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.
BATAVIA – Newly erected temporary fencing at Sycamore and Pattison parks signaled the start of two major renovations in the Clermont County Park District.
At Sycamore Park, two new picnic shelters and a restroom facility will be part of the first phase of construction. A new shelter and restroom will go in at Pattison. Both parks will include new walking paths as well.
The Board of Park Commissioners approved the bid from Endeavor Construction during its June 6 meeting. The fencing went up the next day in preparation for the $1.48 million project.
The Endeavor bid was the lowest of five received, coming in about $11,000 under engineer estimates.
Demolition of the old Sycamore #2 shelter begins Monday, June 10.
“The scope of this project is impressive,” said Chris Clingman, Park District Director. “We are making big investments in the facilities at Sycamore and Pattison that will pay dividends to Clermont County for generations.
“There will be some inconvenience to our guests – and we’re sorry about that – but we hope to keep those to a minimum and allow people to continue enjoying the tremendous natural resources our parks have to offer.”
Work at Sycamore Park will be limited to the north end of the property near the far parking lot and tennis courts. The existing restroom will remain open until its replacement is complete.
Sycamore construction will not affect canoe and kayak access to the East Fork of the Little Miami River, the Sycamore #1 shelter, Sycamore Woods shelter and adjacent playground or trail access to Wilson Nature Preserve.
Demolition of the picnic shelter, restroom and playground at Pattison begins the week of June 10. While those areas of the park will be closed, access to the pond and surrounding walking trails will be open. Recycling dumpsters move to the other end of the parking lot to remain accessible to the public.
Pattison lodge side remains open; weddings and other events in the lodge will be unaffected.
“This is a promise we made during the levy campaign in 2016,” Clingman said. “We are working hard to improve aging facilities so we can best serve the park visitors’ needs and exceed their expectations.”
The Sycamore and Pattison projects ramp up as renovations at Shor Park in Union Township wind down. There hasn’t been an official dedication ceremony yet, but the new restrooms, picnic shelters and the county’s first all-inclusive playground are open and earning rave reviews from early users.
CHILO – Keeping a secret can be tough. The Clermont County Park District won’t even try.
With new staff in place, the Chilo Lock 34 Park Visitor Center expands its hours for the summer season.
Effective immediately, the museum will be open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday for the summer. The new schedule gives visitors an extra day – and an extra hour each day – to enjoy one of the best facilities on the Ohio River.
“We hear it all the time from our guests,” said Ben Morrill, site manager. “’I’ve been in the park before, but never in the building. We came by, but it wasn’t open.’ Once they’ve been in, though, they like what they see and often become repeat visitors.
“We’ve heard it called the best-kept secret in the county. Well, we’re trying to make sure it’s not a secret any more. We want to give people every opportunity to experience the Ohio River from this unique setting and perspective.”
“One of our goals is to get as many people as possible in Clermont County to be Park District guests,” said Mark D. Motz, community relations manager. “Not just guests, but active consumers.
“A trip to the visitor center gives users plenty to consume. It has benefit of the typically incredible natural resources of our parks across the width and breadth of the county. But it adds elements of natural and social history to help tell the story of the county and the country via the Ohio River.
“We hope extending the hours of operation in the museum will attract more of what I call the accidental tourists – people who happen to see the sign out on (U.S. Highway) 52 – will have a chance to see the facility.
“At the same time, we’re working to make the Chilo experience unique and worthwhile for first timers and repeat visitors alike. Having the doors open longer and more frequently gives us a chance to do that.”
CHILO – Meet he newest members of the Clermont County Park District team.
Denise Franer and Ethan Rudd joined the staff May 24.
Franer will serve as a part-time visitors center attendant at Chilo Lock 34 Park. Rudd signed on as a seasonal parks assistant; he will split time between the visitors center, naturalist department and maintenance crew.
“We’re glad to have Denise and Ethan aboard,” said Mark D. Motz, community relations manager. “Denise comes to us with a wealth of experience in Clermont County after many years with the health district.
“Ethan has experience in education that will make him an asset in the museum at Chilo and in the field helping with nature programs, day camps and more.”
Both of the new hires look forward to sharing the story of the Park District with the public.
“To me, there is something so special about (Chilo Lock 34) Park because there’s such a variety of environments,” Franer said. “You have open areas, trails, wetlands, the river. Just a lot to see. I’ve always been very fond of this part of the county; it’s a beautiful part of Clermont County.”
To say nothing of the historical element.
“I’m very taken with the whole lock and dam system,” she said. “There are a lot of parts of living and working on the river that I hadn’t even considered. Just helping people see how much there is to learn down here will be a great experience.”
Rudd has a personal connection to Chilo Lock 34.
“My grandpa used to work on barges on the river and my mom grew up around Chilo,” he said. “It’s sort of a homecoming for me.
“People tend to take the environment around them for granted. They think they have to go out to the Rockies or west of there to see really great things in nature, but we have incredible things right at our feet here. I want people to see them and appreciate them.”
OWENSVILLE – Not quite a sweep, but the Simpson family took two of the top three spots in the annual Matt Maupin Memorial Fishing Derby For Kids.
The Clermont County Park District hosted the Derby May 11 at Pattison Park in partnership with the East Fork Bass Anglers. About 60 children participated in the free event.
In the 7-and-under age group, Christian Simpson had the most weight with 12.99 pounds on four fish. Isaac Simpson had the largest fish at 5.35 pounds and Bryce Turner landed the smallest at .2 pounds.
For ages 8 to 10, Avery Simpson hooked six fish for a combined 17.74 pounds. Jonah Fox had the big fish at 5.26 pounds and Nora Smith pulled in the smallest at .14 pounds.
Brianna Stone led the 12 to 15 age group with four fish totaling 10.09 pounds. Alex Richey had the biggest fish at 5.39 pounds and Dakota Henry took the smallest at .14 pounds.
Nolan Rogers won the casting contest for ages 12 to 15, while Caroline Smith and Hannah Scareberry tied for first in the 11-and-under age group.
The Derby honors the memory of Matt Maupin, who was killed in military action in Iraq. The Glen Este High School graduate was an avid fisherman.
In addition to prizes for each of the categories, kids received goody bags and a grilled hot dog lunch during the derby.
“We enjoy this event every year,” said Mark D. Motz, Park District community relations manager. “The partnership with the Bass Anglers helps promote fishing – an activity one can enjoy for a lifetime – with youngsters, which in turn gets them outdoors and active.
“It’s nice to see kids putting their lines in the water with their siblings, parents and grandparents. Our parks are a place where families can come to make memories and we’re glad to be part of the fabric of our community.”
BATAVIA – The Clermont County Park District announces the next phase in its ongoing plan to refurbish and improve its properties around the county.
The Park District is accepting bids this month on a nearly $1.5 million dual project to build new shelters and restrooms at both Sycamore Park in Batavia and Pattison Park near Owensville.
“This is an ambitious project, but one we think will benefit Clermont County and our guests for generations,” said Chris Clingman director. “We have planned this project to make sure residents will have access to their parks this summer and fall, even while construction is happening.”
Work at Sycamore will be in the northern end of the park and will include new restrooms, replacing the Sycamore # 2 shelter with two new shelters and refurbishing the tennis courts.
“Sycamore was the first park in our system,” Clingman said. “It is our most central and busiest park. It’s also the park most in need of updated facilities. We look forward to enhancing Sycamore’s role as a destination throughout the county.”
Construction at Pattison will be on the lake side of the park – aka the south side of U.S. 50 – leaving the trails on the north side open to guests. Rentals at the Pattison lodge and gazebo – one of the county’s most popular wedding spots – will not be affected.
“During a master planning process in 2015 we identified needed improvements and replacements of facilities,” Clingman said. “When voters passed a park levy in 2016, we put together a plan to start upgrades. This is the next step in that process.”
The Sycamore and Pattison improvements follow the new shelters, restrooms, wind turbine and inclusive playground facilities at Shor Park in Union Township, which are nearing completion.
In addition, the historic water tower at Chilo Lock 34 Park is undergoing repair and repainting that should be completed by the end of May.
Confession time. The Clermont County Park District acted dishonestly.
Because a volunteer would never toot his own horn, the Park District invented a misleading story about a grant application to gather some information to use on an award nomination.
The trickery worked. Captain Bill Judd received the 2019 Clermont County Salute to Leaders Award for Parks and Recreation from the Chamber of Commerce Foundation April 23.
“Bill Judd of New Richmond deserves a Salute to Leaders Award for a number of reasons, not least being his deep passion for and promotion of the integral role Ohio River history has played in Clermont County and beyond,” the nomination said. “Even before it opened in 2005, Bill was a leader in helping plan and develop the museum at Chilo Lock 34 Park.”
“Ever since they started the deal to make a museum at Chilo, I was there from the very beginning,” Judd said. “I’ve been drawn to the river my whole life and I was really hopped up to have a local museum for Clermont County to talk about all the history we have. That’s what made me want to get involved. It was a terrific opportunity to really promote the river and promote the county.
“I think just seeing that museum become, in my opinion, one of the finest small river museums in the United States has been a thrill to think I’ve had a small part in that. I’ve been on the board at Point Pleasant and Marietta; I’ve seen a lot of museums. But for a place kind of on its own – that doesn’t have the state or federal money some of the others have – I think it’s one of the best. I tell everyone I meet about it. I was proud of being part of it coming together and I’m proud of where it’s going.”
Judd served 25 years as chairman of the board of the Sons & Daughters of Pioneer Rivermen and still sits on the board of governors. His connections with S&D – and specifically the Ohio River Museum at Marietta – have been invaluable to Chilo.
He helped secure grant funding for – and later helped design and execute – the museum’s popular whistle exhibit. He assisted on the grant funding for the Park District to acquire and build a shelter for the twin Frisbie steamboat engines from the Wakerobin located outside the museum.
Many photographs from Judd’s personal collection decorate the museum walls. His words and expertise helped create the interpretive signs describing many exhibits.
Judd still volunteers with a group fondly called The River Men, many of whom he invited to help at Chilo because of their ties to S&D. Among their current projects are a push to create a non-profit Friends of the Park District group to help fundraising and special projects for the museum. They also gathered items and shared stories for an exhibit on Captain Ernie Wagner that will open later this year.
Several guests at the second annual Rendezvous on the River had never been to Chilo Lock 34 Park Visitors Center and Museum. Many were repeat visitors.
One could have led tours.
Nola Camery – who appears in the welcome video describing life in Chilo when Lock 34 was an active dam site – brought some friends to see her former home during the April 27 event.
She lived in what now serves as the Park District’s naturalist office, but was once the assistant lockmaster’s house.
Now a Bethel resident, Mrs. Camery still visits Chilo regularly.
“We have a family reunion down here every year for the people who grew up here,” she said. “We rent that shelter right outside the powerhouse and catch up. We tell all the old stories.”
“We often say the history of the Ohio River is a living history,” said Park District community relations manager Mark D. Motz. “Having Mrs. Camery here is special; she is a part of that living history and she’s been connected to it more than 70 years.
“The story of Chilo Lock 34 is one of people who worked incredibly hard. Their efforts shaped the economy and progress not only of Chilo and Clermont County, but the entire county. The Park District is proud to preserve and promote that story.”
A warm, mostly sunny day meant a good turnout for the 2019 Rendezvous on the River. Guests enjoyed grilled hot dogs and lemonade, while the legendary River Men – volunteers Bill Judd, Jim Noble, Dave Vornholt, Lee Woodruff and Dale Flick – told tales of life on the river.
In addition, Visitors Center site manager Ben Morrill gave some previews of coming attractions in the museum, including two model steamboats soon to be on display, as well as the planned Captain Ernie Wagner exhibit opening later this year.
OWENSVILLE – Be vigilant.
That was the main message of Jason Brownknight – CEO/Senior Landscape Ecologist at Brownknight EcoResource – during his April 18 presentation Pattison Lodge.
“It doesn’t matter the habitat, you’ve got an invasive species for that habitat,” Brownknight said. “If not 30 or 40 of them that will grow in that habitat.
“You have to have a plan. You have to stick to it. And you have to keep evaluating and updating your plan or else the invasives will completely take over. That gets to be an expensive and time-consuming problem if you let it go.”
The Clermont County Parks Alliance brought Brownknight to Pattison as part of its ongoing community outreach program. More than a dozen guests attended the free seminar, including representatives from both the Clermont and Hamilton county soil and water conservation districts, land managers, township, city and Park District employees.
“Having a speaker of Jason’s caliber talk to us is valuable for everybody,” said Jim Meyer of the CCPA. “Invasive species are a huge problem. Left unchecked, invasives can become a serious public hazard and an enormous financial and manpower challenge to remove.”
Brownknight described an ongoing six-step program to manage invasive species – inventory, assessment, planning, implementation, maintaining and evaluating. One steps leads to another in a never-ending loop.
“You can’t just identify the problem and make a plan,” he said. “You have to execute it and follow up, which is going to lead to a revised plan. That may mean routine maintenance after a major undertaking or it may mean looking at other species once you have one in check.
“It’s a constant, ongoing process. The invasive species earned their name because they never stop. Invasive alien species are decreasing resilience and ecosystem services by limiting establishment of native species.
“The introduction and establishment of invasive alien species – including plants and animals – is contributing to widespread disturbance on our modern landscapes. Ecosystem resilience is dependent upon biological diversity.”
Continuing its recent successful workshop series, the Clermont County Parks Alliance presents its spring community outreach program.
“A Holistic Approach to Invasive Plant Management” featuring landscape ecologist Jason Brownknight takes place 1 to 4 p.m. Thursday, April 18, at Pattison Lodge, 2227 U.S. Highway 50, Batavia, Ohio 45103.
This is a free workshop ideal for park employees around the county, but also for city, village and township maintenance crews charged with keeping public lands in good shape.
“We are happy to have a speaker of Jason’s caliber to talk to us,” said Jim Meyer of the CCPA. “Invasive species are a huge problem. Left unchecked, invasives can become a serious public hazard and an enormous financial and manpower challenge to remove.”
Brownknight said, “The introduction and establishment of invasive alien species – including plants and animals – is contributing to widespread disturbance on our modern landscapes. Ecosystem resilience is dependent upon biological diversity.
“Invasive alien species are decreasing resilience and ecosystem services by limiting establishment of native species. Management of invasive alien species is a complex process that can be accomplished utilizing an adaptive and integrated approach.”
The workshop presents an introduction to the landscape ecology of invasive alien plant species in Clermont County and will provide an adaptive, integrated approach toward management of high-priority species like “bush” honeysuckle, Callery pear, lesser celandine, autumn olive and others.
Invasive Species event schedule
1 to 1:10 p.m. – Welcome and introductions
1:10 to 1:30 p.m. – Introduction to the landscape ecology of Clermont County
1:30 to 2 p.m. – Invasive alien plants – why are they so bad?
2– 2:10 p.m. – Break
2:10 to 2:50 p.m. – Integrated invasive plant management: from pretty yellow flowers to towering trees-of-heaven
2:50 to 3 p.m. – Break
3 to 4 p.m. – In the field: Walk areas of Pattison Park
About Jason Brownknight – CEO/Senior Landscape Ecologist at Brownknight EcoResource, LLC and a professional ecologist with more than 20 years’ experience working on land, water and wildlife projects in southern Ohio. As Director of Conservation & Stewardship at the Cincinnati Nature Center, Brownknight helped guide the development and direction of conservation and stewardship activities on CNC land. During his time at the Clermont Soil and Water Conservation District, Brownknight co-authored three state-endorsed Watershed Action Plans for the East Fork Little Miami River. Brownknight earned his master’s degree in physical geography from Ohio University, with a focus on Landscape Ecology and has a bachelor’s degree in natural history from Shawnee State University. He is also a graduate of the Ohio Watershed Academy. Brownknight’s primary research focus is on the impacts of land use decisions on wildlife populations and the habitats they need to survive.
Register by email at email@example.com or by phone at 513-732-2977. Please RSVP by April 15 so we can have an accurate count for food and drinks.
OWENSVILLE – Cold nights and warm days have the sap running through local sugar maple trees. The Clermont County Park District has been collecting it for about a month and is ready to share the results of its efforts during a popular community event – Pancakes in the Park.
Join us for a bite and a look at how syrup gets made.
“This event has been a great tradition for the Park District for the last 13 years,” said Park District Director Chris Clingman said. “We’re looking forward to having people enjoying the meal, enjoying the chance to learn and just enjoying a morning in the park.
“We have excellent facilities and programs all over the county, but Pancakes in the Park has become our signature event. We are always trying to create family-friendly opportunities that tie our daily lives to the natural world. This is a perfect example. People eat breakfast every day, but how often do they realize some of what is on their table could come from their own back yard?”