Category Archives: Retreat

Recap of the 2017 Miami Group Retreat

The 2017 Retreat at the Schott Pavilion at the Jesuit Spiritual Center in Milford was a huge success, with about 60 people in attendance!

The fun began with loads of goodies to eat for breakfast (and throughout the day). MC Marci Taylor started with an “icebreaker”: She gave everyone a list of questions to ask people they didn’t know. That got folks engaged with one another early-on!

The first panel discussion was entitled Back to Our Roots: 2017 Conservation Initiatives. Matt Trokan described the many water-related accomplishments achieved in 2016, and his plans to expand the program this year. Marilyn Wall reviewed our decades-long struggle to get MSD to fix our huge problems with combined-sewer overflows. Much progress was made in 2016, but much more remains to be done. Nathan Alley discussed progress on alternate forms of transportation. The “streetcar” went into operation in 2016, new bike lanes were added, and bike trail segments were added. Progress appears to be accelerating! All three speakers encouraged more member participation to move these programs forward.

The second panel discussion was entitled What Can We Do Now? With all that has happened since the election, many of us are shell-shocked, and some are nearing despair. Yet, there are strong signs of hope, as people have turned-out in the tens of thousands all over the USA and across the world as well. The big question is where we go from here.

The first speaker was Dave Altman, a lawyer with decades of experience using lawsuits to make companies stop breaking the law. He says it’s a three-step process: Organize, Strategize, and then Litigate. Whatever happens with the EPA, he notes that anyone “adversely impacted” by an action can, like the EPA, sue to rectify the situation. So, in essence, We are the EPA!

The next speaker was Michelle Young, who has been an activist her entire life. She described many of the campaigns she has worked on, and decided to run for office herself last year, losing to Steve Chabot in Ohio’s First Congressional District. She encourages like-minded people to run for office as well. At this point, she feels we must “go back to the beginning” like we did I the 60’s, and “we MUST WIN this time!”

The next speaker was Larry Falkin, who heads Cincinnati’s Sustainability Office. He believes that things may not be as bad as they seem, since bureaucracies change slowly. The points out that “despair is not empowerment”.  The city has been on-track for nine years now in meeting climate-footprint reduction goals. He praised the city’s “solarize” program and their decision to make downtown parking free for all-electric vehicles. In 2017, the city will employ anaerobic digesters, begin textile recycling, and renegotiate our electric power aggregation contract (help with keeping it 100% green!).

Marilyn Wall kept her comments brief in order to give the others extra time. Her bottom-line: “We MUST organize, and we need more people to get involved”.

Melissa English of Ohio Citizen Action recapped her 28 years as an activist, focusing on her now 14 years with OCA. She explained OCA’s grassroots approach: Organize the “fence-line” neighbors that are directly impacted by a polluting business. OCA plays the “outside game”, going door-to-door gathering signatures and encouraging people to “comment” on pending actions. She gave this example: To get the Ohio Energy Table to “thaw the freeze” on alternative energy standards, OCA gathered 12,000 Comments and 32,000 Signatures!

A lively discussion followed. Dave Altman made one key point: The reason the Tea Party was so effective at organizing is that every participant was given a copy of (ultra-liberal) Saul Alinsky’s book “Rules for Radicals”. They learned those lessons and applied them well. Perhaps we should do the same!

A buffet luncheon was served downstairs. It was delicious, with plenty to go around.

After lunch, there was a free period. A few people went on a short hike at a nearby preserve. Many attended a Water Sampling demo by Matt Trokan. Others just chatted and/or took a short walk.

The first afternoon session was on area bike paths, with Frank Henson of Queen City Bike presenting. He gave a recap of how bike trails have evolved over the years, leading to a new organization named Tri-State Trails, which is a coalition of trail advocate & stakeholders, a physical network of trails, and a vision and plan to interconnect existing trails in the tri-state area. The top three challenges for trail construction are obtaining right-of-ways, funding, and public & political support. Much has been accomplished, and there is now a well-organized and funded program for filling in the blanks. The full presentation is available on

The second afternoon session was on the Edge of Appalachia Preserve and the Sunshine Project, presented by Martin McAlister of the Nature Conservancy. Martin detailed how a small parcel donated by one person has grown into a large preserve which is now within 1000 yards of Shawnee State Forest. The preserve is one of the most biologically diverse temperate regions of the world, especially for songbirds, salamanders, mussels and land snails. The full presentation is available on

After a well-attended Happy Hour, we enjoyed another terrific meal.

The final presentation of the day was a slide show by Marci Taylor and her husband Warren regarding their recent visit to Israel. Their tour was jointly sponsored by Muslim, Jewish and Christian churches in Cincinnati. As a result, they got guided tours of sites cherishes by all three faiths. They had many wonderful pictures to show and stories to tell.

Hats-off to our GREP Committee for another great Retreat: Randy Johnson, Marci Taylor, Karen Nagel, Elizabeth Durrell, and Jean Kantor  (And Martha Walker as registrar).



Sierra Club Michigan Chapter Retreat update / August 26 – 28, 2016

Hello Sierra Club members and readers,

On Friday, August 26,  I had planned on camping a short distance from home to Fort Loramie Ohio for a quiet weekend in the woods. I packed a hiking backpack, a cooler, a grill and set off for the one hour drive. With a full tank of gas, I considered my calandar. My invitation to the Michigan Chapter retreat was posting to my “To Do List”. I quickly changed my plans and drove the additional four and one half hours to Stony Lake Michigan and stopped there at Camp Miniwanca.

Once at the retreat site, I registered and set up a quick overnight camp before bicycling to the Council Circle for a bonfire, marshmallows and fire side foods. I met Jordan Simpson and Dani Slagg who posed for a photo at the Council Circle. The night was filled with song and story telling. Story gave way to knowledge; I learned that Indian dream catchers originate from this area of the USA.

The next morning was met with raindrops and a peaceful morning of gentle rain over campside coffee. As I made my bike ride to breakfast, many Michiganders ate and told stories to me of travels to Camp Miniwanca. After breakfast, some walked as I rode along to an Activity Center and watched as Sierra Club members participated in rock climbing and rope ladder climbing simulations. Many scaled heights over 30 feet to walk tightropes and swing from high above the wood floor. As we left for camp, I rode my bicycle ahead of the hikers and photographed Stony Lake and Lake Michigan in the overcast and damp summer air.

Not long thereafter was a lunch break. The rain ended and we dried out from the drizzle. After a hot cup of coffee, I sat in on a political update from Mike Berkowitz, Legislative and Political Director for the Michigan Chapter. He detailed some work on anti plastic legislation and energy initiatives while answering questions. Much of Mike’s presentation focused on political races in the Michigan legislature and changes due to gerrymandering. His Q and A session was most intriguing and I felt well educated on reasons why the Sierra Club endorsed some of the candidates in the races Mike mentioned.

After the politic and environmental presentation, I left Camp Miniwanca. I packed up my truck on Saturday afternoon and headed south for Ohio. My camping and connection with nature wasn’t over. I stayed the night at St. Mary’s State Park in Auglaize County. The night sky was very clear and constellations covered the darkness. Quiet time added to a nice weekend of good company, environmental information from the Wolverines up north and rainy bicycle trails that gave way to a sunny Sunday morning at St. Mary’s State Park. I was offered a free kayak on the algea covered lake and after a half hour paddling on the lake, I pulled myself out, packed up the truck and made for home. The weekend was complete. My picture gallery is filled with fond memories and the people I met were most kind. I think that NCAA football at the Michigan campsite still has my footprint on it though….

Scott Bushbaum – Sierra Club Miami Group ExCom


Recap of the 2016 Miami Group Retreat

Photos and highlights from the Retreat 1/23 (at the Jesuit Center in Milford; photos by Evan and Alvin Denenberg):

On Saturday, Jan. 23, 2016, the 38th annual Retreat was held at the Jesuit Spiritual Center in Milford.  In spite of the snow and cold, about 45 folks were present.

In the first session Don Sherman introduced us to a young woman, Rebekah Kartal, who’s spent much of her time traveling through Central America.  She helped us see how climate change and El Nino affect a poor agricultural society and can lead to increased immigration.

Cincinnati Councilwoman Amy Murray, who chairs the committee on transportation, joined us to share her thoughts and entertained comments and questions on the streetcar, our roads, bridges and other issues.

After lunch folks had time to walk outdoors, visit a nearby preserve, or continue discussing the issues of the morning.

Dr. Brenda Hunda from the Museum Center led us through a challenging look at evolution and extermination.  She challenged us to use our reason and work to save the animals that are faring well, not just use our emotions to try to save the cute or cuddly ones who have fewer resources to keep them going.  And to consider the fact that all species will one day die out – including ourselves.  The room was buzzing loudly during and after that talk!!

Wade Johnston, trail coordinator for Green Umbrella, introduced us to the various groups related to Green Umbrella and the many bike trails in our tri-state area – ones that have been around for a long time, some that are being expanded, and some that are being planned.

After happy hour and dinner, Jan and Randy Johnson were our last presenters, sharing their pictures, travels and extensive knowledge about the Mayan ruins in Mexico.

Photos and highlights from the Retreat 1/24 (at the Miami Group office; photos by Evan and Alvin Denenberg):

On Sunday, Jan. 24, about 20 members gathered at the Sierra Club office near Eden Park for the last part of our retreat.  While a large number were part of the ex-com orientation, led by Pat Frock, a smaller group worked on how to increase attendance at our monthly meetings/Innings.

Later the two groups came together to work on a persistent problem – How do we reach out to diverse populations and find ways to work together?  After all the hard work, we enjoyed a lunch and more conversation.   If you missed the retreat this year, watch for information about the 2017 retreat.

2016 Retreat January 23-24 (new venues!)

Retreat Photo 1The Registration Form is on Page 6 of the latest Newsletter.

For over 30 years we’ve held our annual retreats at Grailville, enjoying their scenic setting, rustic accommodations, good food and hospitality. But Grailville is no longer offering retreat services.

It took awhile but we’ve found sites for our 2016 retreat. On Saturday, Jan. 23, we’ll be at the Schott Pavillion at the Jesuit Retreat Center in historic Milford, OH. As in past years we’ll welcome speakers, films, and discussions on environmental, political, travel and outings topics. We’ll enjoy good food and take a hike near the Little Miami River.

We won’t provide overnight accommodations, but hope many of you will rejoin us on Sunday morning, Jan. 24, at our Sierra Club office near Eden Park. Last year about 20 members spent Sunday morning sharing, brainstorming and problem-solving ways to reach out to more folks and volunteers. Those who were part of the morning felt it was time well spent, and we’ll use a similar pattern at our 2016 retreat.

So mark your calendars, and watch the next Happenings for more information on 2016’s retreat. If you have ideas for sessions or want to help, contact Marci at [email protected] or Karen at 513-542-5259.

Miami Group Winter Retreat Feb 2-3

February 2 – 3, 2013
Join us at the Grailville Retreat Center in Loveland for a great winter get-away. Visit with old friends and make new ones. Learn something new & have fun! See Page 3 of the Jan-Feb Happenings for more info and the registration form.

We must have your registration (form for 2013) by January 28th.! Grailville needs our numbers early!

Information and directions will be sent after registration. If you have questions, please contact:

Karen Nagel ([email protected]) 513-542-5259, or

Jean Kantor ([email protected]) 513-522-5941.