At Wesley Glen Retirement Community, there is a variety of opportunities for residents to explore and find where their passions lie. And, if there is something that may not be on the regular calendar of activities that sparks interest, residents are encouraged and supported in creating their own activities, groups, or in this case, committee.
What started years ago as some residents with an interest in various aspects of the natural environment that surrounds Wesley Glen, has turned into an organized, structured, and innovative resident Nature Committee – one that we are fortunate to have. For the five years prior to mid-2019, it was led by chairman, Bob Conlon. Currently, co-chairs, Marty Bruner and Nan Platt, lead the committee. Building on the efforts and expertise of Bob Conlon, Marty and Nan encourage and facilitate putting into action different initiatives for the betterment of those who call Wesley Glen home. Several of these initiatives have come to fruition through what are usually called “Working Groups.” Some groups that have evolved or have continued throughout the past year include the Bird Feeding Group, now led by Tom Skinner, that supplies bird seed for the four feeders that Wesley Glen has installed around campus, the Butterfly Garden Group, led by Hilde Chaney, that works to maintain the butterfly garden, and the Wildflowers Group, led by Bob Conlon, that facilitates walks with residents while educating them on the numerous flower types, including the spring ephemerals that appear only during April and May. “We have been fortunate to have many groups comprised of residents with common interests who appreciate the nature around us,” said Marty.
Another working group that has come into being within the Nature Committee is the Tree Identification and Labeling Working Group. Spearheaded at its creation by Marty and Nan, and then, early on, with support and interest from resident, Bob Vertrees, the working group has accomplished the identification, and the upcoming labeling of 50 trees within 18 species (including sycamores, sugar maples, hackberries, paw paws, black walnuts, honey locusts, black cherries, buckeyes, boxelders, and a white ash) that are located near the paved paths within or along the naturally wooded areas on Wesley Glen’s grounds.
The tree working group’s identification and labeling project, was seen by Bob, Nan, and Marty to serve many beneficial purposes for our residents. Spending time in nature has been found to have benefits for seniors, and there are those in our community who take advantage of the environment around the nature paths we have. “The ravine and nature paths of Wesley Glen offer us an opportunity to enhance our overall health – physically, intellectually and emotionally. The area that surrounds us encourages a superior quality of life. We are fortunate to be one of the few retirement communities in the area to offer an extended natural environment,” said Marty.
Interestingly enough, Maureen Lorenz, a member of the environmental group, Friends of the Ravines, which advocates for preserving community ravines, spent time with the Nature Committee and wrote an article discussing the committee’s initiatives and the added health benefits nature offers older adults in the group’s newsletter, Ravinia. Additional information for Maureen’s article came from a brief report Nan wrote in October 2019, on the Nature Committee. To read the full article in Ravinia, click here, and to read Nan’s report, click here.
In addition to the many health benefits nature provides seniors, the working group found value in expanding the education of residents regarding the plethora of mostly native trees located in the woods of Wesley Glen. Even if other residents aren’t “nature buffs”, the working group and Nature Committee hope that this initiative will foster interest, add health benefits, and bring educational value to the nature walks along the paths of the Wesley Glen ravine that are popular with so many.
Bob Vertrees spent the summer and autumn of 2019 and spring and early summer of this year identifying representative trees of usually well-known species, primarily along the approximately .3 miles of path along or within Wesley Glen’s wooded areas. Since late summer, he has worked with Nan and Marty to create and submit the order for the labels. Nan, who also serves as chair for this working group, sought out an excellent tree-labeling company, and this month, the group’s order was submitted. “We weren’t sure where to begin looking for a company that would provide long-lasting labels of quality. I asked my daughter, a gardener at Inniswood Metro Gardens, and she sought input from her director, and with their help, we discovered Nameplate and Panel Technology in Carol Stream, Illinois. I wanted to see their labels before moving forward and learned that the city of Bexley’s arboretum identified some of their trees using this company. I went to Bexley and photographed the labels with their spring expansion screws that allow them to be adjusted as trees grow. We knew these would not harm our trees,” said Nan. The labels will refer to the mostly native trees situated near the paved pathways of three wooded areas on campus: the East Access Road, the Lower Ravine Area, and the lower and middle paths of Chacey Lane. Each label will include both the common and scientific names of each tree.
To greatly assist the working group in locating the trees, Bob first prepared what he calls “guidepost” maps. These maps depict the locations of prominent natural or man-made features in each wooded area, such as large, glacially deposited stones, a large concretion in Bill Moose Run, and the butterfly garden in Chacey Lane. Then, Bob created two thematic maps that provide detailed and place-specific layouts of each of the trees he identified and recommended for labeling. One map includes trees along the East Access Road and the Lower Ravine Area, and the other, of trees along paths of Chacey Lane. In Chacey Lane, the working group also decided to label two magnolia trees and a spicebush due to their prominence and beauty along the pathways. Both maps have been included in the working group’s display in the front lobby of Wesley Glen.
When it comes to the thematic maps that Bob has prepared, he stated that a fellow resident, Tom Tucker, was very helpful. Early in Bob’s tree identification process, Tom told Bob how to access detailed, online parcel maps of the Wesley Glen property from the Franklin County Auditor’s Office website. These maps show the precise locations of the access road, the paths in or along the wooded areas, as well as the location of Bill Moose Run. “Without Tom’s help in my finding the auditor maps, I would not have been able to create the precise maps that locate the trees so near to where they are situated,” Bob said.
Of course, the Nature Committee and the Tree Identification and Labeling Working Group could not have moved this far along in the process of getting the tree labels ordered without the support from many others within the Wesley Glen community. To have the project approved and to raise funds for the purchase of the labels, the working group proposed a fundraising plan to the Resident Council of Wesley Glen. The council supported the project by offering to provide any additional funds needed that weren’t met through the fundraising. This much appreciated offer, however, was not needed, as the fundraising effort, greatly organized and assisted by Chad Simpson, Development Director of The Wesley Communities, was a very successful venture, raising a little over $1,700. The money raised has gone towards the purchase of the labels, and later on, interpretive, educational signs that will refer to some trees of exceptional interest, as well as two donor-recognition plaques that will also be put on display. Along with support from Chad in the fundraising venture, Jill Easterling, Executive Director of Wesley Glen, has played a key role, too. Jill meets regularly with the group to stay abreast of their progress and to be a resource and source of encouragement when needed.
Aaron Ansel, Wesley Glen’s Director of Plant Maintenance, and Mike Sauer, who maintains the outdoor areas, have worked with Bob to make plans for installing the labels after they are delivered. Bob has identified which trees are to be labeled and the height at which the labels are to be placed. Once the label order arrives, Bob will assist Mike, who will install the labels.
The Nature Committee and the Tree Identification and Working Group truly embody the mission of The Wesley Communities: “Welcoming communities of kindness and grace, where residents and staff thrive.” Keeping in mind the needs of residents who use wheelchairs along the nature paths, the working group met with resident Bill Voisard, who has organized the Mobility Group, comprised of resident volunteers who take those residents with wheelchairs along the paths. In true kindness and grace, Bill, Marty, Nan, and Bob have walked the paths to determine the appropriate height for the labels, so they are easily seen by all residents. “We want as many residents as possible to be able to see the labels and learn about the trees,” said Bob.
With degrees in Conservation Education and Natural Resource Development Policy, Bob Vertrees’ past education, career as an Ohio State University professor of natural resources and environmental policy, plus his lifelong spending of time in various outdoor pursuits, oftentimes with his wife and three sons, finding a community to live in that fit his passions wasn’t easy. When he moved to Wesley Glen in October of 2018, he immediately fell in love with the apartment that he was shown on his first tour – one on the eighth floor with an amazing view of wooded areas and trees. Since living here, Bob said he’s really been able to foster his long-standing interests in conservation education and his personal need to “be in nature”. He credits the location of his apartment, the wooded areas that surround him, and of course, his involvement with the Tree Identification and Labeling Working Group to Wesley Glen quickly becoming a home he loves.
Through the Nature Committee and the Tree Identification and Labeling Working Group, our community will be able to expand their education of nature while continuing to appreciate the environmental beauty that surrounds our campus. Both Nan and Marty expressed their excitement for how these projects and working groups can grow moving forward. “The main purpose of the committee is really to be flexible and sensitive to residents’ interests. As more people move in, we hope that we can form additional groups that promote what they’re passionate about or what they would like to learn more about,” explained Nan.
Whether residents want to foster existing passions with like-minded individuals who become friends, or have opportunities to learn or create something new, Wesley Glen Retirement Community has it all.