Oak Openings, Pipelines and the Work of a Matriarch


If you’ve been following me on Facebook, then you know about the pipeline.

Since last October, things have been a whirl of activity as I’ve been working to organize grass-roots opposition to a huge gas pipeline that has been proposed here in Ohio.

The Nexus pipeline project would be a 36″ pipe pressurized at 1440 psi. The potential blast zone is more than 1200 feet on either side of the pipe. And, the evacuation zone if something were to go wrong is up to 2 or 3 miles.

It started when I was informed that my land was in the “study zone” and a request was made by Nexus to survey my property. Looking at the maps, I didn’t like what I saw.

As originally drawn, the Nexus pipeline route is unnecessarily close to parks, schools, homes and subdivisions. Forest and wetlands are in the path.  It was clear that routing the pipeline just a few miles further to the south and to the west these issues could be greatly avoided.

My biggest concern is for the Oak Openings region of Northwest Ohio. This corner of the state contains a globally rare set of habitats – oak savanna, glacial sand dunes, woodlands, wet prairie and wetlands.

Designated by the Nature Conservancy as “One of America’s Last Great Places”, the Oak Openings is on par with the Florida Everglades and rain forests of the Northwest.

The sensitive habitats here contain one-third of Ohio’s endangered plant species and are home to a host of rare animals.  Just a few:  Wild Blue Lupine, Dotted Horsemint, Little Bluestem, Blazing Star, Milkweed and Blue-eyed grass; Eastern bluebirds, Red-shouldered hawks, Red-tail hawks, Bald eagles, Red-headed woodpeckers, Wild turkey and Whitetail deer.

It is a place that is close to my heart and as a photographer I spend a lot of time out on the trails, the dunes, and oak savanna.

Wild Blue Lupine in the Oak Openings region of NW Ohio, Kitty Todd Preserve, Nature Conservancy.

Wild Blue Lupine in the Oak Openings region of NW Ohio.

This is not the place to gouge a 100 foot wide construction corridor and disturb or destroy acres of land.  And, this isn’t the only pipeline being proposed.

Here is a tv news spot I was part of recently.

At the end of May, some good news: the pipeline company stated they have scrapped their original plan. My neighbors and I received letters from Nexus saying “at this time” our land is no longer part of the route.  An article in the Toledo Blade said Nexus is looking at a route outside the Oak Openings (though indications are that they are backing away from that option, as it would cost them more money).

The proposal is currently being reviewed by FERC – the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

The months drag on. The learning curve is steep. It is exhausting at times.. and this has been a huge investment of time and energy. But, progress is being made. Even small steps forward keep me energized.

Recently I noticed I was getting frustrated; feeling that I’ve been ignoring my other work, ignoring my writing, classes, students and clients.

A friend offered an insight – I have been doing my work. She reminded me that I have been working on behalf of an entire community – offering ceremony, holding a vision and taking action to protect our land, our water, rare plants and wildlife. My friend pointed out that this is the work of a Matriarch.

So, I took her words to heart. Though “matriarch” isn’t a word I’ve used to describe myself, it is a word that has found me.  I relaxed into the knowledge that I am doing exactly what I need to be doing in this moment.  I’ll continue to fight.  I’ll continue to be a voice for our precious land.

To protect our communities, our land and our water we ALL must take on the role of Patriarch and Matriarch. We must join together – fierce and unstoppable.  

Butterfly and Milkweed