Ottawa County Department of Parks and Recreation director receives MSU Extension Key Partner Award

John Scholtz, director of Ottawa County Department of Parks and Recreation, receives the 2019 Key Partner Award from MSU Extension during the annual conference held in Traverse City on Oct. 29.

Jeff Dwyer and Jon Scholtz

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. – Michigan State University Extension awarded John Scholtz, director of Ottawa County Department of Parks and Recreation, with a 2019 Key Partner Award on Oct. 29 in Traverse City. The Key Partner Award acknowledges those that have made significant contributions to support and promote MSU Extension programs.

For the past 30 years, Scholtz has served as director of the Ottawa County Department of Parks and Recreation, based in West Olive, Michigan. In that time, his impact on Ottawa County’s MSU Extension programming has been immeasurable. In particular, Sholtz has worked in direct support of Michigan Sea Grant, an MSU Extension program in partnership with the University of Michigan, for the past 12 years. This collaboration is gratefully valued by MSU Extension Sea Grant educator Dan O’Keefe, who nominated Scholtz for the award.

“We've done a lot with them over the years, everything from educational programming at their nature center, to developing a Master Naturalist program that helped train parks volunteers to take it to the next level of really participating in stewardship parks lands,” said O’Keefe. “It's really a one-of-a-kind park system at the county level in my mind.”

By incorporating O’Keefe’s presentations and educational materials into the park department’s nature education center, youth camps, volunteer training and riverboat cruises, Scholtz has been instrumental in helping MSU Extension to connect with a diverse audience of nature educators and enthusiasts.

“Well it's hand in hand, we're reaching out to the same people, the same constituents and customers,” said Scholtz. “We have the facilities and the parks and the educational component, and then utilize the professional resources that MSU brings to the table and their expertise.”

Scholtz’s longtime partnership with MSU Extension doesn’t end there. Most recently, Scholtz was the driving force that worked to connect MSU Extension programming on river ecology to local governments weighing the pros and cons of a developer’s plan to dredge and channelize the Grand River. It was found that this plan would most likely harm water quality, fish, wildlife and park property.

Scholtz was also instrumental in development of the Ottawa County Water Quality Forum, an annual meeting for local government leaders and environmental health. He has served alongside MSU Extension, Michigan Sea Grant employees and the Ottawa County administrator on the steering committee for the past 13 years. In addition, Scholtz has been a vocal supporter of including MSU Extension programming at the forum, helping to ensure MSU Extension was able to contribute on important topics such as invasive species prevention, threatened and endangered species, and the impact of river modification on water quality and parks property.

When new issues and topics come up, Scholtz ensures MSU Extension has a seat at the table.  Scholtz and his department have included MSU Extension in advisory, support and educational roles on numerous other projects over the years, including the development of fishing access and signage and education of county officials.

Scholtz received the Key Partner Award alongside four other outstanding MSU Extension partners. Partnerships are critical to MSU Extension’s efforts to help people across the state improve their lives by bringing the vast knowledge and resources of MSU directly to individuals, communities and businesses. To learn more, visit

CONTACT: Sean Corp,, 517-884-7083
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