Ottawa County Parks & Recreation

Natural Resources Management

Invasive Species Management

Invasive species living on land (terrestrial) or in the water (aquatic) create issues on natural lands all across North America. Each species has its own arsenal, but all of them displace (or kill) native species and disrupt ecosystems. They threaten our forests and farms alike, creating ecological and economic damage.

Since the early 2000’s, the Ottawa County Parks and Recreation Commission has managed invasive species within its parks and open spaces. Initially, the primary target species was garlic mustard, but now our Stewardship Crew and volunteers work on a variety of species including, but not limited to:

  • Herbaceous plants, vines, trees, and shrubs like garlic mustard, oriental bittersweet, autumn olive, barberry, buckthorn, honeysuckle, and Japanese knotweed
  • Forest pests like hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA), oak wilt, and beech bark
  • Aquatic invasives like curly pond weed and phragmites

Volunteers and staff began by focusing efforts on areas that are high quality sites, such as Rosy Mound Natural Area, and on small new infestations that have the potential to grow larger. This technique is commonly referred to as early detection, rapid response (EDRR). Although, as the volunteer Park Stewards become more specialized, Ottawa County Parks is able to work on larger, more difficult to manage areas. Our four-legged crew, the Prescribed Browsing Team (eco goats!) help push back some of our worst areas.

Our team continues to be creative about survey and treatment methods for invasive species to best balance the resources we have available. To see the many ways Ottawa County Parks is managing invasive species, click here.

For more information about invasive species, or to report invasive species, visit MISIN or the West Michigan Conservation Network (WMCN).

Land Management

The Natural Resources Management team is working to create land management plans for every park and open space. The plans will document the physical characteristics, natural features, and any relevant history, as well as set clear goals for the future of the properties and proposed strategies for reaching those goals. Individual park plans will be components of the system-wide plan. Many informal plans have been created since 2011, but the current project will produce a much more comprehensive, system-wide plan.

Management plans are important because they provide consensus for parks staff and the public of our vision for the future for each property and also outline specific goals to pursue. They also serve as a benchmark and can be helpful for documenting changes that occur over time, both positive and negative.

Land management includes monitoring and natural features inventory (plants, reptiles, amphibians, birds, etc) to study the health of ecosystems at park properties. Other techniques are varied and include:

  • Invasive species removal
  • Prescribed fires
  • Removal of “crop” trees (such as red pine)
  • Restoration of rare ecosystems and species’ habitat
  • Replication/creation of rare ecosystems (e.g. Hiawatha Drain Project)

To learn more about how Ottawa County Parks’ natural resources management, click here.