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Ottawa County Parks & Recreation

Nature Education Center

8115 West Olive Road, West Olive
Phone: (616) 786-4847

Nature Center

Visit the Nature Education Center, located within Hemlock Crossing Park! The center has exhibits, a wildlife den with critters and activities, a wildlife viewing area where you can watch birds and animals at the feeders, and a gift shop. The center also hosts a variety of educational programs for schools, groups and the public. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 9am to 5pm and Sunday from noon to 5 pm. Directions: From US 31, travel west on Croswell Street to West Olive Road. Turn south on West Olive Road and travel a 1/2 mile to the entrance on the west side.

Facility Reservations

Please call the Parks Office at (616) 738-4810 to schedule a visit, inquire about availability and make your reservation. This packet provides critical information you should know before you rent, plus helpful considerations while planning your event.

School, Scout & Other Youth Programs

We believe children are born with an innate sense of wonder about the natural world! Using many senses, we help children unlock the mysteries of nature and science with hands-on, fun educational experiences. School programs enhance and build upon concepts children are learning in the classroom. Programs have also been designed for Scouts to complete their badge requirements. Custom designed programs are also available. Please ask Kristin Hintz for details.

Summer Day Camps

Registration is now open for summer day camps. Programs for preschool through eighth grade are available beginning in June running through August on various dates and times. Space is limited so register today by calling 616-786-4847. Fees vary and payment is accepted by credit card or check. Check out the schedule and register now.

Programs

Summer Calendar of Programs
calendar

View Calendar (PDF)

Preregistration or fees are required for some programs. See the descriptions below for details. Call 616-786-4847 to register.

Weekend Hikes

Take a hike with a naturalist and experience the sights and sounds of a variety of Ottawa County Parks. You may be surprised at what you see along the way. All of the Saturday hikes are at Hemlock Crossing Park.

Saturdays, 10-11:30AM
at Hemlock Crossing Park
July 19
July 26
August 2
August 9
August 16
August 23
August 3

 

Sundays, 2-3:30PM
July 20, Riley Trails
July 27, North Ottawa Dunes
August 3, Grand River Park
August 10, Grand Ravines
August 17, Macatawa Greenspace
August 24, Mt. Pisgah
August 31, Crockery Creek

Beach Zones

Various Dates, 1-4PM, Kirk Park. Enjoy the beach and stop by the Beach Zone tent to participate in activities designed to help kids enjoy and learn about dunes. Adults must accompany children during these activities. Free, however parking fees apply. Cancelled in rain or high winds.

  • July 19
  • July 26
  • August 9
  • August 16
  • August 23

Summer by Kayak

Various Dates, 9:30AM-12:30PM. Enjoy the sights and sounds of summer along the Pigeon River by kayak as you paddle the 3.5 mile stretch from Hemlock Crossing to Sheldon Landing. Return transportation is via carpool. Each trip includes a basic kayaking lesson. No experience is needed. The fee is $15 per person. There is an additional $26 fee for kayak rental which includes the kayak, paddle and life jacket. Registration is required. Details will be sent prior to the trip.

  • July 25
  • August 2
  • August 8

Beyond Bass-Amazing Fishes of Ottawa County

July 24, 7-8:30PM, Hemlock Crossing-Nature Education Center. Over 100 species of freshwater fishes can be found in area lakes, rivers, ponds and wetlands. Dr. Dan O'Keefe will share about the ecology and identification of these fishes including a number of lesser known species. Free, however registration is required.

Star Gazing

Various Dates, 9-10:30PM, Hemlock Crossing. Join the Shoreline Astronomical Association for an informal night with the stars. Telescopes will be available. Bring a lawn chair, dress to be outside and bring some mosquito repellant. If you have your own telescope or binoculars, feel free to bring them too.

  • July 26
  • August 23

Shorebirds Field Trip

Various Dates & Locations, 7:30AM-4PM. Shorebirds are on their way south for the winter. Intercept and identify a variety of them during this field trip to several sites. Free, however registration is required. Details will be sent to participants after registration.

  • August 22
  • September 5

Coopersville Bird Trip

Various Dates, 8-10AM. The Coopersville Waste Water Facility is a magnet for migrating shorebirds. This facility is not open to the public but has granted special access for the trip. Free, however preregistration is required. Details will be sent to participants after registration.

  • August 23
  • September 6

Lewis Cross, the Painter of Passenger Pigeons

September 4, 7-8PM, Hemlock Crossing-Nature Education Center. Wally Ewing and Marjie Viveen will present a program on Spring Lake resident, Lewis Cross. Cross made a living as a farmer, hunter, fisherman and taxidermist, but is best known as a naturalist and painter. Through his paintings, Cross warned of the impending extinction of passenger pigeons. Millions once filled the skies over Western Michigan, giving rise to place names such as our own Pigeon River. By 1914 the passenger pigeon was extinct, as Lewis Cross had cautioned in canvases large and small. They died at the hands of man, and Lewis Cross died at his own hand at age 88. Two examples of his work can be seen at the Nature Education Center.

Understanding Extinction

Various Dates, Hemlock Crossing-Nature Education Center. When you hear the word "extinction," do you think of dinosaurs? This term may ring a bit closer to home after hearing the story of the Passenger Pigeon and participating in activities geared to help kids understand extinction.

  • September 6, 1-2PM
  • September 7, 2-3PM

Passengers of the Pigeon River

September 6, 3-4PM, Hemlock Crossing-Nature Education Center. Do you know how the Pigeon River got its name? Hear the story of this once indescribably abundant bird and what led to its extinction 100 years ago this month.

Kayak Trip-Passengers of the Pigeon River

September 13, 9:30AM-12:30PM, Hemlock Crossing. Enjoy the sights and sounds of the Pigeon River as you learn about the history of its namesake. We'll paddle the 3.5 mile stretch from Hemlock Crossing to Sheldon Landing. Return transportation is via carpool. Each trip includes a basic kayaking lesson. No experience is needed. The fee is $15 per person plus $26 for kayak, paddle and life jacket rental. Registration is required. Details will be sent prior to the trip.

After the Harvest Hike

September 13, 2-4PM, Riley Trails. Join Natural Resources Management Supervisor, Melanie Manion, as we explore Riley Trails to see the effects of the red pine harvest in 2012 and restoration work in 2013. Binoculars recommended.

Coastal Plain Marsh Excursion

September 13, 6-8PM, Port Sheldon Natural Area. Want to learn more about one of Michigan's rarest ecosystems? Want to see if the plant meadow beauty is really beautiful? Join Melanie Manion for this off-trail excursion into the second largest park property. Binoculars recommended.

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.