Kent Bog Boardwalk to be Named in Honor of Dr. Gordon Vars
State nature preserve managers hope to have new signage, kiosk in place by March 10 memorial service.
Alice Vars believes her late husband, Dr. Gordon Vars, would be mildly embarrassed – yet “humbly pleased” – that the half-mile long boardwalk winding through the Tom S. Cooperrider Kent Bog State Nature Preserve is being named in his honor.
Within two days of Vars’ death, Kent resident Sally Burnell wrote a letter to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources – which owns and manages the bog – suggesting the walkway “be named in his honor to commemorate his years of passionate devotion to protecting it.”
Much to Burnell’s surprise her letter was quickly forwarded to six-year preserve manager Charlotte McCurdy, who loved the idea. She immediately set plans in motion to have a new kiosk built at the bog trailhead featuring a plaque with Vars’ biography and, possibly, his photo engraved on it.
McCurdy and Adam Wohlever, who just this month took over the bog’s management, hope to have the project at least partially completed by March 10, the date of Dr. Vars’ memorial service at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Kent.
Burnell, who met Dr. Vars through the church nearly 20 years ago, is thrilled McCurdy acted so quickly.
“I am delighted that future generations will know the name of a man who poured his heart and soul into protecting this great natural treasure we have right here in our own backyard,” Burnell said. “I admired his staunch dedication to environmental activism and his passion for protecting the bog.”
McCurdy said she was always impressed with Vars’ passion for the bog and his efforts to safeguard it – from “nearly single-handedly creating the Friends of the Bog group to working with developers and zoning people to make sure the bog was protected with a buffer around a proposed housing development.”
“He was just so ambitious and that bog was his passion. The last three or four years he really went at things gung-ho,” McCurdy said. “He’d work with a couple high school teachers to get students out there to do bog clean-up days. Whenever we’d have an event, like Crooked Creek Days, he’d have a table there to promote the Friends group and sign people up to get his emails. He’d be out there in the pouring rain with an umbrella.”
McCurdy said the new kiosk that will be installed at the boardwalk trailhead will include “weatherproof brochure holders to hold his seasonal trail guides” – a move she knows would have pleased Dr. Vars.
Alice Vars said her husband of 36 years visited the bog frequently, year-round, to make sure everything was as it should be and that the small kiosk there was stocked with the trail guide brochures he co-wrote with Tom Cooperrider.
“The kiosk was very important to him. He was always very careful to make sure there were plenty of brochures so the public had information to guide them on their tour,” Mrs. Vars explained. “He always counted (the brochures) out to see how many had been taken and replace them with just the right number. And he kept a record of how many were taken.”
She said her educator husband had many interests in life, “but because he was a promoter of maintaining the earth, it was a natural for him to put his efforts toward educating the public about appreciating the bog.”
Mrs. Vars hesitated a moment when asked what her husband would have thought about a new kiosk being created in his honor, as well as a sign naming the boardwalk for him.
“He would probably be mildly embarrassed,” she said. “He was a very quiet man, and his main thing was to promote the bog to keep people going there. But he would probably smile and say, ‘That’s nice.’ He would be humbly pleased.”