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Month: March 2023

110 Years Ago Today: The Great Flood of 1913

The greatest weather disaster in Ohio history began on March 23, 1913, and brought about 3 months of rain (6-11 inches) over a 5-day period, flooding every stream, creek, and river in Ohio. The flood destroyed homes and property, effectively eliminated the canal system in Ohio, and damaged 69 bridges in the Muskingum River Watershed. The flood led to more than 400 deaths in the state, including 11 in the Muskingum River Watershed. Experts estimate that in today’s dollars, Ohio’s total damages would have been around $3 billion.

The Great Flood of 1913 spurred the development of conservancy districts in Ohio with the passage of the Conservancy Act of 1914. On June 3, 1933, 20 years after the Great Flood, the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District (MWCD) was established. As the largest of the conservancy district, the watershed spans all or portions of 27 counties, covering more than 8,000 square miles, and is home to 16 dams and reservoirs that provide flood reduction and water conservation benefits for the property owners and residents of the region. The flood reduction system has been credited by the federal government with saving an estimated $8 billion worth of potential damage from flooding since its construction 90 years ago.

Today, we reflect on the 110 years since the Muskingum River Watershed, Ohio, and much of the Midwest was devastated by the Great Flood of 1913 and we thank our forefathers for their incredible vision and dedication to establish a system of dams and reservoirs that significantly reduce flooding today.

Celebrating 90 Years of Flood Reduction, Conservation, and Recreation

Age is just a number, right? 55 is the new 35, or so I am told. We hear these axioms all the time and it made me think about age in a different way. MWCD is turning 90 years old this year and if we think about this in terms of business survival, that is excellent! The prevailing theory, though unconfirmed, is that only about a half a percent (0.5%) of all companies have what it takes to last 100 years. This means that centennial firms—and MWCD is getting close—truly do have a lot to celebrate. In our case, turning 90 is unique from a business longevity perspective, but we see it as “just a number.” While we make time to honor and celebrate our past, we as stewards of MWCD, are looking forward and making plans for MWCD to be active, healthy, and a positive influence in the region for decades to come.

Speaking about honoring our past, immediate past Executive Director, John Hoopingarner took to the pen in 1993 to mark the 60th birthday of the MWCD. He eloquently reminded us of the will and foresight of strong leaders instrumental in our founding and success, none more-so than Bryce Browning, and predecessor of John, have laid and protected a strong foundation for which the modern-day MWCD is built. All of us in the Muskingum Valley and Ohio should be thankful for them and what they did.

Moving forward 30 years and we are just finishing a new strategic plan that will guide our actions, investments, and direction for the next five years, while also looking out 20 years. If you have ever gone through a robust planning process like this, it can be both rewarding and difficult. Difficult in the sense you are trying to juggle the day-to-day activities of running the business, while at the same time coming together with your staff and stakeholders to plan for the future. The result of this, not surprisingly, has MWCD continuing its excellent mission and work reducing the threat of flooding across the entire district while supporting conservation efforts and offering recreational opportunities – our three core pillars. However, we are contemplating how to do this differently, such as working with communities on issues like stormwater management and using green infrastructure to slow these waters before they enter our lakes. Likewise, we are putting a spin on our other long-successful pillar, recreation. Our last several strategic plans had MWCD focus squarely on investing in replacing infrastructure and building new recreational – camping – assets at our parks. While we will continue to work on areas still needing some TLC, we are looking forward to what our recreation mission will look like in the future. You will hear us talk about “reimagining recreation” and working to define what this means. Lastly, and somewhat new to the MWCD, is a large focus on conservation. This means many things. From improving our own sustainability and environmental performance, to planning for major investments of time and resources in the watershed to help improve water quality with our partners like the Department of Agriculture, Soil and Water Conservation Districts, farmers, and many others. So, as you can see, we are charting a new course, looking forward to new opportunities, but respecting our past traditions and continuing to support our mission and values.

In thinking how to close this editorial, I couldn’t find any better way than how John closed in his 1993 version…“our presence in the Muskingum Valley has enhanced our lives with countless benefits: jobs, commerce, industry, recreation, conservation, flood control, and on and on. Proud? Yes…and if you’d like to learn more about the district, give me a call. I never tire of telling the story.” I too, never get tired of telling our story. Happy 90th birthday, MWCD! You look great!

Craig Butler                                                                                                                                                            Executive Director

This article was featured in MWCD’s quarterly newsletter, LakeViews. To join our LakeViews mailing list, call 330-343-6647 or visit 

New Activity Zone is Coming to Pleasant Hill Lake Park!

Two pickleball courts, a basketball court, playground, cornhole, community firepit, and swings with a scenic view of the lake are now under construction at Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District’s (MWCD) Pleasant Hill Lake Park in Perrysville, Ohio.

The amenities, totaling nearly $1 million, are scheduled to open by Memorial Day, and are part of the MWCD Master Plan investing approximately $195 million at Atwood, Charles Mill, Piedmont, Pleasant Hill, Seneca, and Tappan Lakes to improve infrastructure and construct new campground areas.

“We are excited to see these amenities under construction,” said Ryan McCleaster, MWCD Chief of Recreation. “We recently completed a strategic plan which includes the imperative to Reimagine Recreation. This project is one great example of many amenities that we plan to bring from idea to reality over the next 5-years at MWCD lakes and parks.” 

To date, 12 projects have been completed at Pleasant Hill Lake Park since 2016. These projects include a boat storage lot, sanitary collection system improvements, activity center improvements,  two new campgrounds and four renovated campgrounds, two new and one renovated restroom/shower building, and 10 new log cabins featuring indoor fireplaces and outdoor hot tubs. The total investment at Pleasant Hill to date is $26.1 million.

MWCD has become a model for outdoor recreation, drawing guests from across Ohio and the U.S. We are leaving a legacy for future generations to enjoy the benefits of recreation in the Muskingum River Watershed. 


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