Behind the Parks: Meet Joe at Pickerington Ponds

Joe Goddard
Maintenance Technician, Pickerington Ponds Metro Park

Joe at Pickerington Ponds Metro Park.

Hometown and Background

I came into the world at St Ann’s Maternity Hospital in Columbus, but my early years were spent in South Bloomfield, about 10 miles west of Slate Run Metro Park. I grew up in Madison Township, in the Blacklick Estates subdivision, and I currently live in South Bloomfield, where I’ve lived since 2019. It was always my dream to be a rock star, and I lived that dream for a lot of years. I joined a band as lead guitarist when I was still in my teens, a year before I graduated from Groveport Madison High School. The band was called CAJE, which was actually pronounced ‘cage,’ but another band in California had trademarked that name.

The band was actually founded by my younger brother, Charles, the drummer, and a singer friend of his, Jesse Willette. They were joined by a bass player, Marz Ricky, and needed a lead guitarist to complete the band. Charles is two years younger than me, and he was reluctant to have his ‘older’ brother join the band, maybe fearing I’d try to dominate the band as the older brother. But finally he relented and I became the fourth member of the band. We were all kids, but really committed to playing. For a couple of years we were like an ‘in utero’ band and did nothing but rehearse.

I graduated from high school in 1998 and chose to pursue my dream rather than go to college right away. We played our first gig at Little Brothers, a club in Columbus’s Short North. We started out playing heavy metal, like Metallica, but gradually became more progressive as we got better. We played mostly in and around Columbus, but in 2002 we played as one of the opening acts at the Milwaukee MetalFest, which had some very big, famous bands on the card, including Arch Enemy, Exodus, and Testament. We had some line-up changes over the years, adding a rhythm guitarist Brandon Noyes, and we were on our third singer, with Matt Jones on vocals, when we recorded our own album. It was released in January 2006 and was simply called ‘CAJE.’ We commandeered my mom’s basement as our studio, and bought and installed our own 16-track digital recorder. We wrote the songs ourselves. My favorites are called Dark Paths and Soul Brigade. The album was mixed and mastered by a digital distribution and CD manufacturer and was on sale wherever we played, and also on outlets such as Amazon.

The life of a Rock Star! TOP: Here’s Joe playing his Ibanez guitars with Caje, first at the Milwaukee MetalFest in 2002; at the long-time famous Columbus music venue Alrosa Villa in 2005, when his band opened for Bobaflex; and at another Columbus music venue, Acme Art, in 2006. BELOW: Caje, from their poster and their album cover.

We did a big showcase at Whiskey Dick’s in Columbus and were talent spotted by some A & R reps. They encouraged us to branch out and do some bigger showcases on the east coast and prospects looked really good for us. But our singer Matt was getting married and didn’t want to commit so much time to touring. He wanted just to stay local, and gave us an ultimatum, saying he would leave the band if we pursued the higher professional realms. We continued playing locally for another 18 months, but the pressure was on the band, and finally we broke up in September 2007. My dream had been a good one, but sad to say, I had to accept that it was over. Charles and I had put our while lives into the endeavor and we were very disheartened. Charles also settled down and got married.

For me, I struggled for a number of years. I had a host of casual jobs, but wasn’t satisfied with life. My health wasn’t good and my weight ballooned to an oppressive 320 pounds. I recall sitting on a park bench on the Meadowlark Trail, here at Pickerington Ponds where I now work, and reflecting deeply on my life and where it was leading. I decided I owed it to myself to finally take control. I changed my diet and began walking frequently, to help me lose weight, and I decided to go to college.

I enrolled at Devry University and started classes in March 2013. By December 2015 I had earned an Associate Degree in graphic design and a Bachelor’s Degree in Multimedia Design and Development. I still burn at the fact that my 4.0 grade point average plummeted to 3.97 when I graduated, all because my adjunct professor teaching my statistics class promised she would give an “A” to only three students from her class. And she gave me a “B”!

Joe on Graduation Day from DeVry University.

I now had the visual arts and design skills to add to my audio production skills. An uncle of mine, Chris Martin, recognized that I now had the skills that could help production at his company, called ZinWorks. In 2017 I developed a computer game for him, called ZombiEd. It’s a crazy game about zombies in schools, and I believe it’s still available on Google Play and in the App Store. I also produced graphic and audio designs for a streamer on the Twitch platform. Most of the work I was doing was freelance, and it wasn’t a consistent money earner for me. I needed a steadier employment path and sent out about 70 resumes between September 2022 and January 2023. Amazingly, I received very few responses, but I did hear from Metro Parks, as I had expressed an interest in seasonal employment with them.

Joe at the controls of a park tractor.

So it was that on April 17, 2023, I started working at Three Creeks Metro Park as a seasonal maintenance technician. By then, my dieting and walking regime had helped me lose more than a hundred pounds and I was feeling really fit and well. My work as a technician also helped keep the pounds off as we always had lots to do. While still working as a seasonal at Three Creeks, I interviewed for a full-time technician position at Pickerington Ponds. I wore a suit and tie for my interview, which my interviewers, manager Shelly Richardson and technician Levi Baugess, thought was quite quaint, for a maintenance position. But they gave me the job anyway. I started here at Pickerington Ponds on Monday October 23, 2023.

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

As maintenance technicians, our role is to keep the park in good order for our visitors, and to ensure that all the equipment we need to operate smoothly as a staff is regularly serviced and maintained. This means checking and cleaning bathrooms, keeping the trails clear of debris, mowing fields, filling bird feeders, and maintaining all our vehicles, from ranger trucks to tractors and utility vehicles. Basically, anything that needs fixing, or anything that needs to be built, we do it ourselves. I took a welding class last week, to enhance my skills, and I even helped management with putting together a Powerpoint presentation.

But there’s no question as to what I love doing most, and that is the brushhogging of our fields and meadows. We have a massive 15-foot batwing brushhog, which is a giant mower that attaches to one of our tractors. It obliterates the brush! From October through December, we use the brushhog to clear about 160 acres of fields and prairies. Out batwing brushhog can easily run over small trees and demolishes reeds and grasses as high as 12 feet with ease. We have a rota of fields and prairies that we mow with the brushhog once every two years. It’s a winter activity, so we are clearing the areas for new growth in the spring and finishing the task before breeding season starts for grassland and wetland birds and various mammal species. It’s so much fun to ride a huge tractor with this massive mower attached. I get a great sense of power and satisfaction riding my brushhog over the 12-foot marsh reeds.

Joe alongside one of the folded wings of the brushhog, his favorite piece of Metro Parks equipment.

Although it’s a different scale, we continue on to mowing grass in the growing seasons, which is also a very enjoyable activity. Here at Pickerington Ponds we use the same 6-foot zero turn mower that I trained on as a seasonal at Three Creeks, a Toro Ground Master 7200.

My favorite Metro Parks activity

Back when my brother and me were just kids, we’d go biking on the dirt paths that bordered Blacklick Creek. We used to call them the Sedalia Trails, as Sedalia Elementary School and Sedalia Drive were near by. The best tracks for riding were on the opposite bank of Blacklick Creek from where the Blacklick Creek Greenway Trail would eventually be laid. I don’t bike the Greenway Trail, but I’ve walked it many times. Long before I joined Metro Parks as an employee, I walked the trails at Three Creeks and Slate Run. I started to walk about 30 miles a week, as part of my regimen to get fit and lose weight. I would often take a 9-mile route from the bridge over US33 on the Blacklick Creek Greenway Trail, all the way up to the Oxbow on the Alum Creek Greenway, which connects to the Blacklick Trail in the Confluence Trails area at Three Creeks. My favorite trail to walk is the unimproved Confluence Trail at Three Creeks, although this can flood and get muddy. Another favorite is the Meadowlark Trail here at Pickerington Ponds. It’s a loop trail and is only 0.4 miles in length, but I would often enjoy five laps or more to make it a 2-mile or longer walk.

When I was a kid, our family would often go to Blacklick Woods Metro Park for a picnic. I also enjoy photography and love to take my Canon Powershot SX700 out with me on the trails at Slate Run, Pickerington Ponds and Three Creeks.

Photos by Joe from a couple of his visits to Slate Run Metro Park.

My favorite Metro Parks story that includes a positive visitor interaction

When I was at Three Creeks, I would often see a couple of elderly gentlemen riding their recumbent bikes on the park’s Greenway Trails. One day, I was with my colleague Casey Kirker doing some clean up around Heron Pond. The two bikers had passed us a while before, but one of them, Paul, rode back and told us that his friend, Dave, had wrecked his bike and was hurt pretty bad. Casey and I followed Paul to the scene of the accident. Dave had fallen out his crashed bike and was in great pain. He right forearm was gashed and lots of skin had peeled away, and it seemed he may have a number of broken ribs. While Casey called for more assistance from other staff, and also called an ambulance, I put on gloves and bandaged Dave’s arm. When the ambulance arrived, they determined that Dave had no internal bleeding, but likely he had broken some ribs. He was advised to take pills and go home and rest. Later on, we helped Paul to lift Dave’s damaged bike onto a vehicle to transport it to Dave’s home.

The accident had happened some time in July. By October, on my second to last day at Three Creeks, I saw Paul and Dave again. Dave had a new bike. They stopped and chatted, and Dave thanked me profusely for having helped him that day. He laughed and said he had always intended to buy a new bike anyway. A few weeks later, I saw them again, here at Pickerington Ponds. I had just finished mowing and saw them on the Blacklick Creek Trail, which of course continues all the way from Three Creeks to Pickerington Ponds, and then on even farther to Blacklick Woods Metro Park.

Traveling… places I’ve been, places I’d love to go

I would love to go to Hawaii with my girlfriend Elizabeth and stay there for at least a month. The pictures I’ve seen of the islands in magazines and on TV look stunning. Plus I want to enjoy a typical Hawaiian feast, called a Lu’au. The food sounds great. I fancy eating some Kālua Pig, which is pork cooked in an underground oven and then shredded, and served wrapped in taro leaves. And for dessert, they often serve something called Haupia, which is a coconut pudding. And lots of chillin’ on the beautiful beaches, where I’d let the sound of the ocean be my symphony.

Joe and his girlfriend, Elizabeth, outside a restaurant in Cincinnati recently, and to the right, a whole pig, covered in a blanket of banana leaves and cooked in an underground oven. Joe would one day love to take Elizabeth to Hawaii to enjoy a lu’au feast and taste kuala pig, served in taro leaves.

The nearest I’ve come to anything like that was back in 2006, when my brother Charles and me, along with two friends, rented a house in Nags Head on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. It’s well known for its huge sand dunes.

Fun facts about me and my family

1. I’m a Trivia nerd! I play Jeopardy just about every day. I’ve watched the show on TV since I was a kid and I feel empty inside if I miss a show. I’ve taken the online qualification quiz three times trying to become a contestant on the show. You have about 35 random, general knowledge questions and you have just 15 seconds to answer each one. I haven’t made it onto the show yet, but I definitely intend to try the qualification quiz again at some point.

2. I’m a huge Star Trek fan! My first Star Trek memory is still very strong with me. I was six years old and I was taken to the movies to see Star Trek 4, the one about the whales. I remember thinking “This is great, I love this!” There are lots of different Star Trek themed shows available. My favorite of all the Star Trek shows is Deep Space 9. The stories and the characters were great, although I liked Star Trek: The Next Generation almost as much.

3. I have some Hillbilly in my family! My dad’s family comes from Kentucky, and my mom’s family is from West Virginia. I don’t have the accent myself, but just sometimes I find myself saying “crik” instead of creek, because that’s how my dad always says it!

4. My girlfriend’s cat loves me! I haven’t had many pets, but I loved my German Shepherd, Ibanez, who was a big part of my life between 1999 and 2012. Yep, I named him after a guitar. Nowadays, I’ve become a cat lover. Elizabeth has a Siberian cat, named Jake. He has long hair and long ears and he loves to sit on my lap!

My favorite food and dessert

I love the taste of cow, so give me a good, medium ribeye steak and I’m happy. The ribeye is a little fattier than other cuts and so it has a very buttery taste that I like. It’s good with a baked potato or sweet potatoes, and maybe with some broccoli or asparagus. Since I changed my dietary habits I cook chicken much more often than beef. I make my own lunches to bring to work. I usually start off by boiling some chicken breasts in water and with a bouillon cube, then I separate the chicken into shreds and then season it differently for each day of the week. I use spices such as cumin, turmeric, garam masala or sazon, and will often mix the shredded chicken with peas or carrots or corn or bell peppers. It’s tasty and healthy. I don’t eat a lot of desserts, but I do enjoy a cheesecake with strawberries.

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

I quite often find myself going to sleep at the end of a long day while I’m watching a Star Trek episode on the Pluto channel. It’s a free streaming service. Last night I was watching a really good Next Generation episode, the one in which Riker is tricked into thinking he has woken from a coma and that he has lost all memory of the past 16 years, and that he has a son he knows nothing about. It all seems to be a Romulan plot, but there’s an interesting twist at the end.

I’ve been playing the Star Trek video game for the past seven years and have used all kinds of starships, from the Enterprise C to Enterprise D and on to the Defiant from DS9. In the game, currently, they’re having a Red Alert event, and players have to complete seven tasks in 10 days. If you complete them, you can upgrade your ships with better phasers or photon torpedos, or new and better impulse engines. It’s great fun. The current Red Alert concerns a fight against the Borg.

Captain Bob is Joe’s alter ego in the Star Trek game he loves to play, here alongside his main ship, the USS Resilient. It’s a constitution class refit of the Enterprise D, ship registry NCC-1 (for you Trekies out there!)

I also love old movies. I watch Turner Classic Movies all the time. Some of my favorites are It’s a Wonderful Life and Citizen Kane. I also like some later movies from the 70s and 80s. I recently watched Dog Day Afternoon, with a young Al Pacino. It’s a great film.

I follow OSU Football and also the Cincinnati Bengals and the Cincinnati Reds. I wasn’t much into soccer, but my girlfriend is a big fan of FC Cincinnati, so I think I’ll have to get on board with the Columbus Crew when the next Hell is Real soccer conflict comes up between the two teams!

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

Metro Parks is a great place to work. I love being outside and we get to work outside nearly all the time. I love working outside even in bad weather. The parks have so much positive energy about them. I like that most people visiting the parks are having a good day, whether they’re here alone, or with a loved one, or just walking their pet. I enjoy the interactions we get to have with visitors.

Joe Goddard was talking to Communications Coordinator, Virginia Gordon

What Pickerington Ponds Manager Shelly Richardson says about Joe

“Joe has fitted in well with the Pickerington Ponds staff. He is always eager to learn and does not shy away from things he may not have much experience with. He has a great personality and is entertaining to work with. It will be exciting to see what the future holds for him and Metro Parks in the future.”

4 thoughts on “Behind the Parks: Meet Joe at Pickerington Ponds

  1. Back in the early 1970’s I hunted waterfowl and trapped muskrats, mink and raccoons on what is now Pickerington Ponds. We also ice skated on it and even caught Northern Pike fingerlings in the warm springs that did not freeze. I read an old newspaper clipping back then that stated the ponds were created by a coon hunter trying to “smoke” a raccoon out of a hollow tree in what was then a peat moss bog and it burned for days leaving the holes that make the ponds now. I am happy to see the ponds preserved as a public park for everyone to enjoy and not to be drained or developed. Thank you Joe for doing such a great job maintaining the park. Keep up the good work.

  2. Joe, You sound like a great addition to the Metro Parks staff. You have had a very interesting life so far and I am sure you will continue with that. I am rooting for you to get on Jeopardy – we watch it every evening, too. Thanks for sharing your story with us.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *