GREENVILLE — Bish Discovery Center is becoming an active place in Greenville. Located at 404 N. Ohio St., it sits north of Alice Bish Park, which came to be in May 1994, with the two places separated by a pollinator field.
Megan Schmidt, naturalist, has been chosen to oversee the center’s activities.
“The center is open Tuesday and Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Thursday and Friday from noon to 7 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.,” she said. “Those are our hours for now.”
The purpose of the center is to work with individuals who want to do sustainable practices.
Thus, inside there is an aquaponic display with a large and small aquarium, a hydroponic system and the usage of LED light fixtures to help save energy. The mural map on the wall was created by Kathi McQueen, a former naturalist, and volunteer Pam Siegel. It features all the parks and prairies in the district and art work to reflect on nature and other Darke County activities.
Schmidt said the aquaponic is a fish tank and plant grow bed.
“Water from the fish tank with waste is pumped up to the grow bed and then plants use the nutrients from the fish waste and filter the water. Then, that is pumped down under the fish tank. You can grow fish and vegetables to eat at the same time,” Schmidt said.
They even have a vermi compost, using red worms for their castings that are good for gardens.
Schmidt said there is also a litter display inside the center, with information on litter and its alternatives people can use instead.
”I am also working on a plastic straw display now,” she added.
Outside, there is a place for bicyclists to stop, get a drink of water and possibly repair their bikes; and there is a community garden at the north of the building for local residents’ use.
The community garden has both vegetables and flowers growing in raised beds on concrete blocks.
“They’re currently all full,” Schmidt said. “You have to sign up. We started out with 20 beds and have added six more, and they’re full.“
The parks board invested in a new program, REC-DESK, designed for people to register on line for the programs, even the free ones.
“It’s very secure being an online service and there are great rates,” said park district director Roger Van Frank. “Chief Naturalist Rob Clifford has been instrumental in getting it together. Anyone can go online and create an account. They can pay with credit cards.”
Van Frank said the goal at the center over the next year is to get solar power onto the roof.
“We bought this from Tom Bish and wrote a grant in conjunction with the Ohio Public Works Commission,” he said. “A year ago March until this year, it is completely different inside and out. There have been a lot of renovations. We have a permeable parking lot. Water does run off of it and will run through to the Greenville Creek. There is a holding pond underneath the asphalt. That was a $90,000 investment.”
Schmidt has indicated that business has been picking up at the center during the last few weeks.
“I’ve been getting several visitors a day,” she said. “They have a lot of questions about the different displays and bike rentals.”
Canoe and kayak enthusiasts can launch their craft at the Alice Bish Canoe Launch for a float downstream.
“We hope in mid-season to rent canoes and kayaks,” Van Frank said. “We are already renting bicycles.”
It was also noted that Franklin Monroe High School students will be coming in the fall to paint two murals inside the center; one on the north wall with a nature scene and a green one on the east side of the gable.
Van Frank also reported that a living, healthy steam is planned for inside with pumps pumping continuously with critters and frogs in it “when we get our funding.”
“And, I’ve filled out a grant for a small rock-climbing wall in here,” Schmidt said.
“We are looking at a subsistent style of living here,” Van Frank said. “We will provide activities for people. We’ve got to keep them motivated…to see them live healthier lifestyles with wellness.”
Schmidt, a 2008 graduate of Tri-Village High School, earned her associate’s degree at Edison State Community College, then transferred to Indiana University East, receiving her bachelors in natural sciences with a biology concentration.
She is married to Matt Schmidt, a 2005 Greenville High School graduate.
“We have been together nine years and married for three,” said Megan, the daughter of Bea and Rick Hammaker.
Why did she go into this type of work?
“I wanted to be a veterinarian when younger,” she said. “I started school to do it, then after taking some environmental conservation and environmental science classes, I really got interested in that. My high school teacher, Mr. Arnett, did an environmental science class and we went to the Fish and Game Club and learned the species of trees and wildflowers. That’s where it got started. Then, I got more into the conservation stuff.”
She is an animal lover, having three dogs, two cats, a rabbit and a 55-gallon tank of fish.