RACINE — The 77th annual meeting and election of the Meigs Soil and Water Conservation District was held Tuesday night at the Kountry Resort Campground in Racine with 54 in attendance.
James “Tony” Carnahan, Racine, was reelected to another three-year term on the board where he currently serves as board chairman. Travis Mugrage, Long Bottom, was elected as a new board member, to replace Joe Bolin whose term will expire at the end of this year.
Carnahan has served on the board since Jan. 1, 2016. He is the son of the late Jim and Nancy Carnahan and is a lifelong resident of Meigs County. He spent his childhood on a dairy farm and during his youth was active in FFA and 4H. He worked in dairy until 1994 and is now involved in custom hay baling and corn farming. He is employed as a bus driver for Meigs Local Schools and is an active member of the Big Bend Farm Antique Club, Athens-Meigs Farm Bureau, and River City Players.
Mugrage is the son of Peach and Chuck Mugrage of Racine. He has been married to his wife, Sammi Mugrage, for 24 years and share two children: Avary, who is enrolled in the nursing program at Washington State Community College, and Bella, who is a Junior at Eastern High School. Travis was a locomotive engineer for Norfolk Southern Railroad for 23 years. He enjoys the outdoors, hunting, fishing, and helping his daughters with their 4-H market goats.
The election results were counted and announced by Cody Hacker, Area 5 Program Specialist with the Ohio Department of Agriculture-Division of Soil and Water Conservation. The third candidate was Joe Blackston, Reedsville, who along with his wife, Holly, and son, Ranger, owns and operates a cow/calf farm on 450 acres in Chester Township.
Chris Gilkey, Meigs County wildlife officer for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources-Ohio Division of Wildlife, was the guest speaker of the evening and spoke about the division’s K9 program. His presentation, entitled “Protecting and Connecting,” discussed the history of working dogs in wildlife, the Ohio Division of Wildlife K9 program, the specialized training and field use of the dogs, and program funding.
Although dogs have been domesticated for thousands of years and have served mankind in a multitude of capacities, their use as police dogs only began around the late 1800s, Gilkey explained. The Ohio DOW program officially began in 2017, and today 31 states use dogs to support conservation and enforcement of wildlife laws. The division currently has five K9 officers and Gilkey pointed out numerous occasions where his dog, Mattis, has assisted in solving cases by finding evidence such as spent shell casings and guns, not just for the Division of Wildlife, but also for other state and local law enforcement agencies.
The dogs are constantly being trained and conditioned and require six hours of training weekly, and annual or bi-annual certification in their respective skills, he said.
The program receives much support through the Karr-Aanestead K9 Foundation Fund, named in memory of the late Horace Karr, a longtime member of the State Wildlife Council, and Dr. Erik Aanestead, DVM, through several other sportsman’s groups, and with dog food from Petland and veterinary support from Dr. Josh Ervin, DVM.
Gilkey is a 2002 graduate from Hocking College and graduated from the State Wildlife Officer Academy in 2005. Gilkey was assigned to Northwest Ohio “at large” out of the academy and later served six years as the Adams county officer in Southwest Ohio before transferring to Meigs County, his home county, in 2012. Besides his regular duties as a county officer Gilkey serves as a fitness instructor, field training officer, K-9 handler, and state K-9 evaluator for the Division of Wildlife. Additionally, he serves as the vice president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 143.
He was also the recipient of the Ohio Bow Hunters Association Wildlife Officer of the year award in 2010 and twice nominated by his peers for the FOP State Wildlife Officer of the year.
Bolin recognized for service
Meigs SWCD Board of Supervisors member Joe Bolin was singled out for recognition of his 29 years and 10 months of service to the Meigs SWCD. He declined running for reelection this year, and at the completion of his term on Dec. 31 will have 30 years of service to the district; he is already the district’s longest serving supervisor.
Bolin has also held area and state offices as a member of the Ohio Federation of Soil and Water Conservation District Board of Directors and has traveled around the country representing Ohio at meetings of the National Association of Conservation District. He spearheaded the creation of the 174-acre Meigs SWCD Conservation Area in 2002 and in 2015 he was named Supervisor of the Year for District 5 of the Ohio Federation of Soil and Water Conservation Districts, an area comprising 17 counties in central and southeastern Ohio. In 2018 he was named a Lifetime Cooperator of the Meigs SWCD, an honor shared by only three other individuals.
Cooperator of the Year
Each year, the Meigs SWCD, and the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service partner to recognize a Cooperator of the Year for Meigs County. This year’s outstanding cooperator, John Collins, manages a beef cattle operation, which is comprised of approximately 129 acres of pasture, hay, and woodland.
Collins and his family have completed multiple agreements with NRCS. Beginning in 2010 he and his father, the late George Collins, began work through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, initially completing the installation of a watering facility. He has also taken advantage of the opportunity to rent equipment from the SWCD throughout the years.
In 2016, Collins completed additional conservation practices on his land addressing multiple resource concerns including livestock water quantity, soil compaction and erosion, water quality, and degraded plant condition. Several of these concerns were addressed with the installation of a 320-foot access road, winter feed pad, and a watering facility. The installation of six more watering facilities with accompanying stone heavy-use areas surrounded them, over 4,300 feet of pipeline, and over 2,000 feet of pasture division fencing have laid the foundation for rotational grazing.
Volunteer of the Year
Mary Freeman, Racine, was recognized as the district’s 2021 Volunteer of the Year for over 20 years of service to the Meigs SWCD Auxiliary. During that time, she has participated in numerous litter cleanups including Leading Creek Stream Sweeps and Ohio River Sweeps, Meigs County Cleanup Days, as well as workdays at the Meigs SWCD Conservation Area, clearing trails and planting trees, and assisting with annual banquets and other events.
Land Judging and Hay Show
Meigs SWCD education coordinator Jessie Donahue announced this year’s Land Judging contest winners. The contest was held in Athens County at the Van Nostrum Farm near Albany.
Students from Southern and Meigs Local Vocational Agricultural Departments participated in the contest. Southern had 14 students participate with Meigs Local having seven students.
High scoring individuals in the Agricultural Land Judging contest were, in order from first to third: Corey Seth (Southern), Cassidy Bailey (Southern) and Shelbe Cochran (Meigs). The top scoring team was from Southern and included Seth, Bailey, Anthony Whobrey and Hannah Turley.
High scoring individuals in the Urban Land Judging contest were, in order: Dalton Pierce (Meigs), Kodi Rife (Southern) and Theron Black (Southern). The top scoring team was from Southern and Rife, Black, Chloe Smith and Katie Rowe.
On Sept. 29 both Southern and Meigs competed at the district level with the Southern and Meigs urban teams placing fourth and fifth, respectively. They will compete at the state level this Saturday.
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. The district is funded by the Meigs County Board of Commissioners, and county funds are supplemented by funding from the
Ohio Department of Agriculture. The district is governed by a five-member board of supervisors, all county residents, who serve staggered three-year terms. Current supervisors include Bolin, Carnahan, Bill Baer, Keith Bentz, and Tonja Hunter.
This story submitted on behalf of the Meigs Soil and Water Conservation District.