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Ottawa County Parks & Recreation

Outdoors Ottawa County Spring 2014

Controlling garlic mustard has protected beautiful wildflowers like these trout lilies and cut leaved toothwort at Hager Park.

An Invasive Species Success Story

The Ottawa County Parks and Recreation Commission strives to maintain or enhance the ecological health of its  properties.  In 2001, before most people had heard of garlic mustard, Parks staff took on the task of managing this pernicious invasive.  Eleven parks were surveyed for garlic mustard.  Only a few had garlic mustard, and those were treated by park staff and volunteers.

However, the staff at the time knew this was a long-term project since garlic mustard seeds stay viable for at least twelve years in the soil.  Thirteen years later, we are annually removing garlic mustard.  Our efforts have changed to keep up with the prolific nature of this invasive.  We now have a dedicated Stewardship Crew that pulls, herbicides, and even burns garlic mustard.  Although we are still treating many of the same sites as in 2001, we have several exciting accomplishments. 

First, we continually catch new infestations at many of our parks, like Rosy Mound and North Ottawa Dunes, before they can ever establish.  Next, we have protected the beautiful wildflowers at Tunnel and Hager Parks from the habitat degradation caused by garlic mustard.  Finally, we have eradicated several populations of garlic mustard from parks, including Kirk Park.

Last year OCPRC was able to boast more acres “garlic mustard free” than any other organization in the state through the Stewardship Network’s Garlic Mustard Challenge.  This would not be possible if not for the years of dedication of the Parks staff and volunteers.  Thank you to everyone who has pulled a garlic mustard plant on our properties or one of their own.  Please join us this year to continue the annual tradition of pulling garlic mustard as well as other service projects listed below. 

Garlic Mustard Pulls:
April 19, 10am-12pm, Pine Bend (Meet at Hemlock Crossing-Nature Education Center)
May 3, 10am-12pm, Hager Park
May 8, 6-8pm, Historic Ottawa Beach Parks
May 10, 10am-12pm, Tunnel Park

Spotted Knapweed Pulls at Rosy Mound:                       
May 31, 10am-12pm, Rosy Mound                         
June 5, 6-8pm, Rosy Mound

Native Landscaping:
May 17, 10am-12pm, Hemlock Crossing

All Aboard!

Save the date of May 15 for a scenic, informative excursion on the Grand Lady Paddlewheel boat.  Speakers will acquaint you with the special features and landmarks of the Grand River.  You will enjoy time on the water in a peaceful setting, viewing wildlife along the river corridor.  Two trips are being offered: 1:30pm and 4pm at $10/person.  Both trips begin and end at Grand River Park. Reserve your spot at www.friendsofocp.org.  Rain or shine, don’t miss this delightful event!

Save the Dates:

  • The Weaver House will be open to the public for tours on the third Sundays of May through August from 1 to 4pm.  A guide will offer history of the house and park.  This is a great opportunity to see the breathtaking improvements recently made to the grounds.
  • A Community Picnic is scheduled for June 22 at Connor  Bayou.  Details forthcoming.
  • Family Fishing Days will again be offered at various parks during the summer.  Details forthcoming.

A kiosk will highlight the rich history of the site including the story of the Ottawa Beach Hotel.

Historic Ottawa Beach Waterfront Walkway

Scheduled to start construction in early 2014, this project will provide the final link in a continuous waterfront walkway along the Lake Macatawa shoreline and Ottawa Beach Road.  The new segment is also one of the final puzzle pieces in completing the park master plan for the Historic Ottawa Beach Parks, a project which has been the focus of county and state park leaders for over two decades. 

When completed, a combination of wooden boardwalks and concrete walkways will connect the Holland Harbor Fishing Project (completed in 2011) eastward to the existing Black Lake Boardwalk parking area, adjacent to the  Holland Coast Guard Station.  Altogether, the project will more than double the length of pedestrian trail along the lakefront to over 2400 linear feet while connecting to Holland State Park’s Lake Michigan beach.  Amenities in the project include benches, overlooks, a special wildlife and lake activity observation deck with permanent spotting scope and an interpretive kiosk.  The kiosk will highlight the rich history of the site including the story of the Ottawa Beach Hotel, a huge wooden structure that flourished as a major tourist destination in the early 20th century before burning down in 1923.

Funded by parks millage funds and $300,000 from a Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grant, the $600,000 project is scheduled for completion in mid-summer 2014.

Grand River Ravines Update

A charming covered bridge at Grand River Ravines.

One way or another, the Parks Commission is committed to finding a way to fund a first-phase improvement project at Grand River Ravines over the next two years.  The Commission was disappointed to learn recently that its grant proposal to the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund was unsuccessful.  Considered one of the most scenic properties in the park system, the 187-acre Grand River Ravines is currently unimproved.  Acquisition was completed in 2012 and a master plan was approved for the new park in February of 2013.  If possible, the Parks Commission would like to have the park open and operational with parking areas, trails and other features in 2015.

Park Commissioners discussed the new park at their January 2014 meeting and agreed to realign priorities to free up funds for the project.  Additional funds will still be needed and Parks Commissioners are hoping to get support from private donors.  “There are some unique opportunities for donors to contribute to some exceptional amenities in this park and earn naming rights as a result,” said Bobbi Jones Sabine, Parks Commission President.  Project examples include the park lodge (former residence) which sits on a high bluff overlooking the river and a planned “treehouse” ravine overlook.

One part of the project that will move forward sooner than other improvements is construction of a parking area on the southern portion of the site on Fillmore Street.  A historic barn along with trails draws enough visitors that the small existing parking area is insufficient.  Plans call for an 80 car parking lot with rustic toilets to be constructed as soon as possible this spring with park funds.  The parking lot is part of the master plan and will support future facilities in that location as well including a dog park and picnic shelter.

Ottawa County Parks Nature Center Gets Techy

Using GeLo, visitors can enjoy a guided bird tour, complete with audio of songs and calls.

The Nature Education Center is offering a new type of interactive experience.  Now with an app from GeLo, visitors can enjoy a guided bird tour—complete with audio of songs and calls—even if the feeders are devoid of feathered friends.   “Eight beautifully carved birds were donated by local artist Michael Vanhouzen, and strategically placed around the exhibit area,” said Parks Naturalist, Kristen Hintz. “We worked with GeLo to develop a bird tour that enables visitors to learn more about the life history, songs and calls of these birds.”

The technology developed by GeLo, utilizes proprietary Bluetooth Smart Beacons combined with the company’s content management system and mobile device app.  With beacons placed by each bird, the GeLo system creates a signal zone.  When a visitor enters the signal zone, the Bluetooth signal triggers the GeLo app on their mobile device bringing up the interpretive text, photo and audio clip of the bird in the zone.  Currently, the application is available for download through the App Store for the iPhone and iPad only.  Those without such a device can use the technology as well:  A loaner iPad will be available for visitors to use.

The Parks’ Nature Education Center is located within Hemlock Crossing Park in West Olive, Michigan at 8115 West Olive Road.  From US-31, travel west on Croswell Street to West Olive Road.  Go south on West Olive Road along the train tracks to the entrance.  The facility has exhibits, a wildlife den full of engaging activities, windows overlooking a wildlife viewing area plus friendly naturalists available to answer questions.  The Nature Education Center is open Tuesday through Saturday, 9am to 5pm and Sunday 12 to 5 pm.  The center hosts a variety of educational programs for the public, schools and other groups.

Staff Update

The Parks Commission and staff bid farewell to Dave Mazurek who retired in late November after 25 years of service as the Coordinator of Park Maintenance and Operations.  We will miss Dave’s innovative approach to problems, his commitment to excellence  and his sense of humor.  The Parks Commission is pleased to announce the hiring of Jason Boerger to the Coordinator position vacated by Dave.  Jason most recently served a year as Executive Director of Wildlife Prairie Park in Illinois and, prior to that, served 10 years as the Chief of Operations for Metro Parks of Butler County in Ohio.  The Parks Commission and staff are pleased to welcome Jason to the team.

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.