Division of Soil and Water Conservation, U.S. Representative Bill Johnson, the Ohio Senate represented by State Senator Frank Hoagland, the Ohio House represented by Representative Jay Edwards, and Ohio Secretary of State John Husted.
More on the awards and honors presented at the banquet will appear in an upcoming edition of The Daily Sentinel and online at mydailysentinel.com.