October 21, 2019

Shor Park gets stream restoration grant

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The Clermont County Park District partnered with the Clermont Soil & Water Conservation District to get a grant from the Ohio EPA to restore a stream, create three pocket wetlands and clear 11 acres of invasive species from Shor Park.

MILFORD – The Clermont County Park District and Clermont Soil & Water Conservation District received a $135,080 grant from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to restore a stream and construct three small wetlands at Shor Park.

This is the second phase of a restoration project that began in 2014 when the two entities partnered to restore more than nine acres of wetlands and create a bioretention basin for storm-water management.

“We have a great partnership with Soil & Water,” said Chris Clingman, Park District Director. “This grant – and this partnership – helps us address some significant issues with the Shor property.

“We’re pleased to move forward and continue enhancing the park experience for all of our guests.”

Soil & Water administrator John McManus agreed.

“Any time you have stream erosion, that’s a problem for the immediate stream – the biology on that site – and it’s also a problem downstream,” he said. “Sending sediment downstream affects the whole stream system.

“So doing a restoration, the benefits carry downstream. The more you can protect headwater streams, the better off the whole system is.

“The other benefit this project has – partnering with the park district – is the educational aspect. With the recent improvements there at Shor Park and the great crowds who have been using the park, we can really show people how a restoration works and how it benefits the entire community.”

The Clermont SWCD Board approved a contract with project design firm Sustainable Streams Oct. 9. Design work will be completed over the winter; construction should begin next summer.

About 200 feet of Avey’s Run flows through a storm sewer system as it enters Shor Park. However, the pipes are in disrepair and several sinkholes formed, posing a possible danger to park guests.

The grant also addresses bank erosion along the stream and invasive species removal.

Part of the project includes removing the existing storm sewer and recreating a natural stream channel. Hand-placed log structures at key places along the stream bank address erosion problems elsewhere.

This technique mimics stable wood found in nature and avoids the disturbance associated with heavy equipment and grading operations.

Along with the stream restoration work, the project creates three pocket wetlands and removes more than 11 acres of invasive species.

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October 10, 2019

Ghost town on the Ohio

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The historical marker for the village of Utopia, home to two failed social experiments and – depending on who you believe – ghosts.


Chilo Lock 34 Site Manager

Because October is the spookiest time of year and Halloween is nearly upon us, it’s the perfect time for ghost stories.

The Ohio River is home to its fair share of chilling tales and spooky haunts – Utopia is one of the spookiest. A community established as the ideal model for communal living eventually found itself plagued by tragedy and disaster.

Followers of Charles Fourier – a French philosopher who helped promote and develop theories on communal living – founded the community of Utopia in 1844. The followers believed they should share work and profit equally among the community.

In an effort to showcase their beliefs, the original settlers of Utopia built a 30-room communal building and several other homes and structures to make up the town. Their social experiment was short lived; the town’s failure to make money led to friction among members and the town’s abandonment after two short years.

John Otis Wattles

Shortly after the failure of the Fourierist community, a spiritualist group led by John Otis Wattles purchased the land and buildings seeking a secluded area to practice their beliefs. Against the advice of locals, Wattles and his sect built their community along the banks of the Ohio River, moving the original communal building to the river bank brick by brick.

Their decision soon proved fatal.

Disaster struck on the evening of December 13, 1847; icy waters of the Ohio River rose quickly. Many townsfolk sought shelter in the town hall – where a party was being held – but their efforts proved fruitless. The rapidly rising river washed out the south wall of the building and took most of the townsfolk with it. After the tragedy, the few surviving spiritualists left the area.

Today a historical marker along U.S. 52 – erected in 2003 – marks the history of settlement. All that remains of Wattles’ community is an old stone house and an underground chapel. Both are said to be haunted by the ghosts of those who met their icy demise.

Located a short drive away from the Clermont County Park District’s Chilo Lock 34 Park along the Ohio River, remnants of the failed spiritualist community of Utopia remain visible.

For more spooky stories, join us from 8 to 9 p.m. October 18 at Chilo Lock 34 Park for our Halloween Campfire Night complete with storytelling and marshmallow roasting.

 

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October 8, 2019

Homeschool programs now free

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Homeschool programs in the Clermont County Park District will be free for the 2019-20 school year.

CLERMONT COUNTY – The Clermont County Park District waived fees for its home school programs for the 2019-20 school year.

Home school programs used to cost $4 per student.

The Park District board of park commissioners approved the measure during its September meeting.

It’s a temporary fee waiver to see if we can boost attendance,” said Robin Green, Park District naturalist. “If we see a significant change in attendance, we will ask to make this a permanent policy.”

Green cited a downward attendance trend the last several school years as the reason to make the change.

“We want to get more homeschoolers coming to our programs and on our park properties to discover nature,” she said. “Our cost probably wasn’t prohibitive, but if we removed it from the equation, it’s just that much easier for parents.

“We put in the same amount of preparation whether there’s five students or 30, so we’d rather have 30.”

In fact, more than 30 home school students are already registered for the first two programs of the school year – Wilderness Survival and Native American Life.

Wilderness survival – recommended for ages 7 to 14 – is scheduled for 10 to 11:30 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 24, at Sycamore Park in Batavia. Students will build shelters, identify edible plants, build fires, learn basic first aid and more.

Native American Life is set for 10 a.m. to noon Nov. 21, also at Sycamore. Students will step back in time and to learn how Native Americans lived in southern Ohio, especially the Shawnee tribe. The program includes a guided hike, corn grinding, cooking styles, atlatl throwing and more.

The park District may add additional dates or times to the schedule because of the popularity of these programs.

To learn more about the Park District’s home school programs, please visit www.clermontparks.org, click the Programs & Camps tab and follow the Homeschool Programs link. Or write Green at rgreen@clermontcountyohio.gov.

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October 6, 2019

Pattison Lakeside trails, pond open again

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The trails and fishing pond at Pattison Park are open again after a month of construction closures.

OWENSVILLE – While construction will continue another month or two, the Clermont County Park District is happy to announce the fishing pond and trails at Pattison Park Lakeside are open again.

Pattison Lakeside – on the south side of U.S. 50 just west of Owensville – had been completely closed since Labor Day to install a sidewalk along the length of the parking lot. The work included removing several feet of asphalt along the edge of the lot, which affected parking and created a fall hazard.

Progress on the new restroom facility, picnic shelter and playground at Lakeside is on schedule and – pending weather – should be complete in mid to late November.

Pattison Lodgeside – on the north side of U.S. 50 – remains completely open with access to the Park District office and the Pattison Lodge and Gazebo, one of the most popular wedding spots in Clermont County.

“We thank our guests for their patience as we continue our mission to create the best parks we can offer,” said Chris Clingman, Park District Director. “We regret the inconvenience, but look forward to having them back in the park.

Another new shelter and restroom facility are going in at Sycamore Park, the Park District’s oldest and busiest facility. Construction there is on schedule as well.

“We are happy to be interwoven into the fabric of Clermont County,” Clingman said. “We are proud to offer our guests a place where they can explore, engage and discover nature.

“While the construction is a temporary inconvenience, the resulting new facilities will enhance visitors’ park experience for generations.”

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October 1, 2019

The man for whom they named the dam

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By Ben Morrill
Park District Site Manager

The Captain Anthony Meldahl dam opened in 1964, part of a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project to replace obsolete wicket dams. Where once 52 labor-intensive wickets dams helped regulate the Ohio River water level, only 19 hydraulically operated gates now do the job.

With 95 miles between the new dams, boats spend less time waiting to navigate locks, meaning shorter trips up and down river. Such a marvel of modern engineering must be named after an important figure, so just who was the actual Captain Anthony Meldahl?

For one, he was a legendary riverboat captain on the Ohio. Meldahl’s father Emil – who emigrated from Denmark – came from a distinguished shipbuilding family. Born in Parkersburg, W. Va., in 1855, Meldahl’s career began in his early teens. He worked his way up the ranks, serving aboard riverboats like the Emma Graham, Andes, Katie Stockdale, Hudson and Ohio. In 1887, Meldahl became the master of the packet boat Harry D. Knox before taking command of Fashion in 1890.

Captain Anthony Meldahl pilots the Queen City.

Despite owning stock in Fashion, Meldahl’s command proved brief; the boat struck a bank and sank in June of 1890.

Meldahl purchased 77 acres near Neville, Ohio, in 1895. He named it Maple Lane Farm and lived there until his death in 1923. In 1897, he accepted a job as pilot on the passenger steamboat the Queen City, spending a decade at her helm.

The towboat Cayuga – part of a fleet of boats owned by the Corps – became Captain Meldahl’s final command. Taking over as captain in 1916, Meldahl operated along the Ohio River in the Cincinnati, Huntington and Louisville districts for the next six years. He fell ill in January of 1923, was hospitalized in Cincinnati and passed January 26 at the age of 68. The Cayuga brought his body back to Neville where he was buried.

An aerial view of the Meldahl Dam.

When construction began on the new dam in 1958, the Corps decided to name it in his honor. At the official dedication in 1965, his daughters Vera and Louise attended to honor their late father’s memory.

More than 50 years later, Captain Meldahl’s legacy is visible two miles downriver from Chilo Lock 34 Park. Learn more about the wicket dams the modern Meldahl Dam replaced at the Park District’s visitors center and river museum, open 11-4, Wednesdays through Sundays.

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September 23, 2019

New ambassador arrives at Park District

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Raphael, a baby snapping turtle, is the newest animal ambassador for the Clermont County Park District.

CHILO – Meet Raphael, the newest animal ambassador for the Clermont County Park District.

He’s neither a classical painter nor a mutant ninja, but he is a turtle. Specifically a baby snapping turtle (scientific name chelydra serpentina).

He joins an officially unnamed box turtle – although he is sometimes referred to as Chilo – and Sasha the corn snake in the Park District’s reptile family.

Why have two turtles?

“Snapping turtles live in the water and they are omnivores,” said Park District naturalist Robin Green. “They are more aggressive predators than box turtles and about two thirds of their diet is meat.

“Box turtles live on land and are also omnivores, but only about half their diet is meat. They generally eat whatever they can find.”

“Most turtles in this area live in the water, but we happened to have the one kind that didn’t. We wanted to have one that is representative of what most people see in nature.”

Green thinks Raphael will be a hit with the public.

“In my experience, snapping turtles are kind of like snakes,” she said. “People are a little bit scared of them, so they are kind of fascinated by them. People like to interact with the things that scare and fascinate them.

“People – including myself – are afraid of snapping turtles biting their toes in the water because they have very strong jaws. It’s a myth that they frequently bite people swimming though, and they just use their jaws to catch prey.”

Green’s sister found Raphael – and six of his siblings – and enlisted her help to move them before mowing the lawn. The next day, one little turtle was still hanging around a pond.

“That’s when I decided we should probably have him as an ambassador,” Green said. “I’ve raised a snapping turtle before and they aren’t too hard to take care of. He’ll be a good attraction for us.”

Raphael is barely two inches and a few ounces now, but the average snapping turtle grows between eight to 14 inches; they generally weigh from 10 to 25 pounds at maturity.

Stay tuned for opportunities to meet Raphael at several locations around the Park District in October during Green’s pop-up naturalist series.

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September 17, 2019

Slowing down at Chilo

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The new paint job on the historic water tower was one of the summer highlights at Chilo Lock 34 Park.

CHILO – The thermometer might say otherwise, but summer wanes. Less than a week remains before the official crossover into autumn on Monday, Sept. 23.

With that in mind, the Clermont County Park District’s visitors center and river museum at Chilo Lock 34 Park will move to its off-season hours at the end of the month.

The facility will be closed to the public Monday and Tuesday starting Sept. 30 and Oct. 1; hours of operation starting Wednesday, Oct. 2, will be 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.

“We had a great spring and summer with the extended hours and being open six days a week,” said site manager Ben Morrill. “But as the days get shorter, we get fewer guests.

“It was busy summer. The water tower next to our building was restored and repainted. We had events like Rendezvous on the River to open the season and Steamboat Days in August to celebrate our river heritage.

“We met a lot of guests who had never been here before and were happy to see a lot of return visitors, too.”

The off-season may be slow for walk-up guests, but is an excellent time for tour groups. Call 513-876-9013 to arrange a guided visit for your group.

Additionally, several popular naturalist programs are on tap at Chilo Lock 34 Park in the coming weeks, including the family campfire and night hike Sept. 20 and the Halloween campfire night Oct. 18.

“The museum may be closed a little more frequently than it is during our peak season, but we’ll be using the time it’s closed to improve our existing exhibits and open some new ones,” Morrill said. “It’s kind of like the river itself. It keeps rolling and changing.”

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September 16, 2019

Building a bridge to Eagle Scout

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bridge build

Milford High School senior Matthew Broxterman, right, and classmate Tyler Wertz set a post for a new bridge across the sugar bush trail at Pattison Park as part of Broxterman’s Eagle Scout project.

OWENSVILLE – It takes a village to raze a bridge. And raise a new one in its place.

Matthew Broxterman knows it as well as anyone. He put together a team of family and friends to assist the Clermont County Park District and achieve a personal goal.

“I’ve been interested in (Boy) Scouts since I was a kid,” he said. “I just thought about it and was like, ‘I want to be an Eagle Scout some day and be the first one in my family.’”

To that end, he is building a new bridge on the sugar bush trail at Pattison Park that not only benefits the Park District, but also will land him an Eagle Scout Court of Honor in Troop 128 out of Milford.

Broxterman, 17, is a senior at Milford High School. He and his grandfather – who lives nearby and is helping on the bridge build – used to visit Pattison Lakeside so Matthew could enjoy the playground.

“I was looking for an Eagle project and I didn’t want to do something that was just once a year,” he said. “I wanted it to actually last, so I wanted to something that people could use and not just look at, so I wanted to build a bridge of some sort.”

“I didn’t want to do somewhere random; I wanted it to be a public place, so a park was the perfect place to do it.”

“Working with Matthew and his Eagle team has been great,” said Park District Deputy Director Tim Carr, who helped Broxterman coordinate the project. “We are grateful he chose us for his project and look forward to the finished product.”

“I just think that nature is a beautiful place,” Broxterman said. “I want to preserve it and I want people to have a good time while they’re here and respect it.”

In February of 2018, fellow Milford student Max Kelley finished his Eagle bridge at Pattison Park.

Broxterman’s bridge replaces a narrow, rotting version several hundred yards north of the one Kelley built. It will provide easy access to the back quarter of the sugar bush trail

“This bridge will be a big help for us, especially during maple season,” said Alyssa Rooks, Park District naturalist. “We’ll be able to use a gator to get over the creek and collect sap much more quickly and efficiently.”

The Clermont County Park District welcomes 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 parkdistrict@clermontcountyohio.gov.

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August 28, 2019

Pattison Lakeside temporarily closing

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Pattison Park Lakeside – including the fishing pond – will be closed for about a month starting September 2.

OWENSVILLE – With construction in progress and the park already partially closed for the new restroom facility, picnic shelter and playground under way at Pattison Park, the Clermont County Park District announced the need to completely close Pattison Lakeside for about a month.

Pattison Lakeside is on the south side of U.S. 50 just west of Owensville.

Starting Monday, Sept. 2, sidewalk installation begins along the length of the parking lot. The work includes removing several feet of asphalt along the edge of the lot, which affects parking and creates a fall hazard.

The recycling dumpsters will be moved and only will have limited access. People looking for an alternative may go to the recycling site in the Clermont County Fairgrounds near the main gate.

Pattison Lodgeside – on the north side of U.S. 50 – remains completely open with access to the Park District office and the Pattison Lodge and Gazebo, one of the most popular wedding spots in Clermont County.

“We regret the inconvenience to our guests who have been using the trails or fishing at Pattison Lakeside, even during the construction,” said Chris Clingman, Park District Director. “We thank them for their patience as we continue our mission to create the best parks we can offer.

“However, for safety’s sake and to make the process of the sidewalk installation as quick as possible, we need to close that half of the park entirely.

“The good news – assuming we have cooperation from the weather – is that we should be able to re-open the trails by the end of the month.”

Construction is on schedule at Pattison, as is the concurrent work at Sycamore Park in Batavia, where another new shelter and restroom facility are going in at the Park District’s oldest and busiest park.

The Park District recently dedicated its $1.4 million improvement project at Shor Park in Union Township that included two new picnic shelters, restrooms and an inclusive playground.

“We are happy to be interwoven into the fabric of Clermont County,” Clingman said. “We are proud to offer our guests a place where they can explore, engage and discover nature.

“While the construction is a temporary inconvenience, the resulting new facilities will enhance visitors’ park experience for generations.”

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August 12, 2019

River life celebrated during Steamboat Days

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Eric Rotsinger portrays Mark Twain during the Clermont County Park District’s second annual Steamboat Days celebration Aug. 10.

CHILO – A 9-year-old girl in a black ball cap approached quietly, but quickly started talking books with the white-haired, white-suited man before her.

Apropos considering the man – living historian Eric Rotsinger – portrays one of the most celebrated authors in American letters, Mark Twain.

Twain served as the featured entertainment for the Clermont County Park District’s second annual Steamboat Days celebration at Chilo Lock 34 Park Aug. 10. Guests of all ages packed the picnic shelter for more than an hour to hear him speak.

Several – like the girl – stuck around longer to pose for pictures and continue chatting.

Twain discussed his life on the river, including tales of traveling the Ohio and how Cincinnati once produced and shipped more barrels of whiskey than the salt pork which earned the town its Porkopolis nickname.

“I myself will take a little nip of whiskey from time to time,” he said. “Mostly for snake bites.”

Twain mentioned travelers of his generation often needed nine months to go down river from Pittsburgh to the Mississippi, south to New Orleans and back. He also said working on and near the river equaled an ideal democracy.

“Nobody cared where you were from, what color you were or how much money you had,” he said. “It was hard work and all people cared about is whether or not you pulled your own weight.”

Twain served up some of his classic one liners – “When I was a younger man, I could remember everything, whether it happened or not” – along with observations of pompous politicians out of touch with the people they served.

“And the guy stood up there on the floor of the Senate and he says, ‘Ohio River? There ain’t no such thing. The darn thing’s dry six months of the year and froze the other six.’ Well, that’s not exactly right, is it? And that doesn’t mean it ain’t a river.”

Comments like the senator’s led Twain to a life in satire.

“We didn’t have much growing up,” he said. “Just newspapers and books. I leaned toward books and satire to make fun of stupid people, make fun of stupid institutions, make fun of and expose … the frailties of humans in a way they could read it and not really get it for a while.”

While Twain entertained outside, the legendary River Men – some of the Park District’s most veteran volunteers – shared their expertise on steamboats and river lore inside. (And manned the grill to cook up some jumbo hot dogs for the guests.)

“It was a beautiful day, a great crowd and a lot of fun, said Mark D. Motz, community relations manager for the Park District. “We are lucky to be able to tell the history of the river right on the river. None of the other museums dealing with river history have our proximity to the water itself. Our location brings that history to life in a tangible way.”

Guests packed the picnic shelter at Chilo Lock 34 Park Aug. 10 to hear living historian Eric Rotsinger as Mark Twain.     

Living historian Eric Rotsinger portrayed Mark Twain at Chilo Lock 34 Park Aug. 10, focusing much of his lecture on the Ohio River.

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