Park District part of new Tail Trail

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Don’t leave your dog at home.

The Clermont Park District partnered with Discover Clermont and several business across the county to create the new Tail Trail for area dogs and their human counterparts.

The Tail Trail includes dog-friendly hotels, patios, parks and paths all across the county. The best part? Your four-legged friend unlocks discounts and deals their people can enjoy at stops along the trail.

There are eight stops along the trail for people and pups; you’ll qualify for a custom dog tag from Discover Clermont when you visit all eight.

There are three Park District properties along the trail.

Chilo Lock 34 Park

Did you know that a sea lion was once caught in the Ohio River at Chilo Lock 34 Visitors Center, the site of a former U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lock and dam. Located right on the Ohio River you, visit Chilo and learn about the history of the Ohio River and its paw-some locks and dams. The park also features a 1.5-acre wetland in the park, providing great wildlife-watching opportunities with two picnic shelters and a steamboat-themed playground.

Canine’s choice? Scouting out the river for rogue sea lions.

Kelley Nature Preserve

Created in part with a gift to the Park District by Virginia Kelley as a memorial to her husband, Walter A. Kelley, the 42-acre nature preserve in Miami Township sits along the scenic Little Miami River features more than a mile of hiking trails, newly renovated canoe/kayak access to the Little Miami River, scenic river views and a meadow with a spectacular display of summer wildflowers.

Canine’s choice? Checking out the paddlers coming in and out of the Little Miami.

The Grail

The Grail is a rural oasis that welcomes the public to walk the pet friendly natural trails that crisscross 70 acres just outside of Loveland year-round during the daylight hours. The trails loop through fields, woods and the O’Bannon creek. All pups on leashes are welcome to explore the trails.

Along the trails, Grail initiatives and places of note are marked with blue and white signs. The Grail is known for the wide variety of birds spotted and with a newly installed bird watching station on a short loop close to the parking area, perfect for those who want to enjoy nature without hiking through the trails.

Canine’s choice? Bird watching with their humans.

Other Tail Trail locations include East Fork State Park – Main Entrance, East Fork State Park – North Entrance, Green Kayak Grille & Pub, Harmony Hill Vineyards & Estate Winery, Little Miami Brewing Company, Old Milford Parlor: Coffee & Ice Cream, Roads Rivers And Trails, Stonelick State Park, Valley View Nature Preserve – Entrance One and Valley View Nature Preserve – Entrance Two.

For more information on the Tail Trail, please visit the Discover Clermont website here.

Waterways getting a workout

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MIAMI TWP. – The new boat launch at Kelley Nature Preserve got a workout recently.

Miami Township Fire and Emergency Medical Services dropped the inflatable rescue boat from its technical rescue truck into the Little Miami River June 9.

While the rescue itself was called off – nobody on the river was in danger – seeing the technical truck in action at the preserve was a good sign.

The launch opened earlier this spring with the intention of making the Little Miami safer for water sports enthusiasts.

According to its website, Miami Township Fire and EMS has extensive training and response ability for technical rescue situations. The department has the capability to provide expertise in Rope Rescue, Swift Water Rescue, Ice Rescue and Lost Person Search.

“Multiple personnel are trained to the Technician (the highest) level in all four disciplines. All fire department personnel are trained to at least the Awareness level for technical rescue situations.”

Funding for the new launch point came from a State Capital Improvement Grant. The Clermont Park District partnered with Miami Township Fire and EMS department to build it.

In addition to the safety aspect, the new launch marks a major improvement for canoe and kayak users who have made Kelley Nature Preserve one of the busiest access points to the Little Miami in Clermont County.

The Park District has several other river access points in its system, both on the Little Miami and on the Ohio.

At Chilo Lock 34 Park, the Park District maintenance team – in one annual sign of summer approaching – installed the floating docks at the end of the ramp into the Ohio River. (Heavy rainfall and rising water earlier in the month pushed the dock placement to the end of May.)

Canoers and kayakers can get on the East Fork of the Little Miami from Sycamore Park in Batavia. As plans to revamp the oldest park in the system continue this year and next – there are already new picnic shelters and restrooms in place – look for access to the water to improve as well.

One of the best-kept secrets for access is behind the Park District maintenance building – Roadside Park – on Ohio 222 across from the Sheriff’s Department.

Park District Naturalist Robin Green described a late-May outing that ended there.

“When the river is high enough, both Sycamore and Roadside Parks make great take out spots for your kayaks or canoes,” she said. “We put in at the tail waters of East Fork Lake and got out at Roadside Park.

“Along the way we floated right below a great blue heron rookery, through Wilson Nature Preserve and some enchanting fog, past Sycamore Park and under a bridge. There were at least 20 herons at the rookery.”

Waterways have been – and remain – open to the public during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Park District is pleased to serve the residents of and visitors to Clermont County and offer opportunities to connect with and enjoy the area’s natural resources.

Park District playgrounds re-open

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As the state of Ohio relaxes restrictions on activities during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Clermont Park District continues adjusting its services.

Beginning June 10, 2020, playgrounds in the Park District re-opened for guests.

The Park District has playgrounds at Shor Park in Union Township, Chilo Lock 34 Park in Chilo and Sycamore Park in Batavia; the new playground at Pattison Park outside Owensville is not complete, but should be ready for visitors later this year.

Hiking trails, walking paths and river accesses in the all the parks have been open – and busy – throughout the health crisis.

“The experts have said since they started placing restrictions back in March that exercising and getting some fresh air is a good idea,” said Chris Clingman, Park District Director. “We are glad people have been active in our parks all along.

“We are pleased to re-open our playgrounds and give children and families even more opportunities to get active outside. We will conduct daily sanitizing on the play sets and encourage our guests to continue maintaining social distancing when they visit.”

(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.)

Restroom facilities in the parks remain closed, but port-a-potties are available.

“We made these closures to protect the safety and health of our guests and our staff,” Clingman said. “Now we are glad we can start returning to regular levels of activity throughout our system and look forward to more announcements of things coming back on line.”

For questions about the Park District, please write to parkdistrict@clermontcountyohio.gov.

New fence fronts historic Hartman Cabin

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From left, Shannon Behimer, Darrin McWhorter, Jamey Seals, Eagle Scout candidate Dylan McWhorter, Doug Doherty, Ben Behimer, Jim Seals and Erik Stults helped Dylan with is fence-building project at Hartman Log Cabin.

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.”

Dylan McWhorter’s Eagle Scout project built a new spilt-rail fence at the Hartman Log Cabin on U.S. 50 and Aber Road in Jackson Township.

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.”

Eagles sighted in Batavia

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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 parkdistrict@clermontcountyohio.gov, along with the date and location you saw the eagle.

Fishing Derby delayed

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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.

50th Anniversary picnic postponed

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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.”

 

Park District getting more social

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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.”

New naturalist arrives at unusual time

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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.”

(See? Understatement.)

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.”

Park District continues compliance with state orders

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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 parkdistrict@clermontcountyohio.gov.