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.
CHILO – To bean or not to bean, that is the question.
Or at least one question the Clermont County Park District hopes to answer when it presents its third annual Chili Cook-off from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 13, at Chilo Lock 34 Park.
This year’s event is open to all comers and will award trophies in three categories – spiciest chili, judge’s choice and people’s choice.
“We wanted to switch it up a little bit and get a taste of everybody’s chili,” said Park District Community Relations Manager Mark Motz. “We are grateful to our past restaurant participants – and they’re still welcome to enter – but we also want a bit of Aunt Esther’s secret recipe or Grandpa Joe’s five alarm.
“There are as many different recipes as there are people who make chili. We hope to have a wide variety and a fun afternoon trying them all.”
Another change, this year’s Chili Cook-off will be free to attend and taste (although there will be beer, non-alcoholic beverages and other snacks for sale).
“We want as many people to attend as possible and taste as many different chili varieties as they can,” Motz said. “Contestants will have one-ounce taste-test servings so guests can try every flavor and make a well-informed decision on the people’s choice award.”
Interested in putting your chili to the test? Check out the chili cook-off rules and get a chili cook-off entry form. Contact Park District Community Relations manager Mark Motz at firstname.lastname@example.org or 513-309-9024 with any questions.
BATAVIA – Rainy days and Mondays don’t get the Clermont County Park District down.
Not when the laughter of half a dozen volunteers from Park National Bank rings out along the banks of the East Fork of the Little Miami River.
Park National partnered with the Park District Sept. 10 for part of its seventh annual Park Cares Week, where bank employees do hands-on service projects all around the county. This particular group donated four hours of time removing invasive species from Sycamore Park.
While the Park District and Park National have a long relationship – the bank has been a lead sponsor for the annual Pancakes in the Park event, for example – this is the first time the two joined forces for Park Cares.
“I never stopped laughing and we all got closer working as a team,” said Park National team member Corey Richardson. “I had a lot of fun and I really hope I can be a part of it again next year.
“We also had a great group of people to work with. Whether it was sliding in the mud, horribly diagnosing honeysuckle, (standing) knee deep in river water or being Cyndy Lopper for the morning, it was nice to do some manual labor with the friends that we always see in the office setting.”
As for Cyndi Lauper… errrr… Cyndy Lopper… that would be the nickname Park District Deputy Director Tim Carr hung on Park National Assistant VP Cyndy Wright.
“She’s got the red hair and she was working hard cutting brush with the loppers we gave her,” Carr said. “It just fit. It got everybody loose and laughing. Cyndy was a great sport about it. When you have that kind of leadership, you know you’re going to have a great day.”
“From my perspective, there is so much synergy between the cultures of the bank and the Park District,” she said. “We are so proud of being connected to an organization where the beautiful natural resources of our county can be celebrated.”
Is your company interested in service projects? Does your team get a bonus for volunteer hours? The Park District would be happy to put together a one-time project on an ongoing service program for your staff. Contact us email@example.com.
CHILO – Fall is coming fast.
One tell-tale sign is the removal of the boat docks at Chilo Lock 34 Park.
The temporary floating docks came out Sept. 11 in the wake of recent heavy rains throughout the Ohio River Watershed.
The removal may have been a little bit earlier than in years past, but with flood debris floating down river and the potential of more coming after Hurricane Florence, it was necessary to avoid damage to the docks.
While the docks won’t be replaced until May of 2019, the ramp remains open so boaters can enjoy the Ohio River from Chilo all year.
In fact, the boat ramp is even more user friendly after the late-August installation of LED pole lights.
“There are weekends when the parking lots are full of trucks and trailers,” said Park District Operations Superintendent Brian Marshall. “People launch early to fish or maybe go out after sunset. They claim we should get 50,000 hours out of the (LED lights). This is a good addition for those guests.”
CHILO – It’s not every day the guy whose portrait graces the American penny and five dollar bill pays a visit.
So when Abraham Lincoln walked into the Chilo Lock 34 Park Visitors Center Aug. 25, plenty of heads turned and did double takes.
The 16th American President (as portrayed by Stan Wernz, president of the Association of Lincoln Presenters since 2005) may have been the most famous visitor to the second installment of the Clermont County Park District’s Steamboat Days, but he wasn’t alone.
Dozens of people enjoyed model boat displays by award-winning builder John Fryant, toured the museum and watched former Meldahl Lockmaster Jim Noble’s presentation on river navigation.
Featured entertainment for the day was a live recreation of the television game show The Liars Club. Panelists included Lee Woodruff, chairmen of the Sons and Daughters of Pioneer Rivermen; Johanna Huddleston, Visitors Center attendant; and Bill Judd, a riverboat captain on the Ohio for more than 50 years.
While one showed a wicket bolt and described its purpose, the other two tried to convince the audience it was a captain’s bolt and the other called it a Usain bolt. (Nobody fell for the latter gag; bright guests at the Park District.)
The second item was a steamboat boiler pressure gage that two liars tried to pass off as a tachometer or a coal scale.
The final piece on display was an oil can – which all three panelists agreed on – although one of them said it contained oil for cooking and salad dressing while the other said it was for extracting oil, not dispensing it.
“We had a lot of fun trying to trick people,” said Liars Club host Mark D. Motz, who also serves as community relations manager for the Park District. “We had some neat items to show and some fun facts to share once the truth came out.”
After the actual game, Capt. Judd spun a few river yarns.
“The thing is,” Judd said, “river men don’t ever lie. Never.
“We just stretch the truth a bit.”
They’ve come a long way since the Dust Bowl.
The Clermont Soil and Water Conservation District celebrates its diamond 75th anniversary Sept. 13 with an open house and dinner banquet at Shaw Farms, 1737 SR 131 in Miami Township.
Clermont County Park District naturalists will have a display table at the open house highlighting some of the ways the two agencies work together to protect the county’s natural resources.
“Conservation districts grew out of the Dust Bowl era,” said SWCD Administrator John McManus. “Very little was being done in those days to preserve the soil.
“The pictures of erosion you see from those days are just mind blowing. We’ll have a lot of things like that on display. But (lasting 75 years) shows the positive effect conservation districts have had, not just in Clermont County, but all over the country.”
Annual events like the Spring Cleanup and the Great Outdoor Weekend East Fork Canoe Float serve as projects for the two agencies and their volunteers to tidy up local waterways.
SWCD gave the Park District a huge assist on its 2014 wetlands restoration project at Shor Park in Union Township. Funded by a Surface Water Improvement Fund grant from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, it restored 10 acres of wetland habitat along Tealtown Road.
The two worked together to create rain gardens at Pattison and Sycamore Parks. Most recently, the Park District took over a conservation easement to facilitate the Williamsburg Dam removal project.
“It’s a great partnership,” McManus said. “We’re both very conservation minded. Primarily, our mission and our role is to promote conservation through education.
“We don’t have any authority to own land. We work through education and partnership, but the Park District has the ability to hold and protect land and conservation easements, so it just makes sense to work together toward the same goals.”
“We are proud of the work we’ve done in the county with SWCD,” said Mark Motz, Park District community relations manager. “We are proud to celebrate this milestone with Soil and Water.
“As the Park District approaches its own 50-year anniversary (in 2020), we will probably take some cues from Soil and Water on how to celebrate as much as we have on protecting resources.”
McManus said while there have been some changes since 1943, many elements of the SWCD will remain the same going forward.
“A big change from 1943 to now, all our work is not agricultural,” he said. “Growth and development has to play out in a well thought out and planned way. Street quality, hillsides, all that has an effect on the soil and our waterways.
“For the next 75 years and beyond, we’ll keep working with farmers and communities to protect the area. That need is not something that will go away.”
In addition to the anniversary celebration, SWCD will elect two members to its Board of Supervisors. Information on the voting process – including absentee ballots – is available here.
CHILO – Couldn’t have said it better ourselves.
“The history of this river is the history of America,” said Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain, overlooking the Ohio River at Chilo Lock 34 Park. “These very waters transformed a few benign colonies into the greatest power that this planet has ever seen.”
Full disclosure. That was actually Eric Rotsinger, a living historian who portrayed Twain during the Clermont County Park District’s inaugural Steamboat Days celebration Aug. 11.
Easy to get caught up in the act. From the time he set foot on the property, Rotsinger inhabited the famed steamboat pilot, journalist, author, playwright, lecturer and curmudgeon, talking about the importance of preserving river history.
“I think it’s valuable in as much as how can a person know where they’re going when they don’t know where they’ve been,” he said. “This was the life’s blood; it’s what made the difference.
“Did you realize Thomas Jefferson sent Lewis and Clark out and he figured it would be 70 generations before this country would make it from shore to shore? But what he didn’t realize was that not far from where he was back in Virginia, was the Ohio River.
“The Ohio River joined the mighty Mississippi, the Missouri. This country came with a built-in interstate transportation system that helped settle the continent much faster than Jefferson ever imagined and created the economy that made it powerful.”
When addressing the crowd, Rotsinger spoke of Clemens’ friendship with the nation’s eventual 17th President, U.S. Grant.
“To be here, just up the river from where he was born in Point Pleasant, is quite an honor,” he said. “In our day, we were the two most famous men in America. It’s nice one of us his still here to tell you about it.”
The Steamboat Days celebration continues from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 25 at Chilo Lock 34 Park.
Featured entertainment for round two will be a recreation of the old television game show, the Liar’s Club. In the spirit of Twain, panelists will display and discuss items commonly found on a steamboat while the audience guesses the item’s true use.
“It’s a good fit after hearing from Mark Twain,” said Mark D. Motz, Park District Community Relations Manager. “Twain may have stretched the truth a little in his writing and in his speaking. There’s a long history of tall tales on the river.”
Also, award-winning model boat builder John Fryant will be back with some of his steamboat creations. The River Men – some of the Park District’s expert volunteers – return as well, sharing insights about life on the boats, dams and river.
“Chilo Lock 34 is unique in that it’s the only one of the original 56 wicket dam sites built over the 981-mile length of the Ohio River in the 1920s that’s still open to the public,” Motz said. “We have a deep connection to the river and the boats who travel it. We look forward to sharing that with the community.”
Steamboat Days is free and open to the public.
BATAVIA – From bagpipes to a bouncy house. From raffles to a talking robot. From drug-sniffing dogs to a dunk tank.
National Night Out Aug. 7 gave Clermont County residents a chance to see police and fire personnel at their finest.
Celebrating its 35th anniversary across the country, NNO is an annual campaign to build police-community partnerships.
The Park District set up shop in two locations to share the fun.
Park District Deputy Director Tim Carr and Community Relations Manager Mark Motz teamed with Deputy Meredith Walsh for the Clermont County Sheriff’s event at the Batavia Township Building.
The deputy’s twin daughters provided face-painting for children, ensuring a long line at the booth all evening.
Guests picked up Park District swag like recyclable grocery bags, water bottles, drink coozies and magnetic chip clips.
They also took flyers advertising upcoming Park District events like Steamboat Days (Aug. 11 and 25) and the much-anticipated Canoe-and-Brew event in partnership with 50 West Brewing (Aug. 19).
“National Night Out is great because we can support the men and women who protect and serve Clermont County,” Carr said. “We serve the same people in a different capacity, so it’s nice to strengthen our partnership with the Sheriff’s Department.”
Clermont County Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy Chris Stratton agreed.
“It’s a great way to reconnect with the community,” he said. “I think having our deputy in the parks, she has an opportunity to do that every single day. It’s great community relations and it’s great networking between the Sheriff’s Office and the Park District.”
The Park District naturalist staff joined the Milford Police Department NNO event at Scene 75.
“It was very busy and good to connect with so many people to share what the Park District is doing,” said Lead Naturalist Jana Marshall.
LOVELAND – One little chore just got a bit easier.
Visitors to Kelley Nature Preserve now have a pair of carts to assist kayak portage from the parking lot to the Little Miami River, a distance of about 100 hundred yards.
The carts appeared at the visitors’ kiosk just off the parking lot July 29. Deputy Meredith Walsh figured out who built and left them, but the donor wants to remain anonymous.
The donor made the carts from cut-in-half wheeled trash bins and swim noodles.
“What a great way to recycle some plastic that was otherwise headed for a landfill,” said Mark Motz, community relations manager. “That’s a perfect gift for a place dedicated to preserving Clermont County’s natural resources.
“We are incredibly lucky and grateful to have guests who want to help us make their Park District experience the best it can be. Little touches like that, creative gifts that will enhance somebody else’s visit, are the definition of building community.
“To our anonymous friend, thank you not just for sharing the actual carts, but for recognizing a need and giving of your time and talent to fill it. That kind of generosity is inspiring.”
A video of the carts posted on the Park District Facebook page drew the attention of the Marion County Park District north of Columbus. They asked for cart plans to build some for their guests.
The donor told Deputy Walsh he had been using the river access point for years and appreciated all the changes in the area. He thought adding kayak carts would complement the ongoing improvements to the preserve.
Kelley recently became a busy put-in spot to paddle the Little Miami. In fact, 651 boats launched from there in May; 711 more put in during June.
“We are happy at what a popular spot Kelley has become for paddlers,” Motz said. “I think we were all surprised at the numbers, but we are happy people are using the facility.
“We’re that much happier so many people will have an easier time getting from their cars to the water thanks to this gift.”
Next up, the Park District will install three kayak racks the week of Aug. 6 for guests to lock their boats when they run down river to leave a vehicle at their take-out point.
UNION TOWNSHIP – Total Quality Logistics knows all about getting from point A to point B.
But the fast-moving freight brokerage firm recently took time to give people a chance to sit between points and catch their breath.
Company volunteers built 11 eight-foot benches for the Clermont County Park District as part of its second annual Helpy Hour July 24, a twist on a traditional happy hour.
Benches will be placed along the Park District’s Williamsburg-Batavia Bike Trail, as well as in Sycamore, Shor and Pattison Parks.
“There really isn’t any place for our guests to sit down along the trail,” said Mark Motz, Park District community relations manager. “Over the course of six miles, people may need or want to take a rest and just enjoy the sights. This gift gives them that opportunity.
“It’s great having partners like TQL who are so active in the community. They are in a challenging, competitive business with a work-hard-play-hard culture; they understand the value of having a place to relax and decompress. We’re grateful for their gift and glad we can be that place for people all over the county.”
This isn’t the first time TQL assisted the Park District. Volunteers have been coming for years in the spring to help remove invasive species from Pattison, Sycamore and Kelley Nature Preserve.
In addition to building park benches during Helpy Hour, about 100 TQL volunteers made almost 900 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for Bethany House and Empower Youth, filled 168 backpacks with school supplies for Oyler Elementary School students and created 150 flower pots for Clermont Senior Services’ adult daycare program.
“These are all projects our employees were interested in, causes that matter to them,” said Meggie Strawser, TQL corporate giving coordinator.
“TQL Cares, our community service and charitable giving initiative, donated more than $1.6 million and 2,000 volunteer hours in 2017,” said Corey Drushal, TQL corporate giving manager. “It’s important for us to get involved, to give back, to help make the places we live and work better.”
JACKSON TWP. – Many hands make light work.
Well, not light exactly. Not when 60 bags of Sakrete, stacks of lumber and piles of gravel are involved.
But when Batavia resident Sean Longbrake, 16, decided to construct a pair of bridges for trails at the Hartman Log Cabin for his Eagle Scout project, he enlisted plenty of help.
Over the course of five days in July, about 35 family, friends and fellow scouts assisted Longbrake in a build that made trails at the cabin that had been closed for almost two years passable again.
“I just wanted to do something to give back to my community,” he said. “Earning my Eagle Scout gave me an exceptional opportunity to do that.”
The Park District presented him a certificate of gratitude for his efforts July 25.
“It was a pretty smooth project,” said Brian Marshall, Park District Operations Superintendent, who helped oversee the build. “I think the hardest part was probably getting the materials back to the bridges.”
Longbrake said the biggest challenge was digging and pouring the post holes and foundations.
From there, he followed the design used by fellow Troop 135 member Max Kelley to construct a bridge at Pattison Park for his Eagle project completed in February. In fact, Max and his brothers Mike and Jack were among the helpers on this build.
That kind of camaraderie is what attracted Longbrake to scouting in the first place. He’s been part of the St. Veronica/Mt. Carmel troop led by Jeff Williams for 10 years, starting as a Cub at age 6.
“Mr. (John) Randazzo told us about caving, horseback riding, zip lining; he made it sound very exciting,” Longbrake said. “I’ve gotten to do all those things and more through scouting. I enjoy the people, the activities and the whole atmosphere of the scout spirt.”
Unlike most boys his age, Longbrake is headed to college in the fall. He skipped two grades and graduated from Covington Latin School this spring. He will attend Miami University, where he intends to study mathematics and classical languages.
“I’ll see where it leads me,” he said. “I was thinking of going into a professorship someday.”
Until then, Longbrake is pleased with his contribution to the community.
“I feel really happy I was able to help with the two bridges and get a step closer to earning my Eagle,” he said.
The Clermont County Park District welcomes Boy Scouts looking for Eagle projects and volunteers of any kind. Interested in getting involved with one of your community’s best public resources? Please call the park district office at 513-732-2977 or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.