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Ottawa County Parks & Recreation

Outdoors Ottawa County Summer 2014

Going Green with Goats

Beginning in May of 2014, Ottawa County Parks is piloting an eco-friendly practice to manage invasive shrubs and plants: goats grazing to their hearts' content. Unlike other livestock, goats grazing on property prefer to eat woody, shrub-like plants and grow healthier and faster when they do so.

The idea to use goats grew from a need to control Oriental bittersweet, a pernicious invasive vine that can take down a mature tree! (Pictured) A group of MSU Extension's Master Naturalists researched and developed a plan to work with the local agricultural community to bring goats to three park properties with the worst infestations of Oriental bittersweet and other invasive plants: Eastmanville Bayou, Bur Oak and Riverside Park. Utilizing this innovative method reduces the need for herbicide application, is cost effective and allows access to locations where mowers or machinery could otherwise not reach. Following the summer of 2014, staff will assess the program to identify any unanticipated issues and then continue using the goats for two additional years for maximum impact. The cost for the project is about $5500 per year. A gift of $2500 was received from the Friends of the Ottawa County Parks group to support the project, and Parks and County Commissioner, Philip Kuyers, is donating the goats for the program.

You are welcome to come out and watch the goats; however, they may not be touched. A plant they may be eating includes poison ivy, which can be transmitted to humans from the goats. The goats will be behind electric fencing to keep them (and visitors) safe.

Ottawa County Parks uses a variety of methods to manage natural lands, including:

  • prescribed fires at Upper Macatawa Natural Area, Grand River Park and Hager Park to stimulate the native wildflowers and grasses;
  • weevils at Grand River Park to reduce Eurasian milfoil while protecting the rare Blanchard's cricket frog;
  • corps of volunteers who pull invasive plants with good old-fashioned sweat and manual labor;
  • a tree and shrub nursery to rescue and cultivate native, local genotypes for future construction projects;
  • a local botanist to create an inventory of plants and natural features within the parks; partnerships with the West Michigan Cluster of the Stewardship Network to make invasive species management sustainable; and
  • surveys all of park properties along the Grand River to determine if any contain suitable habitat for the state-threatened species of wild rice.

Join us for Stewardship Workdays

  • Hemlock Crossing, Saturday, July 12, 10AM-12PM
  • Robinson Forest, Saturday, July 19, 10AM-12PM
  • Bur Oak, Saturday, September 20, 10AM-12PM. Meet at the Oriole parking area.

Bring work gloves, insect repellent and appropriate outdoor gear. All necessary tools, drinking water and snacks will be provided. No registration required. All ages are welcome, however those under 16 must be supervised by an adult. Cancelled if raining. Call 616-738-4811 for questions.

Thank You Newsletter Volunteers

Four times a year since 1999, a crew of dedicated volunteers (pictured) has given their time to ensure you received your newsletter. To reduce costs, the Parks is changing the mailing process. Thank you to all of those who have sealed, sorted, labeled and otherwise assisted. We will miss the great table conversations, but are planning new volunteer opportunities for you in the future.

Park Motor Vehicle Fees

Revenue from motor vehicle permit sales helps us maintain high-quality recreation areas. Annual Ottawa County Vehicle Permits are now available for purchase. While most parks are free, parking fees apply from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day to North Beach Park (pictured), Kirk Park, Tunnel Park, Olive Shores Park and Rosy Mound Natural Area. With half of the lakeshore park visitors coming from out-of-county, fee sallow these users to support the park system since they do not otherwise contribute. A fee also applies to boat launch users at Riverside Park. Purchase permits now from Tunnel Park, Kirk Park, North Beach Park, the Nature Education Center, the Oaklea Store (near Riverside Park) or the County Parks Office (in person or by phone 616-738-4810).

County Permit Type Annual Daily
Resident $15 $5
Non-Resident $25 $7
Ages 60+ $7 $5R/$7NR

Active recreationists will want both a Michigan Recreation Passport and an annual Ottawa County Vehicle Permit. Michigan State Parks transitioned to the Recreation Passport in 2010 with hopes of getting 50% of Michigan residents to purchase a Passport for $11 per vehicle when renewing their vehicle registration. Statewide participation is currently around 28%. Higher participation is needed to adequately support the state park system including over 100 State Parks, 140 State Forest Campgrounds and a growing network of regional trails. Since 2004, the state parks have received no tax revenue and are primarily funded through user fees, so your support is important. About 44% of Ottawa County residents purchased the Recreation Passport last year. Holland and Grand Haven State Parks are two of the three busiest state parks in Michigan. Please note that a Michigan Recreation Passport is not valid at County Parks. Likewise, an Ottawa County Vehicle Permit is not valid at Michigan State Parks.

Open Houses at Weaver

The new Weaver House Garden Trellis (pictured) is a charming reservable site for weddings and other events. Open houses will be offered on the third Sunday of each month through September from 1-4PM. The historic house will be open and the gardens will be blooming. Thanks to Friends of Ottawa County Parks for hosting these events.

Pigeon Creek Run Under the Lights

Grand Haven School's Cross Country program is hosting the Pigeon Creek 5K Twilight Run on June 27. Funds from the event support the team. Learn more about the teams at rungrandhaven.com.

Trail Easement Donated

Ray Statema, current Parks Commissioner, and his wife Alma recently donated a permanent easement for 2,000 feet of hiking trail over their property adjacent to Grand Ravines. Grand Ravines, formerly called Grand River Ravines, is among the newest of County Parks located on the Grand River in Georgetown Township. The trail easement from the Statemas will allow a dramatic hiking trail loop to follow the natural contours of the rugged ravines which dominate this site. The Parks Commission is appreciative of Ray and Alma's support. The trail, along with the bulk of park improvements at this park, is expected to be completed in 2015.

Connor Bayou Picnic

On June 22 from 2-6PM, you are invited to a picnic. Free family activities will be from 2-4PM, including fishing, birding, a frog station and rides in the one-of-kind, 12 person Gabagouache canoe! Hot dogs, chips and refreshments (free!) will be served following a ribbon cutting to celebrate new kayak launches at 4PM. A guided kayak trip will depart from Connor Bayou at 1PM and return at 4PM to join the festivities. To take part in the kayak trip, call Lakeshore Kayak Rentals at 616-566-1325 to reserve your space and pay $25 for rental and shuttle service. The kayak trip is best for those 16 and older. We hope you can join us!

Park Project Updates

The 2014 season will be a busy one with many park improvement projects underway:

Historic Ottawa Beach Waterfront Walkway: Work on this project began in April and is expected to be mostly complete and usable by the Fourth of July holiday. Over 1,300 feet of walkway will link Black Lake Boardwalk East and West along Lake Macatawa, offering park visitors dramatic waterfront views along with historic interpretive displays, bird spotting scopes and sitting areas. The $600,000 project is funded with assistance from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund. Bids came in lower than anticipated which will allow for expanded work in front of the historic pumphouse structure located on the waterfront. Additional walks, landscaping and benches in front of the pumphouse will be completed later in the summer. Also, funds contributed by the non-profit Historic Ottawa Beach Society and their donors will be matched with park funds to begin restoration of the pumphouse. More details on the pumphouse restoration will be included in the fall newsletter.

Macatawa Greenway Trail: Construction of the long-awaited non-motorized trail through the Upper Macatawa Natural Area (UMNA) is expected to begin in July and be completed in November. The $1.85 million project will be funded with assistance from a $941,268 grant from the Michigan Department of Transportation through its Transportation Alternative Program. The 2.4 mile trail project, combined with an existing half mile of trail through the park, will connect the Fred Meijer Kenowa Trail along Byron Road to the existing bike path on Adams Street. The trail will run through the diverse habitats of the UMNA and include three large ravine bridges plus a bridge over the Macatawa River.

Grand Ravines South Parking: Major improvements are planned for Grand Ravines in 2015, but a project to upgrade parking at the south park access will take place in the spring. A 72-car gravel parking lot will be constructed on Fillmore Street to replace the very small existing lot located near the barn. A rustic toilet, trailhead and picnic tables will also be added as part of the $132,000 project funded through the park millage.

Accessible Kayak Launches: The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund is assisting with two universally accessible kayak launches at Connor Bayou and Grand River Park. The Connor Bayou launch was completed last fall and the Grand River launch will be completed in June. Join us to celebrate the launches at the Connor Bayou Picnic.

Parks Administration Office

Room 267
12220 Fillmore St.
West Olive, MI 49460
Monday - Friday:
8:00am - 5:00pm
Phone: (616) 738-4810
Fax: (616) 738-4812
In Ottawa County:
(888) 731-1001 ext.4810

General Park Hours*

March 1 - October 15
7:00am - 10:00pm
October 16 - February 28
7:00am - 8:00pm
*Some parks close in winter or have hours that vary. Select each park for specific park hours.