Toledo Magazine: Singing the blues in praise of Oak Openings' natural wonder

·3 min read

May 23—Give any preschool or kindergartener a coloring-book image of a park with a lake or stream, and most will know which colors to assign the shapes. Green goes to the grass, bushes, and tree leaves; blue to the water and the sky, and so on.

But for those rebel artists who choose to shade green areas with more blue, they wouldn't be wrong, at least if said image was of areas in the Oak Openings region. In fact, conservation organizers that make up the Green Ribbon Initiative, whose aim is to preserve Oak Openings, designate one week out of every year to celebrate all things blue in the region.

This year's annual Blue Week ended May 16, but you don't need to feel blue yourself if you missed it.

Kelly Milewski, a park naturalist for Metroparks Toledo, which is part of the Green Ribbon Initiative, said the better time to enjoy all things blue is approaching as the weather becomes warmer. It's during the summer-like weather that visitors to Oak Openings will find much more of the blue-named birds, plants, and butterflies throughout the region, as well as some fish, amphibians, and reptiles, she said.

"With the name 'blue' in it, we have blue birds, blue jays, great blue herons, indigo buntings that are blue — not blue in the name, but they are another bright blue bird," she said. " And we've got plants called big bluestem, little bluestem; some species Karner blue butterfly, and other butterfly species that are blue; and then we have blue racer snakes.

"So there's lot's of blue, and of course not only you have the sky and the blue of the water, but a lot of other species as well," she added.

And the warmer weather will also mean more berries on the trail, including — you guessed it — the blueberry.

Children and adults who want to be hands-on with nature should take a pause before getting out that butterfly net or basket for berries. Milewski emphasizes that visitors should take a "look but don't touch" approach to nature.

"Of course, I'm a parent too and so you want kids to get dirty and go search for frogs and stuff, but you've also got to be careful too because sometimes you don't want to hurt the animals or their habitat," Milewski said. "And we of course, in all of our preserves, never encourage anyone to eat anything or take anything out of the park, so we don't want you foraging or picking and eating anything because a lot of berries are poisonous, as well as the conservation message we want to get across."

Ashlee Decker, the Nature Conservancy's Green Ribbon Initiative partnership specialist, said visitors are encouraged to take photos throughout the year and submit them for a photo contest during the annual Blue Week. And, for those who can't resist touching something blue, you can fish in Oak Openings and catch yourself a blue gill.

You should probably throw it back though. You know, for conservation.