• Keeper of the land - Love of nature drives DeBoer12/27/2016 3:35:00 PM
  • By: Belinda M. Paschal -

    MIAMI COUNTY — John DeBoer made his stage debut as a musician when he was just 4 years old, but his memory of performing goes back to an even younger age.

    “I started banging on the piano as a toddler. I can remember crawling around on the floor and seeing people playing the piano and having fun. I thought, ‘I’m gonna get up there and do that myself,’” he said. “I pulled myself up on the bench, and I remember the first time I hit the keys and they made a noise … it was like, ‘Wow!”

    Decades later, though he has performed on stages around the world, with countless major artists, that sense of wonder hasn’t left DeBoer, whom many in the area know as “Spirit of Thunder” through his work as a naturalist with the Miami County Park District.

    Born in Willard, a small city in the middle northern region of Ohio, DeBoer came to these parts in his 20s, and attended Ohio University in Athens, as well as The Ohio State University, where he became certified to teach music and business mathematics.

    “I’m still certified in math, but I focus mostly on music,” he said.

    Skilled on the keyboard and Native American flute, DeBoer has been a working musician for more than three decades, touring for a time with the Dick Clark Rock ‘n’ Roll Revival, doing session work, working with big names from Chubby Checker to Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, and even recording seven of his own albums.

    “I did a lot of different work for a lot of different people,” he said. “It was a lot of fun and I enjoyed doing it.”

    DeBoer says he “accidentally” walked into a job with the park district, when he was hired to play the Native American flute at a wedding at Charleston Falls Preserve in Tipp City.

    “At that time, the ranger came over and asked me, and that’s how I ended up with the park district,” he said, chuckling at the memory. “The Evening of Lights Christmas party was my first job. That’s where I met the education director, who said, ‘Have you ever thought about teaching?’”

    In addition to his teaching certification, DeBoer’s love of the outdoors naturally lent itself to working with the park district. “My dad was an avid hunter. My family has always been wood elves, we were always involved in the parks,” he said.

    During his 11 years with the park district, DeBoer has worked with people of all ages, from all walks of life, from nature lovers to those who had never before set foot in the woods.

    “It’s always been about the children and the people I work with, all the smiles and the great big wide eyes,” he said. “It’s really wonderful taking all the children and telling them about the woods and the different legends of the woods.”

    When asked to name a favorite event or highlight of his job, DeBoer doesn’t stop at just one. In addition to his flute walks and dog socials, he speaks highly of the Path Finders program, offered to both the public and taught in Piqua City Schools to sixth graders using GPS technology. In addition to teaching younger about such concepts as latitude and longitude, the program is just plain fun, which is crucial, DeBoer emphasized.

    “Fun is the key to learning,” he said. “If it’s drudgery, it’s hard to swallow.”

    Other favorites include his Naturalist Adventure Series and “Keepers of the Land,” which teaches students about the animals and legends of the woods.

    DeBoer is especially proud of the NASA moon rocks program he brought to county schools for two years in a row. “Those rocks are a national treasure. It was a real educational thing for the kids to understand how rocks and minerals work,” he said.

    The program also required DeBoer to think even further outside the box. “It was something that required stepping out of my comfort zone. I had to go to NASA and get trained. I got my certification from NASA, which looks good on my resume,” he said, laughing.

    Now, as he prepares to retire, DeBoer looks back on his decade-plus with the park district as a blessing.

    "The Creator has been good to me, allowing me to do the things I do. I feel blessed in many ways,” he said. “Working in the parks, you get to be out in the air every day. I’ve worked with tens of thousands of kids and enjoyed every second of it. I also learned a lot.”

    But retirement doesn’t mean DeBoer is packing up his flute anytime soon.

    “Rumors of my retirement are greatly exaggerated,” he said, with another burst of laughter. “I play and perform and create … they’ve already asked me to come back and do some programs for them.”

    Details of those programs will be worked out in the months to come. In the interim, DeBoer will be busy writing and recording music, and working on books. “I tell stories and do performances … I work for everybody at one time or another,” he said.

    “I have an agenda of a lot of things I have not done because I’ve been really busy with the parks. There’s a lot of things I’ve put off and put to the side. This will give me a little more time to do those things.”

    DeBoer’s biggest project will be spending more time with his young grandson, Zane, whom he’s instilling with a love for nature and the outdoors.

    “He’s only gonna be 5 for a certain period of time,” DeBoer said. “He’s gonna outgrow Grandpa after a while, but right now I’m his hero.”

    Reach Belinda M. Paschal at (937) 451-3341

  • Miami County Park District Holds Open House to Honor Retiree John De Boer12/20/2016 9:04:33 PM
  • Troy, Ohio (December 19, 2016) – Please join us in extending best wishes to John De Boer, who is retiring from the Miami County Park District on December 31, 2016. The public is invited to an Open House in his honor December 21 from 2 to 4 p.m. at Lost Creek Reserve, Administrative Office, 2645 E. St. Rt. 41 in Troy.

    De Boer, also known by his naturalist name Spirit of Thunder, began his career at the park district in 2005.  Over the past 11 years De Boer has been an esteemed member of the park district staff and according to Cinda Retiree-Pinkerton, director of environmental education for the park district, the impact he has had in our community goes well beyond his enthusiastic sharing of the natural world and music - it is his inspiring connection with the world around him and the living creatures he shares it with. “Spirit of Thunder, is an amazing positive energy in the lives of all who know him,” said Hanbuch-Pinkerton.

     He is best known for his role as a classroom educator having worked with tens of thousands of students from Miami County. When asked, De Boer said his favorite program was "Keepers of the Land" which incorporates Native American flute music and legends about the woods and wildlife. “I love to watch the children dancing, singing and having fun learning about nature,” said De Boer.

    Not only has De Boer brought the moon to Miami County through the “NASA Moon Rocks” program, he also has delighted the senses with his Native American flute music for which he is world renowned.  Other programs developed by De Boer are the monthly dog socials, naturalist adventure series and outdoor adventure programs teaching about everything from archery to geocaching.

    Park district executive director J. Scott Myers hopes you will stop by the open house and wish John well or congratulate him via an email to

  • Park's new land will be converted into pollinator habitat 12/13/2016 5:15:26 PM
  • Nancy Bowman

    UNION TWP., Miami County

    The Miami County Park District’s newest property with frontage on the Stillwater River will be converted to pollinator habitat and used for an outdoor learning lab.

    The park district, using grant dollars, purchased the property located off Kessler-Frederick Road south of Ohio 55 near West Milton this year. The county park commissioners voted in July to name the property Union Springs.

    Scott Myers, park district executive director, said the district was approached by the owner about possible interest in obtaining and using the property.

    A grant for $215,688 from the Clean Ohio Funds was sought and approved to purchase the land.

    “There are numerous bees housed on the property that a volunteer maintained for the previous owner. She continues to maintain them there and we are maintaining the property as a pollinator habitat,” Myers said.

    The district will maintain Stillwater River frontage for river protection and river access, he said.

    In addition to the Clean Ohio Funds, the park district secured a $4,000 grant for habitat restoration from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, said Amanda Smith, park district marketing administrator.

    Union Springs won’t be open to the general public because of its size, although it will be used for public programming on pollinator education, Smith said. The Stillwater River access will be used for some of the district’s canoe programming but there will not be any parking.

    The property is home to almost 40 honeybees hives so the park district is converting the property’s fields into pollinator habitat.

    Existing alfalfa fields will serve pollinators for part of the year but the district is planting the property with a variety of items that also bloom in late summer and fall.

    Donnie Knight of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services Partners for Fish and Wildlife program said the organization plans an ongoing effort/partnership with the park district.

    Under a cooperative agreement, the plan is to restore, create and enhance habitat.

    The area will be sprayed to control weeds and planted to a diverse mix of native grasses and wildflowers, according to the Fish and Wildlife Services.

    “This habitat will provide critical host and nectar plants for species such as the Monarch Butterfly and native bees. The habitat will also provide nesting and brood rearing habitat for migratory grassland birds,” Knight wrote. “The conversion of cropland acres to this habitat will also benefit species and water quality in the Stillwater River.”

  • "Great Miami Riverway" New Brand for Corridor11/2/2016 11:55:53 AM
  • Whether you’re looking for restaurants or shops, paddling or cycling, museums or events, you’ll find it along the Great Miami Riverway, the new brand for the river corridor.

    The Great Miami Riverway is a 99-mile, mixed-use district of charming river towns connected by land and water trails from Sidney to Hamilton.

    “This new brand and placemaking effort is an outgrowth of the 2014 study done by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) of recreational assets on 99 miles of the Great Miami River,” says Janet Bly, MCD general manager. “One of the strongest recommendations by USACE was for the region to build a strong, unified identity for the Great Miami River.”

    At the request of local communities, MCD has been coordinating the project with 18 partner agencies along with Studio Graphique, a Cleveland-based consultant.

    “These communities recognize the potential to maximize riverfront investment and economic development by approaching the river corridor as a unified, connected, regional place,” says Cathy Fromet, principal for Studio Graphique.

    Among the goals of the Great Miami Riverway Placemaking Initiative is to develop and implement ongoing marketing, planning, and programming to:

    • Increase use of recreational, historical, and cultural assets.

    • Increase tourism.

    • Grow private investment.

    • Strengthen river corridor neighborhoods.

    • Improve workforce attraction and retention.

    “For years it has been my vison to market our Great Miami River as a treasure for recreation, education, and economic value,” says Troy Mayor Michael Beamish.

    The partners are now working to assemble funding for a full-time coordinator. That person will manage the Great Miami Riverway Placemaking Initiative, implement a marketing and communication program to attract visitors to the Great Miami Riverway, and help the partners promote the Riverway in their own marketing programs.

    “The Great Miami Riverway is more than just the river or the trail, it is the entire Riverway region,” says Piqua Mayor Kazy Hinds, “including the towns and nature connected by the Riverway, and the activities and events that happen along the Riverway.”

    Partners in the Riverway will have the opportunity to showcase their assets, such as businesses, parks, and events, to audiences that might not be aware otherwise.

    Organizations like Ohio’s Great Corridor Association have been working for several years to capitalize on the economic assets of the river. Each year, the River Summit, held at the University of Dayton, draws more than 250 people.

    Look for Great Miami Riverway signage, advertising and events in 2017.

    The 18 partners who have supported the Great Miami Riverway effort are:

    • Sidney

    • Piqua

    • Troy

    • Tipp City

    • Riverside

    • Dayton

    • West Carrollton

    • Miamisburg

    • Moraine

    • Franklin

    • Middletown

    • Hamilton

    • Montgomery County

    • Miami County Park District

    • Five Rivers MetroParks

    • MetroParks of Butler County

    • University of Dayton

    • Miami Conservancy District (MCD)

  • ODNR Division of Forestry Urges Caution Around Dead and Dying Ash Trees9/12/2016 12:52:06 PM
  • COLUMBUS, OH – As fall color moves across the state, more hikers and hunters will be spending time in Ohio’s forests. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) reminds all outdoor enthusiasts to be cautious of dead or dying ash trees that may now be present in Ohio’s forests and landscapes.

    “Standing dead ash trees create a safety hazard for hunters and hikers, as brittle limbs and trees trunks are easily broken or blown over,” said Robert Boyles, Ohio’s state forester. “This is a simple reminder for outdoors men and women to be alert to their surroundings as they enjoy Ohio’s forests and woodlands.”

    The emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis), a wood-boring beetle native to Asia, was discovered in the Detroit area in 2002, likely accidentally introduced in solid wood packing material, and was then discovered in northwest Ohio in 2003. Emerald ash borer (EAB) larvae feed beneath the bark of ash trees, preventing the ability of a tree to move water and nutrients. Once an ash tree becomes infested with EAB, it usually dies in less than five years.

    EAB is present throughout Ohio, most of the eastern United States and southeastern Canada, and it has killed hundreds of millions of native ash trees in North America. Various government agencies, non-governmental organizations and universities are conducting management and research to reduce the impact of EAB and implement restoration activities, including chemical treatments, biological controls and breeding genetically resistant ash trees.

    The ODNR Division of Forestry offers the following advice:

    •People should identify dead and dying ash trees around their homes and in their community that have the potential to harm people or property.

    •Contact a certified arborist at to identify ways to manage the risk associated with dead and dying ash trees in the yard.

    •Exercise caution when entering a wooded area and be aware of any standing dead trees nearby, especially in windy conditions.

    •This caution is important in urban environments as well, since many urban areas had been planted with ash trees over the years.

    •EAB eggs, larvae and adults, as well as other plant pests and diseases, can be moved on or in firewood, so minimize the movement of firewood. “Burn it where you buy it,” and be aware of all county quarantines on firewood or any plant material.

    •For more information on plant pest quarantines, contact the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s Division of Plant Health at or 614-728-6400.

    The ODNR Division of Forestry works to promote the wise use and sustainable management of Ohio’s public and private woodlands. To learn more about Ohio’s woodlands, visit 

    ODNR ensures a balance between wise use and protection of our natural resources for the benefit of all. Visit the ODNR website at

  • Great Miami, Stillwater and Mad rivers named National Water Trail System6/6/2016 1:57:52 PM
  • The Great Miami Watershed Water Trail has been named a National Water Trail System by the Secretary of the Interior—a designation that could lead to more riverfront investment. The water trail includes the Great Miami, Stillwater and Mad rivers and is the only national water trail in Ohio. 

    “Cities will be able to use this designation in promoting their communities,” says Sarah Hippensteel Hall, MCD manager for watershed partnerships. “Since the Great Miami River Watershed Water Trail was designated a state water trail six years ago, we’ve seen hundreds of millions of dollar invested in our riverfront cities.”

    The National Water Trails System is a distinctive national network of exemplary water trails that has been established to protect and restore America’s rivers and waterways and increase access to outdoor recreation.

    The national trail designation assures paddlers that the water trail incorporates best management practices in a variety of areas including trail design, maintenance, recreation, conservation and public information. 

    “Our world-class network of national trails provides easily accessible places to enjoy exercise and connect with nature in both urban and rural areas while also boosting tourism and supporting economic opportunities in local communities across the country,” says U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell.

    Water trails are recreational routes on waterways, such as rivers, with a network of public access points. The Great Miami River Watershed Water Trail boasts 291 miles of waterway accessible to recreational boaters, anglers and wildlife watchers.

    Besides the Great Miami River Watershed Water Trail, three other water trails—the Shetucket River Water Trail in Connecticut, the Kankakee River Water Trail in Illinois and Indiana, and the Arkansas River Water Trail in Kansas—received the national designation. There are now 22 national water trail systems. 

    The program is jointly administered by the National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service, in conjunction with a number of federal and not-for-profit partners.

  • Food Pantries Benefit from Large Crowds at the Park District’s Evening of Lights12/8/2015 2:59:30 PM
  • Tipp City, Ohio (December 8, 2015) – Miami County Park District delivered two truck loads of non perishable food items to the Bethel Hope Food Pantry in Tipp City and one to the Depot in Bradford yesterday.  The items were collected at last weekend's Evening of Lights at Charleston Falls Preserve.

    In the spirit of the season, visitors attending the event were encouraged to donate a food item to help those in need. The park district collected enough donations to fill two trucks and one SUV.  J. Scott Myers the executive director of the Miami County Park District said, "Many families across Miami County will benefit from the overwhelming generosity shown by visitors.  Thanks to all who participated." 

    According to Myers, the amount of food collected was a direct result of the record-breaking attendance.  “In the 17 years we have been holding the event, we’ve never had this level of attendance.” Last year an estimated 3,400 people came to the event.  "When the final count comes in for this year, it is expected to exceed the previous record by a large margin,"  added Myers.

    The effect of the increased attendance was unusually long lines.  Myers stated that they extended the event by two hours to accommodate those who had been waiting to see Santa and the falls.  “With that kind of attendance, we will have to evaluate the logistics of the event for next year,” said Myers. 

    Bethel Hope and the Depot provide food and financial assistance to those in need throughout Miami County. 

  • 2015 OPRA Annual Awards of Excellence11/16/2015 1:52:20 PM
  • OhioParks and Recreation Association (OPRA) has announced its 2015 Annual Awards ofExcellence winners and a number of local agencies have been recognized.


    Locally,the Miami County Park District won a 1stplace award in the CapitalImprovement Projects – Up to $1.0 Million category for the Archery Range atGarbry Big Woods Reserve.


    Accordingto Miami County Park District executive director J. Scott Myers, high demandand the lack of a public, outdoor archery facility in the County prompted thepark district to build a range at Garbry Big Woods Reserve. The range consistsof four shooting lanes and a 12’ elevated platform and will serve as a locationfor citizens to learn and practice archery skills.  “The new range will allow us to grow interestin the sport of archery and also provide an opportunity for sportsmen, youthand families to connect with our parks and the natural environment,” addedMyers.


    TheOPRA Annual Awards of Excellence will be presented at a banquet hosted by theassociation on February 2, 2016 at the Kalahari Convention Center in Sandusky,Ohio.  One first place award winner willbe presented with the 2015 Governor’s Award for Parks and Recreation, a“best-in-show” award which includes a $500 contribution to the parks andrecreation foundation of the agency winner.


    “Parksand recreation professionals throughout Ohio work every day to improve thequality of life of the people they serve,” said OPRA Executive Director WoodyWoodward.  “This effort is a shiningexample of that kind of work, and we are pleased to be able to present thisaward.”


    Theawards are judged by a panel of parks and recreation professionals from aroundOhio.


    Incorporatedin 1963, OPRA is a non-profit, public interest organization representing over1400 professionals and citizen board members striving to provide quality parksand recreation facilities and opportunities for all Ohioans whileprotecting and preserving Ohio's natural resources, positively impactinglocal economies and health and wellness of its citizens.


  • Ribbon cutting will officially open the archer range at Garbry Big Woods Reserve9/8/2015 8:02:09 PM
  • Troy, Ohio – (September 3, 2015) The Miami County Park District will hold an official opening ceremony for the new archery range at Garbry Big Woods Reserve on September 9 at 10 a.m.  The ceremony will be held at the Reserve located at 6660 Casstown-Sidney Road in Piqua.

    The new outdoor archery facility includes an accessible trail from the existing public parking area to the main archery site located within a secluded woodland stand.  Within the range, shooting lanes consist of four independent archery targets at ten, twenty, thirty and forty yard distances.  Additionally, there is a twelve-foot shooting platform with independent targets to replicate tree-stand archery skills.  The Archery Range will be open during regular park hours to the general public. 

    Construction on the range began last May and was paid for by an ODNR, Division of Wildlife Shooting range subsidy grant in the amount of $15,709.06.  

  • Myers elected president of OPRA7/6/2015 5:53:16 PM
  • WESTERVILLE — J. Scott Myers, the executive director of the Miami County Park District, was elected president of the Ohio Parks and Recreation Association (OPRA) by the association’s board of directors last week.

    Myers will lead the group of nearly 1,500 Ohio parks and recreations professionals.

    Myers, who was elected to the OPRA Board in 2011, will lead the association in its mission of “promoting the wise use of leisure and sound stewardship of Ohio’s parks, recreation and natural resources.” He previously served as chair of the association’s awards committee and as the association vice president.

    “Scott Myers is respected around Ohio as a thoughtful professional who is passionate about parks and is a leader in his community,” said OPRA Executive Director Woody Woodward. “His work in Miami County has earned him acclaim around the state. We look forward to Scott’s continued leadership in OPRA and believe that he is the right person to lead our organization as we continue to tell the stories of life-change which happen as a result of the parks and recreation opportunities which are available throughout our state.”

    “To be selected by my peers to lead this great association and its nearly 1,500 members is a tremendous honor, Myers said. Anytime that we can give back to our profession gives us the opportunity to not only serve other professionals but also bring great inspiration back to help make our own communities better. I think this also shows how others in the state view and respect the Miami County Park District and the work that is done here by our great staff.”

    Myers began his career with the city of Springfield before moving to the city of Piqua in 2002. He became deputy director of Miami County Park District in 2007 and was promoted to executive director in 2012. In addition to his service with OPRA, Myers is the current president of the Miami County Visitors and Convention Bureau and serves on the board of both Troy Junior Baseball and Troy Junior Basketball. He is also a former president of the Ohio Association of Football Officials.

    Myers will lead the association’s 10 member Board of Directors and professional staff. The association, headquartered in Westerville, represents parks and recreation professionals and citizen board members in cities, townships and park districts around Ohio, striving to provide quality park and recreational facilities and opportunities for all Ohioans while protecting and preserving Ohio’s natural resources.

    OPRA was initially organized in 1934 as the Ohio Recreation Association, with a separate organization, the Ohio Parks Association, formed in 1942. In 1963, ORA and OPA Incorporated to become OPRA.

  • Do we have the nation's largest paved trail network?6/5/2015 6:07:35 PM
  • The folks who manage and help fund our trails have been saying this about our 330-mile network for at least a year now.

    It’s printed right there on the 2014 edition of the Miami Valley Ohio Bikeways Guide Map, although in a slightly different wording.

    It was proudly announced at last weeks Miami Valley Cycling Summit in Piqua.

    And it’s there several times in the new draft 2015 Bikeways Plan Update. Both the map and the update are put out by the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission, which funnels federal transportation dollars to specific projects in the area.

    “Our Region is home to the nation’s largest paved trail network, a local asset and a tourist attraction, which results in an estimates $10-$13 million in local economic impact each year,” the draft report, states on Page 6.

    But are we really? How do we know?

    It turns out that Bob Steinbach, the MVRPC’s director of sustainable solutions and transportation alternatives, has spent quite a bit of time on the question.

    How confident is he?

    “If you say it correctly, real darned confident,” Steinbach said.

    Steinbach — whom you may recognize as the “Director, Grandpa” on the new Bike Miami Valley “Travel with Care” posters and ads — has been researching this subject for several years.

    He’s had ongoing conversations with the Rails to Trails Conservancy, the American Trails Foundation and other bicycling folks, and nobody could come up with a network of paved, connected, off-street trails that was longer than our 330 miles.

    Denver, for example, claims to have 800 miles of bike facilities, but when Steinbach inquired, he found that only 80 miles of that is paved.

    “The rest of it is mountain bike trails, or it’s on-road signed routes or a bunch of different things,” Steinbach said. “But that’s why I think what we have is so unique. It’s a paved network of trails: The nation’s largest paved trail network.”

    Another contender is the Circuit, which is being developed in the Philadelphia region. Look it up on the website, and you’ll see it have “more than 300 miles” of trail constructed.

    And – look out Miami Valley! – they’re planning to build 750 miles when it’s all said and done.

    But of those 300 miles, close to 150 are not paved, they’re crushed rock. And 20 miles are on road bike lanes. And those 300 miles are scattered all over a nine-county region – unconnected.

    For example, the region has remnants of a 19th century canal system and 50 or so unbroken miles of that are now a state park and trail, said Christopher Linn, of the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission. But it’s not paved.

    “Some of it’s a nice cinder surface, and it’s flat so it’s pretty bikeable,” Linn said. “But none of it’s paved.”

    And there’s another 30 or so miles of unpaved, crushed stone, converted railroad trails, he said.

    But the goal is for all the trails to be paved and connected – by 2040.

    “Some trails are just off by themselves, they’re not in any network,” Linn said. “But every trail that’s conceived as part of the system has a pretty good opportunity to connect into another trail.”

    And, he said, the region has a huge coalition of agencies in two states, nine county governments, private foundations, and close to 60 non-profit organizations lined up behind the Circuit.

    “We have the identity and the brand, the Circuit, and the media and the messaging campaign,” he said. “And we’ve been getting good funding from federal and state sources.”

    So, look out Miami Valley. Philadelphia’s coming.

    Even the cycling mecca Portland, which has the highest share of bike commuters of any major metropolitan city in the county at 6.1 percent, doesn’t have what we have.

    True, Portland has a very complete network in the urban area. The network totals 309 miles, according to the Portland Bicycle Plan 2030, but only 75 miles are trails. The rest are bike lanes, bike boulevards, signed trails and the like.

    In the meantime, though, Eric Oberg, Midwest director of trail development for the Rails to Trails Conservancy, said it’s safe to brag.

    Oberg, who just relocated to Yellow Springs, said he’s “100 percent confident” that we have the nation’s largest paved trail network.

    “There are certainly places that want to do more,” Oberg said, “but there’s nobody that done more.”

    He called the Circuit “a wonderful network and a great project” Oberg said. But it’s not like ours.

    The Rails to Trails Conservancy – the nation’s largest trail organization – has been working to create off-road trails for the last 30 years for a good reason.

    People are just more comfortable riding bikes there.

    “Nobody can refute any more that more people go out onto off-road or protected facilities than they do on-road or signed facilities,” Oberg said. “That’s just the reality of it.”

    There’s a large segment of the population who describe themselves in surveys as “interested, but concerned” about bicycling.

    Those folks, especially, aren’t going to ride on the streets, he said. At least, not in the beginning.

    “They want to get out, but they’re not diving in with just a bike lane or a signed bike route,” he said. “They need that extra level of comfort that some physical separation gives them.”

    And if Philadelphia wants to catch us, they’re going to have to work hard.

    The MVRPC doesn’t count, for example, the 17 miles of unpaved trail that just opened up from Urbana to Bellfountain, Steinbach said. But as soon as it’s paved they will.

    “So now you’re close to 350,” he said. “And every year that number goes up a little bit. Jurisdictions connect local trails to it. At some point in time we hope the Great Miami Trail connects all the way down to Cincinnati, as well as the Little Miami Trail.

    “All of those things will just increase the value of the whole network.”

    So, brag away: The nation’s largest paved trail network.

    Ken McCall is the database reporter for the Dayton Daily News and an avid cyclist. He is a member of Bike Miami Valley, where he serves as co-chairman of the Regional Advocacy Committee; the Dayton Cycling Club; the Ohio Bike Federation; and the League of American Bicyclists. If you have any story ideas or bike news, contact him at or call (937) 225-2393.

  • Wetland Wildlife Habitat Workshop5/4/2015 1:14:48 PM
  • PIQUA, OH   A habitat workshop series is being offered to landowners wishing to improve wildlife habitat on their property. The workshop series is sponsored by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife, Division of Forestry, Pheasants/Quail Forever, Natural Resources Conservation Service, The Ohio State University Extension, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, National Wild Turkey Federation and Ohio Soil and Water Conservation Districts. 

    The Wetland Wildlife Habitat Workshop is the latest in the series and will take place on Saturday, June 27th, 2015 from 8:30 am to 3:00 pm in Miami County.  The workshop will be held at the Upper Valley JVS which is located at 8811 Career Drive Piqua, OH 45356.  Participants will spend the first half of the workshop indoors and the second half at the Willowbrook Environmental Education property wetlands to experience hands-on education in the field with wildlife biologists and other professionals.  

    The purpose of the workshop series is to offer landowners and wildlife enthusiasts a well-rounded approach to managing their property to establish and maintain wildlife habitat.  This wetland workshop will focus on exploring wetland ecology, wetland wildlife and plant ID, and more.  Featured guest speaker for the workshop will be Jim McCormac from the ODNR, Division of Wildlife.  

    This event is $10 per person and includes light breakfast refreshments, lunch, and a folder full of reference materials to take home.

    All participants must pre-register with the Darke Soil &Water Conservation District at (937) 548-1715 ext.3.  The registration deadline for this workshop is June 19th.

    For Further Information Contact:

    Linda, Miami SWCD

    (937) 335-7645


    Diana Malas, ODNR-Division of Wildlife

    (937) 372-9261

  • Bikeway Section Closed3/11/2015 12:41:53 PM
  • Troy, Ohio – (March 11, 2015) The Great Miami River Recreational Trail will be closed again today from Farrington Reserve to the Piqua Corporation limits due to high water.  Updates will be posted on the park district and Facebook (Miami County Park District).  For more information contact the Miami County Park District at 937-335-6273.
  • Bikeway Section Closed3/10/2015 2:12:46 PM
  • Troy, Ohio – (March 10, 2015) The Great Miami River Recreational Trail will be closed from Farrington Reserve to the Piqua Corporation limits due to standing water and ice.  Updates will be posted on the park district website and Facebook (Miami County Park District).  For more information contact the Miami County Park District at 937-335-6273.
  • Program Showcases How Maple Syrup Is Made3/5/2015 1:50:52 PM
  • Troy, Ohio (March 4, 2015)  - Miami County Park District’s “Discovering Maple Ridge” program is a great way to see first hand how maple sap is turned into maple syrup. Thanks to the Park District Volunteers In Parks (VIPs), you will also be able to taste a sample of this sweet amber liquid that is produced on-site.  “Discovering Maple Ridge” will be held on March 7th from 1 to 3 p.m. at Maple Ridge Reserve located at 10430 State Route 185 in Covington.  The program is designed so that people can drop in anytime between 1 and 3 p.m. and learn about the maple sugaring process.  There will be a self-guided hike around the sugarhouse.

    Maple Ridge Reserve has a long history of maple syrup production dating back to when George Johnson purchased the farm in 1913.  When the Park District acquired the property in 2006, one of the goals was to share this unique tradition of maple sugaring with the public.  With that in mind, the original sugarhouse was renovated and a replica of the three pan boiling system was put in place.

    This will be the fourth year that this sweet program has been offered to the public. “Discovering Maple Ridge” is not only about the history and the process; it is also another way to show off what local food is all about.  “Showcasing the sugaring process helps to connect people with the local food sources,” says Kevin Swanson the deputy director of the Miami County Park District.  “It is a reminder that we are able to produce a lot of great agriculture in our own backyards.”

    If you are looking for something fun to do this weekend, come out this Saturday to the “Discovering Maple Ridge.”   For more information visit the Park District’s website at 

  • Walking on thin ice2/10/2015 1:26:44 PM
  • February 07, 2015 

    By: Amy Barger 

    TIPP CITY — Walking on icy ponds or lakes can be a thrill, but can turn dangerous very quickly if you walk on an ice patch too thin. As for the Piqua Junior High students in the Outdoor Adventure Club, they went home more knowledgeable about ice safety on Thursday.

    The PJHS Outdoor Adventure Club met up at the Charleston Falls Preserve in Tipp City on a sunny day Thursday, where students got to see beautiful icicle formations from the falls and walk through the preserve, taking in nature.

    The destination was to get to Cedar Pond in the preserve where chunks of ice was taken out by a Miami County Parks staff member for students to measure the thickness of the ice and speculate the safety of activity that can take place on the pond. Take note, the students did not actually walk on the pond.

    The OAC coordinator Casey Reed, administrative naturalist and educator of Miami County Parks, guided students along the way. She let students take in the beauty of the frozen falls and pointed out tracks in the snow by a small rodent and other animals, which students found interesting.

    “I really wanted them [students] to see the falls because it’s really neat,” Reed said.

    “Kids just don’t get the chance to see that very often,” Reed said, in relation to kids seeing nature during the winter season. “They [parents] just don’t bring their kids when it’s too cold.” Reed also mentioned kids do not like going out in the cold but when they have their friends around, it gives them more incentive to do so.

    Once the group got to the lake, they used a pH kit to test the acidity of the pond, a thermometer to test the temperature, and a tape measure to measure the thickness of the ice on the pond. They found the lake had a pH balance of 7-8, being neutral and livable for wildlife, the pond approximately 32 degrees Fahrenheit, and the ice thickness of the pond was around 4-8 inches.

    At a thickness of four inches, the ice can hold 200 pounds, or one average sized person with gear on and at eight inches, the ice can handle 2,000 pounds or one car. Students learned that the ice thickness of the lake can vary and is not all of the same thickness, which can make certain activities risky.

    Students took home an information sheet containing other facts about ice safety. For extra safety, it is suggested for any activity to take place that the ice should be 40 percent thicker than what is suggested for activity that can take place at a certain thickness. The cloudier the ice is, the more unsafe it is; it means there are air bubbles that can cause the ice to crack.

    Thursday was the third outing for the PJHS OAC. In December, students went canoeing and in January, they went caving.

    “I think it’s great,” Reed said about how the program was going, being the first year it has been put on. “My biggest struggle is getting contact with parents. But I think that’s true for any after-school activity. Sometimes it feels like I’m missing some kids.”

    Reed said she has an account set up at that allows her to send mass text messages to parents reminding them about the club meetings or has arrangements with the schools to send out emails to the parents. If the parents are not signed up through any of those, it makes it difficult for Reed to make a connection.

    Reed has some of the student’s cell phone numbers allowing her to utilize texting with the students, if ever they have any questions or need any reminders, they can text her at any time including off the clock.

    “I have to be available to them,” Reed said.

    Reed gave suggestions about activities kids or families can do in the winter to fight cabin fever.

    “Just get outside […] look for tracks, whose been there,” Reed said. “Get out to your parks, they’re free. Our guys work really hard to get them plowed. Use your parks, there’s so much to see.”

    She also suggested sledding at a park, building snow forts, or playing in the snow. “Just getting out there and walking” Reed said would make an impact. While walking through the Charleston Falls Preserve, the students wanted to run and burn off energy, Reed said.

    Reed said that she thinks it is a privilege to see Ohio in the different seasons. “It’s fun to see how the forests change from season to season,” she said.

    As for the next adventure in March, Reed plans to take the different OAC groups biking along the bike trail, granted if she gets enough bikes and weather permitting. Reed said there is a bike trail close to all three schools participating in the club, being Bethel Junior High School, Milton-Union Middle School and PJHS.

  • New National Ad Campaign Takes on Cigarette Butt Litter2/9/2015 5:31:28 PM
  • Washington, D.C- This month in advance of Earth Day, Legacy has partnered with the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics to raise awareness and mobilize action surrounding this toxic problem with a new set of television and radio Public Service Announcements (PSAs) available in English and Spanish, urging the public to ‘Rethink Butts’ and take a new perspective on this environmental issue.

    Littered cigarette butts are more than just an eye sore. According to environmental clean-up reports, cigarette butts are the No. 1 littered item on U.S. roadways and the No. 1 item found on beaches and waterways worldwide.  A new survey conducted by Legacy, shows that while more than 88 percent of Americans surveyed think that cigarette butts are an environmental concern, more than 44 percent of those polled who had ever smoked admit to having dropped a cigarette on the ground and nearly 32 percent have dropped a cigarette out of a car window.   

    Toxic tobacco trash includes a plastic filter which biodegrades only under extreme conditions, putting wildlife in danger and wreaking costly havoc on U.S. waterways, parks, beaches and roadways. Additionally, cigarette butts contain carcinogens that can leach into soil, and chemicals that are poisonous to wildlife, threatening to contaminate water sources.

    Over the prior 30 days, Americans surveyed reported seeing this form of toxic litter on sidewalks (80.1 percent), in parks (32.1 percent), on playgrounds (16.6 percent) and on beaches (15.7 percent). While more than 93 percent of those surveyed agree that dropping a cigarette butt on the ground is a form of littering, it is alarming that so many smokers still litter them.

    “Social norms surrounding litter have shifted dramatically over the last several decades,” said Dr. Cheryl Healton, PhD, President and CEO of Legacy, a public health non-profit based in Washington, D.C. “But despite the fact that so many Americans are hyper-concerned about the environment and are eager to recycle household items and pick up litter, there remains a total disconnect when it comes to flicking cigarette butts onto our streets and into our waterways. Through our new partnership with Leave No Trace we hope to not only begin to change the behavior of littering cigarette butts, but also highlight the fact that billions of cigarettes butts annually amount to an enormous environmental and public health threat that our communities are left to pay for.”

    “Cigarette butts have a serious impact in the outdoors we create and our children explore,” according to Dana Watts, Executive Director of the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics. “Through this important partnership with Legacy, we hope to provide tangible and relevant public education about the issue, fostering healthier people, lands and waterways.”

    In an increasingly health and environmentally conscious world, cigarette butts remain one of the only socially acceptable forms of littering left. This new set of bilingual PSAs is available online for download and distribution. Join more than a billion people in 180 countries around the world this Earth Day, and commit to promoting environmental action this year, by stopping toxic litter and starting the discussion about this global problem. Download the PSAs and read more at 

  • Regional bikeways plan update workshops scheduled and online survey available1/28/2015 3:06:41 PM
  • January 27, 2015 - The Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission (MVRPC) is pleased to announce a series of public input workshops regarding the update of the Comprehensive Local-Regional Bikeways Plan for the Miami Valley, originally adopted in 2008.  

    These public input workshops will be interactive in nature with the opportunity for citizens to share their thoughts, while MVRPC staff will provide information on the update effort. Once updated, the plan will provide information on existing regional/local bicycle facilities and will evaluate, prioritize, and recommend future bicycle projects, at both the regional and local level. The emphasis will be on creating a complete system of low-stress bicycle connections in the Region, including the region-wide, shared, paved-trail system and on-street bikeways.  

    “This Region boasts the Nation’s largest network of paved, off street trails - a considerable asset for the Miami Valley. It’s vitally important that we continue to build upon the network in a well-planned manner that serves everyone who wants to use it,” explained MVRPC’s Executive Director, Brian O. Martin, AICP.

    The public input workshops are scheduled as follows:

    Date / Time:  Tuesday, February 10, 2015; 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

    Location: Greene County Parks and Trails

    575 Ledbetter Road, County Media Room

    Xenia, Ohio 45385  

    Date / Time: Wednesday, February 18, 2015; 4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

    Location: Five Rivers MetroParks Headquarters

    409 E. Monument Ave., 3rd Floor Classroom

    Dayton, OH 45402 

    Date / Time: Monday, February 23, 2015; 4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

    Location: Springboro City Hall

    320 West Central Avenue, Community Room

    Springboro, OH 45066

    Date / Time: Thursday, February 26, 2015; 4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

    Location: Troy – Miami County Library

    419 W. Main Street, Community Room

    Troy, OH 45373

    If you walk, bike, or rollerblade for transportation or leisure, or you would like to, but don’t because of a lack of facilities or connections, please attend and share your thoughts or concerns.  You may also complete an online survey available on the project website at   

    MVRPC is excited to work with local partners on this effort including the Miami Conservancy District, Five Rivers MetroParks, Greene County Parks and Trails, the Miami County Park District and surrounding communities in this effort.

    The Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission is a forum and resource where regional partners identify priorities, develop public policy and implement collaborative strategies to improve the quality of life and economic vitality throughout the Miami Valley.  MVRPC performs various regional planning activities, including air quality, water quality, transportation, land use, research and GIS.  As the designated Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), MVRPC is responsible for transportation planning in Greene, Miami and Montgomery Counties and parts of Warren County.  

    More information is available on MVRPC’s website at (click on the Bikeways Plan Update).  For additional information, contact Kjirsten Frank Hoppe, Regional Planner, at (937) 223-6323, or via email at

  • A doggone good time: Canine olympics held at Hobart1/21/2015 2:17:06 PM
  • By: Amy Barger 

    January, 19 2015 

    TROY — The melted snow and above-freezing weather did not stop dog owners from attending the fifth annual winter Klondike Dog Olympics on Sunday.

    The dog social took place at Hobart Urban Nature Preserve in Troy, where many Miami County residents brought their furry canines to participate in the Olympic-like activities.

    The activities were to include sled pulls, finding treats in the snow, a snowball catch, and walking along the treat trail, but with warm temperatures the past few days, the snow has mostly melted away, allowing only a few of the planned activities to take place.

    Nevertheless, dog owners and the dogs themselves enjoyed coming out, and were still able to do the snowball catch with the dogs, who enjoyed the tasty treats inside the snowballs.

    The treat trail was opened for dogs and their families to stroll on as well. Families could enjoy the scenery while the dogs enjoyed getting a treat every so often, both benefitting from good exercise.

    Each dog went home with an imitation gold medal and a “Dog-lovers Award of Excellence” certificate for participation.

    John De Boer is an administrative educational naturalist for the Miami County Park District and coordinates the dog socials.

    “This is one of the most attended winter events,” De Boer said about the Klondike Dog Olympic social. “The more snow, the more that come out.”

    The dog socials take place every third Sunday per month all year round, occurring at a different Miami County park each month. It is one of the most popular public programs, bringing in 50-60 dogs to each event, according to Cinda Hanbuch-Pinkerton, education director at Miami County Parks, who brought her two dogs out Sunday.

    “It’s just fun, dogs love to socialize,” Hanbuch-Pinkerton said.

    Some past dog socials have included “Hero Dogs,” which were dogs from Buckeye Rescue that are trained to find lost individuals, or costume contests.

    An attendee of Sunday’s dog social, Gary Kimmel, of Piqua, started bringing his dog, Oddball, to the socials last May and has been to almost every social since.

    “We love them,” Kimmel said, with Oddball sitting contentedly by his feet. “We have a good time. [Going to the socials] gets us out and gets him [Oddball] interacting with other dogs. I would highly encourage dog owners to come out.”

    When Kimmel mentions the dog social to Oddball, the Golden Lab mix gets excited, said Kimmel, who also pointed out the names of other dogs that frequent the socials.

    The socials are a way for dogs to get to know each other and learn how to behave in social situations and allow owners to socialize as well. Owners and their dogs both benefit from great exercise.

    “It’s a relaxing type of physical exercise,” De Boer said.

    De Boer grew up with dogs and has learned how to train them. He teaches tips for dog owners at the socials as well, such as trail etiquette or when to have a short or long leash for a dog.

    Owners are requested to bring their dog if they are friendly with others, on a leash, and to pick up any waste their dog leaves to help keep the parks clean.

    For more information on the dog socials, contact John De Boer at and find out about upcoming dog socials and pre-register for the events at


    Amy Barger can be reached at (937) 451-3340 or on Twitter @TheDailyCall