Behind the Parks: Meet Cassie at Blacklick Woods Golf Courses

Cassie Stiles
Assistant Golf Course Manager, Blacklick Woods Golf Courses

Cassie by the bridge over the lake at Blacklick Woods Golf Courses. Photo Virginia Gordon

Hometown and Background

I come from Milford Center, in Union County. It’s a village with less than a thousand residents, about 5 miles southwest of Marysville. I have one sibling, my brother Robert, who is four years older than me. My parents were originally from southern Ohio. I grew up on our family tomato farm and graduated in 2014 from the local Fairbanks High School, with a graduating class of 70 students. I remember there was only about 20 of us in my kindergarten class and we all remained close from being itty-bitty kids right through to the end of high school. I met my best friend, Jessica, in third grade.

After high school, I went to The Ohio State University and majored in Forestry, Fisheries and Wildlife, with a minor in GIS. I doubt you’ll ever see anything like it on Netflix, but I watched 10,000 minutes of fish video when I was at OSU. I watched it at three-times normal speed, but that still a lot of fish! I wrote a paper on it, jointly with one of my favorite mentors, Dr Ian Hamilton. Ian is a professor of evolutionary ecology and organismal biology. Our report “The Affects of Substrate on Cichlid Fish” was published in the OSU Journal. It documents the affect on fish behavior of the relative lightness or darkness of their habitat.

In 2016, for summer break, I interviewed with Metro Parks’ Deputy Director, Larry Peck, for an internship working at Scioto Audubon Metro Park and at the Grange Insurance Audubon Center. I worked with the park manager, Dan Kaderly, on various projects, and also helped with environmental education programs at the nature center. It was a great introduction to Metro Parks. My summer internship the following year was with the City of Columbus Parks and Recreation Department. I worked as a facility attendant at their Park of Roses and at other facilities. My favorite summer job, though, came in 2018, when I interned as a Moose Telemetry Technician at Moosehead Lake in Maine. This internship was with AmeriCorps Inland Fisheries and Wildlife program. Using GPS equipment, I tracked 12 moose cows across a 2,000 square miles study site. The cows had been fitted with radio collars and my task was to monitor them and report on any births. I’d get up nearly every day at 5am and there’d be at least a 3-hour drive and a 3- or 4-hour walk as I tracked the moose for the day. I’d be out there completely by myself every day, although I lived in a small cabin with other technicians. Most of the cows had calves that summer. Those moose had a hard time, themselves and their calves always under threat from bears. As part of my internship, I also got the chance to monitor the bears, many of which had also been fitted with radio collars. I got up really close and personal with one particular black bear that had been in the study for a number of years.

During her Moose Telemetry internship with Americorps, Cassie also got to monitor some of the numerous populations of bears in Maine. This sedated black bear had been part of the study for a number of years and had been radio collared.

I graduated from OSU in spring 2019. I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do next, but I knew I wanted to stay in Ohio and I had a strong desire to work at Metro Parks. I emailed Mr Peck and asked if there were any jobs available. It led to my being granted an interview for one of the CSI Coordinator positions, for Metro Parks’ annual Columbus City Schools Initiative, a program to help school seniors transition from school to work.

Cassie and Jackson, after Cassie’s graduation from The Ohio State University.

At the end of the summer, I interviewed for a position as a facility attendant working principally at the Eagleview Lodge and the Banqueting Room at Blacklick Woods Golf Courses, and at the The Grove Lodge in Scioto Grove Metro Park. I started in the job in September 2019. As we all know, the world changed drastically for everyone with the Covid Pandemic and our rental facilities closed in March 2020. All of the Metro Parks remained open, however, and in summer 2020, we began to allow socially-distanced cashless pay to play golf at the Golf Course. I was given the option to work on this and I willingly accepted the opportunity. I suppose it was a little scary at first, but everyone was masked, and I wore gloves and got used to using a ton of hand sanitizer. We had queues lining up outside the park gates of visitors keen to get out of the house and engage in an outdoor activity they loved. Many were regulars, and I got to know them as I checked them in for their tee-times and scanned their payment cards. I was given the job title of Golf Course Generalist and I think I made a good impression on everyone. In September 2021 I was promoted to my current position of Assistant Golf Course Manager.

What I do at Metro Parks and what I love most about it

There’s a very strong customer service element to my work. The main focus of my job is the personal interaction with our visitors, the people who come here to play golf, or to enjoy their planned events at one of our two beautiful rental venues, the Eagleview Lodge and the Banqueting Room. It’s very important that we make people feel happy about their visit to us. Developing a good, friendly relationship with them goes a long way towards meeting that goal. I enjoy this aspect of my work very much. It involves a lot of communication, and a lot of listening. We are a public, non-membership golf course. Golf is a sport that can be very expensive to play, but our goal is make it available to everyone at a very reasonable price and on a high-quality course.

Cassie with some of Blacklick Woods Golf Courses’ fleet of golf carts. Photo Virginia Gordon

There is also a lot of administration to do, quite a lot of paper work. I’ve been able to utilize my GIS skills, learned in college, to make maps of our golf course and other facilities, to help our visitors get the most out of there time here with us. I enjoy writing and recently embarked on a project to write a new golf course maintenance manual, so that our team of great technicians have quick and easy access to information that can help them keep our courses in the best possible condition throughout the year.

I go back to personal interactions with the public as being the part of my job I enjoy most. I enjoy talking to people and getting to know our regular visitors a little more with each of their visits. We have many regulars who come here to play every week. I like to make them feel they’re at home here.

My favorite Metro Parks activity

I go hiking in the parks every week. Quarry Trails Metro Park is only a 5-minute drive from where I live. I go there often and I love the waterfall, which is so spectacular. I also hike a lot at Glacier Ridge Metro Park, as it is close to where my parents live. I like to get in a hike of about two miles before visiting them, which I do at least twice a month and sometimes more. But every park is my favorite park! My best friend Jessica recently got a dog, and we’ve started taking it for walks in the park. I work every Sunday, but Jess and I go to a park with her dog after I finish my shift. We go to a different park every week.

I also love birdwatching. I’ve owned a pair of binoculars for a long time and always take them with me when I go birdwatching, but I enjoy listening as much as seeing. I’ve become very good at recognizing birds by their songs. My home isn’t too far away from Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park, where I enjoy combining birdwatching with seeing the bison. This park is great for meadowlarks and red-winged blackbirds. Here at the golf course I see and hear a lot of towhees. Their song sounds like they’re saying “Drink your tea.” Also, we have a kingfisher that makes a habit of perching on the arch of the bridge across the golf course lake. I particularly enjoy seeing barred owls. Blacklick Woods Metro Park is good for barred owls, and so is Blendon Woods and Highbanks.

My favorite Metro Parks story that includes a positive visitor interaction

One of our regular golfers, Arthur, is in a local chapter of the Special Olympics. He comes to play here about twice every week and I’ve developed a lovely camaraderie with him. He usually plays the 9-hole Learning Course and he’s always keen to tell me how he did with regard to the pond, whether he managed to get his ball over the pond – or in it! We always have a nice laugh about that, either way. Arthur always plays with his father, who is always very cheerful. He has a saying that he bestows freely on everyone he meets, “Have a better day today than you had yesterday, but not too good a day that it can’t be better tomorrow.” He really does help people feel better about their day. He says it tome about three or four times a month, and it always makes my day feel better.

Traveling – where I’ve been, and where I’d love to go…

I met my boyfriend, Jackson, in college and we’ve been together for eight years now. He’s a couple of years older than me and works as a physician assistant for Immediate Health, an urgent care system. We enjoy traveling and especially going to new places. Last September we went to Savannah, Georgia, for Spooky Season. The city promotes itself as one of the most haunted towns in America and has lots of ghost and haunted house tours. One house we visited definitely had a very ‘spooky’ feel to me. We stayed there for ten days and did the haunted house tours in the evening and just enjoyed being in this wonderful city during the day. There is a beautiful beach on the ocean, beautiful parks and lovely architecture. And the people are just so incredibly friendly and welcoming. I especially enjoyed the food in Savannah. They make the best fried chicken. We had pistachio-crusted chicken, which was delicious, and I really liked their oysters and the way they cook their collared greens. It’s the tastiest, best food I’ve eaten anywhere.

Night and Day in Savannah – a spooky house visit at night, and a trip to the nearby Tybee Lighthouse in day time.

We also went to Arizona in February last year and did lots of hiking and sight-seeing. We spent time in Phoenix but also went out to see the Grand Canyon and Sedona, which is known for its towering red rocks and giant cacti. Many famous westerns and old cowboy movies were filmed there.

Cassie on a hiking trail at Sedona, and with boyfriend Jackson at the Grand Canyon, both taken during their Arizona visit.

All my traveling so far has been within the United States, but I would love to visit Japan someday. Some Japanese writers are amongst my favorite authors. Through their writing I’ve come to be fascinated by Japanese culture and have a visit to Japan down as my bucketlist wish. I would also like to go to Europe, especially to Italy, and also to visit London and Paris.

Fun facts about me and my family

1. I adore my cat! I mentioned earlier that I grew up on a farm. We always had farm cats in our barn, but we never had a cat as a live-in house pet. I found my beautiful Chloe Cat in my parent’s barn, when she was just a new-born baby and so small she could fit in my hand. This was the same year that I met Jackson, and although I love Jackson very much, he knows that the love of my life is actually my Chloe Cat! I sometimes call Chloe my Pepsi Box cat, as I took her home that day in a Pepsi box, with a blanket too, of course. She’s a calico cat, with her beautiful and distinctive white, orange and black fur.

Basically, she’s my child. If Jackson and I are watching TV and have a blanket over us, Chloe likes to get under the blanket and pop her head out to watch TV with us. She also loves looking out of the window to watch the world go by. She can also do tricks, especially if she knows she’s getting a treat for it. Her best trick is when I tell her to sit and shake hands, and she’ll sit upright and hold out a paw to shake my hand. It’s so incredibly cute! I bought her a Christmas sweater last year and she looked so gorgeous wearing it. The only downside was that she would often wake Jackson or me a little too early in the morning, wanting to be fed. We’ve fixed that now by getting her an auto feeder, which she loves.

ChloeCat on the catwalk demonstrating her Kittycat Christmas knitwear; enjoying a cat nap wearing her Buckeyes snood; and controlling the TV remote as an episode of Felix the Cat was about to start.

2. I love gardening! Jackson and I live in a third floor apartment. We have a balcony of about 12 feet by 6 feet and it has become my balcony garden. I plant petunias, geraniums and other annuals in about 20 different containers, either on the floor or hanging on rails. As we get to autumn, I’ll add in my chrysanthemums. My gardening has become my favorite hobby. We moved here about three years ago. Before that, we lived not very far away and a hummingbird regularly visited my garden at our previous apartment. It soon discovered our new apartment and balcony garden and has been visiting us frequently. In summer Jackson and I like to sit in our balcony garden and read.

Cassie’s balcony garden.

3. Can’t get enough of zoos! Whenever we go out on a trip, I always try to visit a local zoo. My favorite zoo, of all I’ve visited, was the Phoenix Zoo on our Arizona trip last year. The best feature of their wonderful zoo is their Monkey Village, which is an open walk-through space where you can get within inches of their tiny squirrel monkeys as they move through their bushes and trees. Luckily for us, a zoo keeper announced that the monkeys were about to be fed as we approached the exhibit. About 20 of these incredibly cute little animals descended onto the feeders from ropes as we stood just inches away and watched.

Monkey Village and the squirrel monkeys at Phoenix Zoo.

I’ve visited every zoo in Ohio and I’ve seen every species of bear that exists anywhere on Earth, with one exception. I’ve not yet seen the Malayan sun bear, which inhabits Asian rainforests in the wild, but which do not breed well in zoos. Maybe one day…!

My favorite food and dessert

I have a sweet tooth, so I’ll talk about desserts first. Any dessert will do! I love all desserts. But my favorite is definitely going to be cheesecake. I do some of my own baking and I especially love making cookies. For holidays, I use cutters to make reindeer-shaped cookies. I even made a cat-shaped cookie, in honor of Chloe Cat. As a favorite food, the winner is General Tso’s Chicken, with white rice. I like my General Tso’s fairly mild, not too spicy. I make my own orange chicken, and also like to make tomato soup and other dishes, such as chili.

My favorite entertainment (books, movies, tv shows, sports etc)

I love to read books, from true crime to philosophy to general fiction. One of my favorite books is What You Are Looking for is in the Library, by Japanese author, Michiko Aoyama. I discovered it in a book shop in Savannah. It’s a fantastical tale about a magical librarian, who can read the souls of all the people who visit her library, and uses this magical knowledge to recommend books that will solve their life problems. My book next up to read is Before the Coffee Gets Cold, by another Japanese author, Toshikazu Kawaguchi. It’s a mystical story about a café in Tokyo, where legend has it that if you sit in certain seats you can travel back in time. The problem is, the trip can only last as long as it takes for your coffee to get cold — or else! I’m looking forward to reading it as another introduction to the culture of Japan. This one is actually the first in a series of four books about the magical time-traveling at the Tokyo café.

Last year we went to see Hamilton, the musical, here in Columbus. In April, we are going to Cincinnati to see another musical, Six, about Henry the Eighth and his six wives. On TV, Jackson usually picks out a show for us to watch on streaming. We both loved Ted Lasso, on Apple TV.

Another activity I greatly enjoy is doing jigsaw puzzles. In fact, Jackson and I have a New Year’s Eve tradition, in which we start a 500 or 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle at about 4pm, with the goal to have it finished by the time the New Year bell strikes. We’ve never quite made it, unfortunately, although we came very close with a really funny jigsaw, about an Ice Cream Shop for Cats. We usually finish the puzzles the next day.

If I had just 60 seconds to share why I love working at Metro Parks, I’d say…

I really like the people I work with and share a sense of community with them. I also enjoy knowing that what I do helps me to make a little difference to improve life for my friends here and for our visitors and the wider community.

Cassie Stiles was talking to Communications Coordinator, Virginia Gordon

What Blacklick Woods Golf Course Manager Danny Sorgini says about Cassie

“Cassie brings a great energy to our team. Her positive attitude creates a welcoming environment for our patrons. Her organization skills keep the operation running smoothly during the busiest times. She is a great asset to Metro Parks!”

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