Mark D. Motz is the Community Relations Manager for the Clermont County Park District. A native Cincinnatian, he has worked for more than 25 years as an award-winning journalist and public relations professional. Away from work, he enjoys photography, theater and spending time with his nine godchildren.
JACKSON TWP. – Roll down U.S. Highway 50 and you’ll catch a glimpse of something new looking old.
Dylan McWhorter – a 17-year-old Eagle Scout candidate from Milford High School – recently completed his service project for the Clermont Park District.
He constructed a historically accurate split-rail fence along the road fronting the Hartman Log Cabin on the southeast corner of 50 and Aber Road.
With 19 posts and 54 rails, the fence covers nearly 200 feet.
“The negotiations for this project go back to November,” McWhorter said. “I spent a few hours doing the research and then making a plan on how to build it. I was really fortunate because in school we were learning about that period – the 1830s – in my AP U.S. history class.”
He planned to build the fence in early spring, but the COVID-19 pandemic threw him a curve.
There were some challenges scheduling people to help. Fewer than would normally participate in an Eagle project volunteered because of state restrictions on gatherings of more than 10 people. There were a few delays in having supplies delivered.
“You kind of have to expect that with the times we’re in,” McWhorter said. “I just had to be understanding.”
The build finally happened May 15 and 16.
“I inspected the new fence and Dylan and his crew did an excellent job,” said Park District Deputy Director Tim Carr, who coordinated the project with McWhorter. “The new fence looks great. We thank him for this beautiful project.”
McWhorter said now that the project is complete, his favorite part was the opportunity to work on a historical site. He visited the cemetery adjacent to the park and saw where several members of the Hartman family are interred.
“It’s just beautiful land,” he said. “I’m glad to contribute to it. In the future I’ll be able to walk down there and say I was able to add something to it. It just brought joy to me to work on it. I’ve been a big fan of historic America. It just felt like my kind of project.”
“I think preserving (the Hartman) land honors their legacy. Being some of the first Ohio settlers and preserving their cabin for this long is important to share.”
McWhorter recently completed his junior year at Milford High School, but will be jumping right to the University of Cincinnati Clermont College next school year. He’s considering a major in political science.
He began his scouting career as a Cub Scout in kindergarten and has enjoyed his 12-year affiliation with the scouting program, more than half of which were with Troop 128 – led by Peter Jofriet – out of the First Methodist Church in Milford. His favorite scouting memory is his first summer camp out at nearby Camp Freelander.
“You were deep in the wilderness and away from technology,” he said. “You can just appreciate nature. That’s import to be able to preserve and respect the land.”
Crossing the bridge in downtown Batavia last week, Clermont Park District Director Chris Clingman saw a handful of people looking at something. Then saw it himself.
An American bald eagle.
“I parked and went on bridge,” he said. “Turns out there were two of them; one was on the other side of the bridge.”
He snapped some photos with his phone and sent them to the Park District’s interpretive naturalists.
The resulting Facebook post – shared by Robin Green at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, April 25 – as of Wednesday morning has a reach of more than 27,000 people (and counting) with more than 6,400 engagements and 200-plus shares.
It’s the second-most popular post in in Park District history, behind only Green’s photo of a snake in a tree at Pattison Park earlier this year which reached more than 31,000 people.
At the end of January this year, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Division announced a citizen science project to help find every eagle’s nest in the state.
Once an endangered species, there were only four nesting pairs of bald eagles in Ohio in 1979. By 2007, they were removed from the federal list of threatened and protected species and Ohio followed suit in 2012.
The 2020 count marked the first such effort since eagles came off the list eight years before.
On April 22, the ODNR released its results; with 707 confirmed nests in 85 counties. Citizens reported about 2,500 nests to the Division of Wildlife, whose officers and biologists went on to verify the locations.
Ottowa (90) and Sandusky (50) counties led the state in nests. Clermont County officially has four nesting pair, as does neighboring Brown County to the east. To the west, Hamilton County has three pair. Nearby Butler County has eight, Warren County four and Clinton County two.
“I have seen one passing through before, but others have seen them in the area,” Clingman said. “There is an eagle nest on the East Fork, so we should be seeing them throughout the Batavia area.”
The Park District would love to see and share your local eagle photos. Please send your JPEG images to firstname.lastname@example.org, along with the date and location you saw the eagle.
OWENSVILLE – The annual Matt Maupin Memorial Fishing Derby For Kids – co-hosted by the Clermont Park District and East Fork Bass Anglers and scheduled for May 9 – became the latest event affected by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine stated in his April 27 daily briefing that the order prohibiting public gatherings of more than 10 people remains in place for the foreseeable future.
“Obviously we’re disappointed,” said Mark D. Motz, Park District community relations manager. “This event is one of the highlights of our spring. It’s wonderful to the see the Pattison Park fishing pond packed with kids and families from all over the county.
“We’re also proud to celebrate the memory of Matt Maupin – a fisherman himself – one of the heroes who paid the ultimate price so those of us back home could enjoy events like the Fishing Derby.
“However, the health and safety of our guests has been and will continue to be our first priority. We will comply with all state and local mandates to make sure people can avoid exposure to or the spread of the corona virus.”
Last year, about 60 children in three age groups – 7-and-under, 8 to 11 and 12 to 15 – participated. With parents, grandparents and volunteers, about 200 people ringed the lake. Alex Richey in the 12 to 15 age group hooked the largest fish of the day, a 5.39-pound bass.
While the COVID-19 crisis continues and the state of Ohio begins making plans to open up parts of the economy starting May 1, the Clermont Park District will postpone a community event scheduled for mid May.
“At this point, we don’t know enough about what the rules from the state and county will be for large gatherings,” said Park District Direct Chris Clingman. “We will always err on the side of caution to make sure our guests and our staff stay safe and healthy.
“It’s unfortunate. I know people are anxious to get outside and socialize again. We’re glad our parks have been open for hiking and exercise during the state’s stay-at-home order, but bringing so many people together in one place is more of a risk than we’re willing to take.”
As a result, a community picnic to celebrate the Park District’s 50th anniversary fell victim to the pandemic.
Originally signed into existence Feb. 5, 1970, by Clermont County Probate Judge Charles Jackson, it actually took a year for the fledgling organization to own any property – 23 acres along the East Fork of the Little Miami River – and two before that parcel opened to the public as Sycamore Park.
In the ensuing 50 years, the Park District grew from existing only on paper to managing nearly 1,000 acres of parks, nature preserves and green spaces.
Scheduled for May 16 at Chilo Lock 34 Park, the 50th anniversary picnic would have featured the musical talents of Wild Carrot, a Cincinnati-based American roots music combo.
“This would have been a terrific opportunity for us to begin thanking the people who enjoy the Park District,” said Mark D. Motz, community relations manager. “We’re sorry we won’t be able to do this particular thank you, but look forward to a time when we can celebrate together safely.”
The Clermont Park District recently revived its Twitter account after more than two years dormant. The Park District also added an Instagram account to its social media portfolio.
Interpretive naturalist Robin Green was the driving force behind the expansion.
“I’m just trying to reach out to people who might not be using Facebook,” she said. “I think Facebook will still be the main source for Park District information and announcements, but these other platforms can give people some different looks at what we’re doing.”
For now, all three platforms are sharing similar content.
“But we’ll be differentiating as it grows,” Green said. “Instagram is obviously photo oriented, so we’ll be providing some behind-the-scenes photos or just cool things we see in nature when we’re out in the parks hiking around.”
The Instagram account (www.instagram.com/clermontparks) has 25 followers in its first week of operation. So far the most popular post is a short video of Michelangelo, a turtle who is the Park District’s oldest animal ambassador.
The Twitter account (www.twitter.com/clermontparks) already had about 150 followers and has added a couple dozen more since coming out of hibernation April 1.
“I haven’t really heard much specific feedback yet,” Green said. “And this early, I haven’t really looked at the analytics.
“But what we’re learning in this COVID-19 crisis is the entire interpretive community has to be more digital,” Green said. “We’re trying to find ways to get and keep people interested in nature. This is a way to do that.
“An Instagram post or a tweet doesn’t have to be too in depth. Don’t overthink it; just do it. I’ve been trying to practice that strategy, even though it goes a little against my nature.”
One thing we know about the new interpretive naturalist on the Clermont Park District team, he’s pretty good at understatement.
“It’s been a weird time for onboarding,” said Joe Scharf, who was hired last month just as the coronavirus threat began to affect wide swaths of the population.
The cancellation of Park District programs and events, office closures and stay-at-home orders conspired to keep him largely out of sight of the nature-loving public he will be serving.
“I guess you would consider me a generalist,” Scharf said. “But I do love talking about parasites. Those are kind of my favorite things.
“Mosquitoes and tics are kind of the main ones we see in this area. Liver flukes. This is the part of my work that I enjoy. How do I make parasites palatable for the general public? That’s the challenge.”
To that end, Scharf has developed a trailside kit hikers can use to assist in their understanding of local parasites. It includes information on Lyme disease and the role of parasites in the food chain.
Originally from Dayton, Joe is the middle child of three boys. He came to Cincinnati after high school, earning a degree in biology from Xavier University in 2017.
“I was in pre-med and prepping for the MCAT (medical school entrance exam),” he said. “I could do all the science, but it didn’t really appeal to me. I started looking at another direction.”
Which he found via an internship and fellowship at Cincinnati Nature Center. There he got to spend time outdoors and hone his interpretive skills. (He also got to meet his future colleague, Park District interpretive naturalist Robin Green.)
Scharf went back inside for a while – he served as manager of guest services and membership at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in downtown Cincinnati – but always had an eye on getting back to the outdoors and doing programs.
He is working on his master’s degree in biology at Miami University through Project Dragonfly with an expected graduation date in December 2021.
Meantime, you might find Scharf practicing his other passion – yo-yos.
He’s been internationally recognized for his talent, coming in 77th in the 2019 World Yo-Yo Competition in Cleveland.
He has more than 60 of the stringed toys – his favorite is a titanium model from a now-defunct Canadian company – and Park District guests can expect to see him use yo-yos in his work.
“I always have at least one in my backpack,” he said. “You can make pictures with the strings and I can make a bunny. That’s something I can do in my job as a naturalist, bring that out to show the kids.”
As the COVID-19 pandemic moves forward, the Clermont Park District continues adjusting its services to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
On April 2, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine announced a new order to take effect April 7, extending and revising the state’s previous stay-at-home order through May 1.
“This is a difficult time for everybody,” said Chris Clingman, Park District Director. “We are sorry about the uncertainly, but are grateful so many people choose to make the Park District a part of daily lives, even in a pandemic.
“However, we have to comply with the state and do what we can to slow down the spread of this disease. We need your help to keep the parks a safe place for you to get some fresh air and exercise, so please maintain the social distancing standards when visiting a park.”
The Park District has already suspended all public programming and events – a policy that will now continue through May 1 – closed the visitor center at Chilo Lock 34 Park, closed offices to the public, ceased yurt rentals, shut down playgrounds, tennis courts, basketball courts and picnic shelters. Permanent restroom facilities are also closed, but port-a-potties are available.
“We’ve made these closures to comply with the state and county and to protect the safety and health of our guests and our staff,” Clingman said.
Parks and nature preserves – including walking paths, hiking trails and river accesses – remain open for the public to enjoy with proper social distancing. Hours are sunrise to dusk seven days a week.
Park District naturalists Robin Green and Joe Scharf created a brief video to illustrate just how far six feet is to maintain social distancing standards. Check it out right here.
For questions about the Park District, please write to email@example.com.
As the COVID-19 pandemic moves forward, the Clermont Park District continues to take steps to encourage people to enjoy the outdoors while maintaining proper social distancing.
On the advice of both Clermont Public Health and Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, the Park District has removed the goals from the basketball court and closed the tennis courts at Sycamore Park in Batavia.
“While we encourage parks remaining open for the community to get exercise, any type of group or team sports – whether organized or recreational – should not be occurring at this time to reduce the possible spread of COVID-19,” said Julianne Nesbit, Clermont Public Health Commissioner.
“From experience across the country, we have seen were COVID-19 was easily spread to teammates and we have experience locally knowing other respiratory diseases can spread easily among people playing team sports.”
The closure of the basketball and tennis courses follows last week’s closure of playgrounds in the Park District.
In addition, the Park District has taped off the picnic shelters in Chilo Lock 34, Hartman Log Cabin, Pattison, Shor and Sycamore parks to remind people not to gather in large groups.
“We are closing these park amenities to comply with the state and county and to help ensure the safety and health of our guests and our staff,” said Chris Clingman, Park District Director. “All of these are too susceptible to close contact with other people, which could facilitate the spread of the coronavirus.”
Park District restroom facilities also have been closed, but there will be port-a-pottys available in each of the parks.
“I want parks to remain open, but I also need people to continue to abide by the social and physical distancing requirements,” Nesbit said. “Activities that allow for six feet of distancing for non-household members and do not use shared equipment are fine.”
According to Clermont Public Health, as of March 30 there were nine confirmed case of COVID-19 in the county. Information on the virus is updated daily at https://ccphohio.org/covid-19/ .
UNION TWP. – One never knows where inspiration may strike.
Batavia-based artist Margi Hopkins found it at Shor Park – 4659 Tealtown Road, Milford, OH 45150 – photographing the toddler son of a friend crawling through the beehive portion of the playground.
“It was just a really fun photograph of him coming through that beehive,” Hopkins said. “The way the light was coming through one of the holes, his expression, that window behind him looking out into the park.”
She turned the photo into “Hive Mind,” a 20-by-24-inch color-pencil portrait and submitted the piece for inclusion in the Colored Pencil Society of America’s 28th Annual International Exhibition & Convention.
(The exhibit was scheduled to run at the Dunedin Fine Art Center in Florida, but in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis moved to an online exhibition opening July 15. Hopkins is a signature member of the CPSA and has been selected for several previous international exhibitions.)
How long does it take to turn a photograph into a piece of art?
“My canned answer is a lifetime,” Hopkins said. “I’ve been doing commission work since 2000, but I’m in my 60s and have been doing art since I was a kid. In terms of actual time for this piece, I try to work with audio books. This was about three and a half books worth of work, so maybe 60 hours.”
Hopkins takes some license when creating her art. The bee at the center of “Hive Mind,” for example.
“It’s intentionally big because it’s the boy’s imagination,” she said. “It’s also closer to the viewer than the child, so it’s more in focus. I blend all kinds of things to make the picture.
“The texture was intentional. I meant to make it look pixilated. I got real tight on the bee, real sharp, but the boy kind of dissolves so it would feel atmospheric.”
Hopkins said she’s done other pieces created from exploring Shor Park for the last nine years.
“My artwork is very local, things that you see all the time,” she said. “The thing that holds it all together is that I love nature.
“We’ve got a beehive and bee right there. What would little boys and girls do if they didn’t have bugs to explore? You don’t even need the play scape, it’s just a place where you can explore. The parks are a way to keep people connected to those things. They need the time to explore what’s right in front of them.”
The beehive feature is part of Clermont County’ first certified inclusive playground. The play structure opened to great acclaim in the spring of 2019 and had its official dedication July 16.
“This was and is a beautiful property,” said Sylvia Shor at the dedication. She made the donation of 56 acres to the Park District to create the park in her husband’s memory. “It’s more than I ever could have imagined. I love it. But look out there (at the busy playground). They like it and that’s what matters.”
Hopkins is represented by the Row House Gallery in Milford, where some of her work is on display. To see more of her art, please visit www.pepperportraits.com.
During the Covid-19 crisis, the playground at Shor Park is closed to the public. The paved walking path and hiking trails through the park remain open from sunrise to dusk seven days a week. Please practice social distancing of at least six feet from your fellow guests when visiting the park.
OWENSVILLE – In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and orders from the Ohio Department of Health, the Clermont Park District has closed its playgrounds to the public.
While parks and nature preserves – including walking paths, hiking trails and river accesses – remain open for the public to enjoy with responsible social distancing from sunrise to dusk every day, playgrounds are now off limits until at least April 7, 2020.
The Park District operates playgrounds at Sycamore Park in Batavia and Chilo Lock 34 Park in Chilo, as well as the first certified inclusive playground in Clermont County at Shor Park in Union Township.
“We are closing these play facilities to comply with the state and to help ensure the safety and health of our guests and our staff,” said Chris Clingman, Park District Director. “Our playgrounds are popular features of our parks, but they are too susceptible to close contact with other people, which could facilitate the spread of coronavirus.
“We hope people will take advantage of our trails, paths and open spaces to get a respite from the new stay-at-home order issued for Ohio March 22, but we want them to do so safely and help keep the virus in check.”
Park District restrooms have been closed, but there will be a port-a-potty available in each of the parks.