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Ottawa County Parks & Recreation

Outdoors Ottawa County Winter 2014-15

Project Updates

Grand Ravines: Although the parking lot at Grand Ravines South was constructed over the summer, most improvements for the 187-acre Grand Ravines County Park will not begin until spring of 2015. Improvements envisioned for the site include a new entrance drive to Grand Ravines North (off 42nd Ave.) plus parking, picnic sites, hiking trails, a ravine overlook, waterfront access, fishing dock, interpretive signs, and a 7,000 foot paved trail connecting Grand Ravines North and South. Renovations are expected to begin soon which will convert the former riverfront residence on the property into a park lodge to host both programs and rentals. The structure will also encompass decks with dramatic river views and public restrooms.

Comments received at a recent public meeting helped fine tune plans for an off-leash dog park at Grand Ravines South. An approximately 20-acre fenced area is envisioned for off-leash dog walkers, with both open grass play areas and hiking trails. 

Pictured: The new parking lot at Grand Ravines South was completed in late summer. The lot was constructed ahead of other park improvements in response to a parking shortage at the site.

Black Lake Boardwalk: The new kiosk highlighting the rich history of the Ottawa Beach Hotel is well worth a stroll on the Black Lake Boardwalk. The now completed waterfront walkway along Lake Macatawa at Historic Ottawa Beach features a fascinating four panel historic interpretive display focusing on Hotel Ottawa, the huge resort hotel that operated on this site from 1886 to 1923. Audio on the display is powered by solar panels.

Grand River Park: An accessible kayak launch and water trail map are now amenities at Grand River Park. The seasonal launch is the fourth on the river and contributes to creating a recreational greenway along the Grand.

Grand Valley State University provided a boost to the Grand Ravines County Park project when it donated a trail easement of over 1,000 feet of property located adjacent to the park site. “The easement allows us to avoid a costly bridge over a large ravine as we link the north and south portions of the park with a paved trail. We truly appreciate the support of the University in establishing what we feel will become one of the most popular trails in the area,“ said Bobbi Sabine, Parks Commission President.

Historic River Road

Historic River Road is a driving tour showcasing interesting sites along the Grand River. The popular driving tour has been improved with better signs and updates to the tour booklet. The tour was the brainchild of local historian Marjorie Bethke Viveen. Funding assistance was provided by the Drake Middlemist Heritage Fund through the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation. Tour booklets are available for $3 from the Parks Office, the Nature Education Center at Hemlock Crossing, the Tri-Cities Historical Museum and other locations.

Hunting in the County Park System

Hunting is a time-honored tradition for many Ottawa County residents who can find a wide range of opportunities for their sport in the county park system. A recent survey revealed that Ottawa County Parks, with 3818 of its 6395 acres open to some form of hunting, is a leading county park system in the state in offering hunting opportunities. Ottawa County offers hunting on 60% of its park lands, compared to 25% statewide in other county park systems. Much of the land open to hunting in Ottawa County Parks is limited to archery deer hunting (2808 acres). The remaining 1010 acres for the sport are open to a full range of hunting within DNR regulations.

Determining how much hunting to offer and where to allow it is a delicate balancing act. The Parks Commission held a special meeting in September to focus on hunting issues. The meeting was partly in response to requests to open the Upper Macatawa Natural Area to waterfowl hunting. Currently the site is limited to archery deer hunting. After much discussion, the Commission opted not to change hunting rules at the park. Expanding recreational uses at Upper Macatawa Natural Area include the new paved bike trail, growing use by mountain bikers and local schools, and the increasing popularity of the site with bird watchers in the region.

On the other hand, the Parks Commission recently completed purchase of 46 acres to expand Grand River Open Space, now a 279-acre site open to a full range of hunting and known for good waterfowl hunting. The Parks Commission will also consider opening some of its more remote Grand River open space lands to waterfowl hunting over the next year.

Hunters unable to drive north to state and federal lands face declining hunting opportunities locally as suburban development has reduced lands available to hunters. Ottawa County Parks will strive to expand hunting opportunities when possible as it balances the recreational use of its park and open space lands. More about hunting opportunities offered by Ottawa County Parks.

Picture Your Kids with Santa!

Santa is coming to the Weaver House on Sunday, December 7 from 1-4PM.  Bring your camera to capture the magical moment when your child meets Saint Nick. Punch and cookies will also be served. The Weaver House is located north of Holland in Pine Bend Park. From US 31, travel west on Croswell Street to 156th Avenue. Proceed south on 156th and follow signs into the park. This free event is sponsored by the Friends of the Ottawa County Parks.

Natural Features Inventory Project

On October 1, Ottawa County Parks began a project to survey and document the natural features at six of its Lake Michigan coastal properties. The first step in protecting our resources is to learn what we have. Botanist Bill Martinus, Herpatologist David Mifsud, volunteers from the local Audubon Clubs and Parks staff will survey the birds, plants, reptiles and amphibians at Rosy Mound Natural Area, Hiawatha Forest, Port Sheldon Natural Area, Macatawa Greenspace, Hemlock Crossing, Pine Bend and North Ottawa Dunes.

Public involvement is a critical part of this project. Next spring there will be a Herpathon held at Hemlock Crossing to educate participants on herps (reptiles and amphibians) and get their help  to survey herps at the park. Additionally, there will be numerous public presentations next fall on what species were found throughout the project and recommendations on how to manage coastal areas for these species. We are grateful for a $35,000 grant from the Coastal Zone Management Program administered by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality plus funding support from the Ottawa County Environmental Fund, the parks millage and the efforts of numerous volunteers who are making this possible. 

Parks Staff Update

Scott Stinebower, Park Operations Manager, retired after a long association with Ottawa County Parks. Scott was a founding member of the Parks Commission in 1987 and then stepped down to take a position with the Parks Department in 2002. He rose to second in command of the Maintenance and Operations Division, serving seven years as the Park Operations Manager. Scott will be missed for his focus on quality and attention to detail. As Scott departs, the Parks Commission is happy to announce the promotion of Robert "Bob" Reichel to the Park Operations Manager position. Bob has served as Lakeshore Park Supervisor since 1996.  Congratulations to both Bob and Scott!

Special Thanks

The Nature Education Center received 50 pairs of Eagle Optics binoculars, thanks to several local community organizations. Ottawa County Parks purchased 25 binoculars with $2,396 in donations from: the Holland Audubon Society, the Grand Haven Owashtanong Islands Audubon Club, the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation, the Friends of Ottawa County Parks and the Nature Education Center Endowment fund. Eagle Optics matched the purchase with an additional 25 pairs. The purchase provides high-quality experiences and programs for both adults and children. These binoculars will always be available to borrow at the Nature Education Center. Stop by at the visitor services desk to borrow a pair.

Pigeon Creek: Hours & Ski Clinics

Visitors flock to Pigeon Creek when the snow falls. The groomed and lit cross country ski trails and two large sledding hills are the area’s best. The lodge offers ski and snowshoe rentals, concessions and warm hospitality.  Hours rely on Mother Nature, so it can be tricky. The hotline is always up-to-date. Call 616-738-9531. More about Pigeon Creek.   
New to cross country skiing or wishing to hone your skills? Clinics are held on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays during January and into February.  Preregistration is required and space is limited. The fee is $8 for the 1 ½ hour lesson. Skis are not provided, but can be rented at the lodge for an additional fee.  Rental is first-come, first-served and not guaranteed. To register, call 616-738-4810, sign up at the lodge, or email ocparks@miottawa.org. More details will be sent prior to class. Three levels are offered: Beginner, Intermediate and Ski Skating. 

Winter Open House

January 3, 1-4PM, Hemlock Crossing. Start the New Year with activities, music and refreshments at the Nature Education Center. Along with children's activities, there will  be display boards and staff to talk with about new developments and projects happening in 2015.  Local band, Moxie Strings, will be playing toe-tapping music as part of the entertainment. Watch for details in the NaturE-mail and on Facebook.The Moxie Strings will be be playing at the Nature Education Center open house on January 3. The group puts a fresh, enticing spin on Celtic and Americana music playing feel-good, toe-tapping rhythms.  

Snowshoeing at the NEC

Don’t let the snow keep you trapped indoors. The Nature Education Center has top-of-the-line snowshoes available to rent. The cost is $6 for two hours. This year, we have added 15 pairs of snowshoes designed for small feet, so parents can introduce snowshoeing to children as young as five years old. After enjoying time on the trails, warm-up by the fire with a cup of hot cocoa or apple cider that can be purchased at the gift shop.


Grand Haven High School biology students learned about the impact of invasives first hand by removing invasive honeysuckle and autumn olive from Hiawatha Forest. With over 230 students, they proved that many hands make light work!

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.