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Crown Point celebrating 25th year

3/6/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

Beekeeping is one of many programs offered for youths at Crown Point Ecology Center.
Crown Point Ecology Center features 115 acres of property at 3220 Ira Road with an organic farm, historic barn (shown above), labyrinth and several miles of walking trails.
Photos courtesy of Crown Point Ecology Center
BATH — Crown Point Ecology Center is marking its 25th anniversary of spreading the word about caring for the earth and living sustainably.

The site, which features 115 acres of property at 3220 Ira Road with an organic farm, historic barn, labyrinth and several miles of walking trails, is part of the Dominican Sisters of Peace’s mission, according to outreach coordinator Sister Mariellen Phelps.

“Each year brings growth, change and especially the ability for opportunities we strive to take to convey to the public the importance of the care of planet Earth for the benefit of ourselves, but especially for future generations and their health,” Phelps said.

“It’s an exciting time for us,” said Ellen Otto, Crown Point’s special events coordinator, who noted the anniversary would be marked with events throughout the year and especially at the annual Taste of Earth fundraiser in August.

According to a history of Crown Point on its website, in 1967 the Sisters of St. Dominic of Akron purchased the property, which had been part of the 1,100 acres owned by Jason Hammond, a farmer, miller and merchant who was considered one of the first settlers of European descent to arrive in Bath 200 years ago.

Initially, the nuns ran a preschool that was in operation on the property from 1968 to 1977. By 1988, the congregation’s leaders began to study possible uses for the site, putting an emphasis on finding the most ecologically responsible way to use the land, which included suspending the use of any chemicals in the fields.

In 1989, Crown Point was officially rededicated as an ecology center at an event that included a blessing of the property. The sisters were encouraged by Sister Miriam Therese MacGillis from Genesis Farm in New Jersey, also a Sisters of St. Dominic property, to maintain and care for the land.

The next few years saw Crown Point offering workshops and study groups to the public as it reinvented itself as an ecology center. By 1997, the organic farm became a large part of that effort, and Crown Point began producing vegetables to provide to the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank for distribution, an effort that continues today. The initiative has resulted in more than 140,000 pounds of fresh produce donated since it began.

By 1998, Crown Point started its community supported agriculture (CSA) program with 20 families. Participating CSA families pay a flat fee in the beginning of the year, providing funds for purchasing seeds and supplies and hiring help. In exchange for this support, the “sharers” receive a weekly portion of freshly harvested, certified-organic produce throughout the harvest season. Today, the CSA has grown to include 200 members, according to Crown Point officials.

“Our CSA is the longest continuing CSA in Northeast Ohio,” Otto said.

The program is currently open to new members for the upcoming season, she added, with information on joining available at www.crownpt.org.

The popularity of the CSA shows there is an audience for Crown Point’s message and mission, Otto said.

“There’s a general appreciation for locally grown food and organic food that is increasing continually,” she said. “Our devotion to that is stronger than ever.”

Ideas of sustainability are also presented through Crown Point’s Summer Farm and Science Camp, Lessons from the Land, which will be in its eighth year this summer. The weeklong day camp allows children ages 6-11 the chance to learn more about farming through harvesting food, setting up a farm market and games rooted in ecology, art, math and language arts.

Phelps said the center also invites groups such as the Boys and Girls Club of Summit County and Hispanic members from St. Bernard Church to participate in camp events.

“We provide them with an opportunity for a week to share in fun aspects of the study of ecology and they are our guests,” Phelps said.

Otto said Crown Point is also continuing to offer other events that entertain. This summer, vocalist Helen Welch will perform in a show called “The Beatles in the Barn” on June 7 at 7 p.m. The event is $35 and includes coffee and dessert during intermission, with guests welcome to bring in a picnic dinner and wine.

Taste of Earth will take place Aug. 16 and will feature a celebration of Crown Point’s 25th anniversary, Otto said. The on-site fundraising event includes cocktails and a dinner prepared with vegetables grown at the farm, as well as silent and live auctions, music and more. For an invitation, contact Otto at 330-668-0992.

In addition to those events, Crown Point is open to the public free of charge, Otto said.

“People can come anytime between dawn and dusk,” she said. “It’s a lovely experience.”

She noted that visitors are welcome to bring dogs on a leash to walk the trails.

The center also has grown into a destination for special events, Otto said.

“This year, more weddings are planned here than ever before,” she said. “Also, the 50th anniversary class reunion of Buchtel High School is having their party here.”

Anyone can support Crown Point through membership, which starts at $50 a year. Members receive reduced prices on some events and summer camps. They also receive first entry to the annual Organic Plant Sale on May 16.

As for the future, Phelps said those memberships help keep the center able to address its focus on appreciating the planet.

“We are expanding,” she said. “We are in need of facilities here to serve our public. We still have portable restrooms, and with the buildings here, there is always need for repair.”

For more details, call 330-668-8992 or go to the website.

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