Bob Downing

A grass-roots anti-fracking group wants to be a part of Medina County’s Earth Day events on April 21, but organizers have told the Concerned Citizens of Medina County they are not welcome.

The pulling of the welcome mat has upset the group.

A Medina County committee that oversees the Earth Day festivities says the anti-fracking group is too controversial and too political to be part of the event.

This has left the group “shocked and surprised,” said spokeswoman Kathie Jones of Sharon Township.

Her group had intended to distribute educational material about hydraulic fracturing or fracking for natural gas, she said.

Earth Day seemed an appropriate venue to present its information to the public, she said.

“We intended to be helpful, not harmful,” she said. “We just wanted to educate people. We never thought it would be a problem. … I feel like we are being discriminated against because of the topic.”

Her group had sought approval from a committee of county and local officials involved in organizing Medina County’s 16th annual Earth Day celebration at Hubbard Valley Park in Guilford Township.

In an email, committee spokeswoman Shelley Tender said, “At this time, we feel it is too controversial a topic and we do not want to appear as if we are endorsing any one opinion about the issue.”

Others involved said they feared the anti-fracking group would detract from the family-friendly event.

There are number of groups that have been permitted to have tables at the event. They include: Rocky River Watershed Council, OSU Extension Master Gardener, SunLit Solar, Sunset Meadow Farms, Western Reserve Land Conservacy/Medina Chapter, Four Seasons Windpower, Izaak Walton League, Medina Beekeepers, Ohio EPA, Ohio Woodland Stewards and ECO Information Fair /ECO Market.

Thomas James, director of the park district, said he is reviewing the committee’s decision. But he said he was unsure whether the decision would be overturned.

It doesn’t seem right to allow one side in the hydraulic fracturing issue to attend the event and not the other side, he said. He likened the problem to inviting Republicans but no Democrats to an event.

James said he was unaware of any pro-drilling groups asking for table space on Earth Day.

Bob Downing can be reached at 330-996-3745 or bdowning@thebeaconjournjal.com.