Ottawa County News

Spokes Fighting Strokes

Spokes Fighting Strokes Grand River Greenway Event

July 25, 2021 (time TBD)  at Connor Bayou

Rain date July 27

Join us for a social ride and a dose of inspiration! Local stroke survivors can test ride a trike at Connor Bayou and along the Idema Explorers Trail. Following the ride, we’ll hear from Dan Zimmerman and how he’s changing lives across the nation.

Dan Zimmerman suffers from Hereditary Hemorrhagic Telanglectasia, a disease in which the lungs fail to filter clots efficiently. At the age of 41, the disease caused a stroke that damaged the left side of his brain, paralyzing his right arm and leg. Doctors told him he would never walk or talk again. After intensive rehabilitation, Dan was barely walking within a year, but severe aphasia kept him from talking. He continued to receive outpatient therapy at HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital. Dan found freedom when he bought his first trike and four years later founded Spokes Fighting Strokes with a mission to reach every stroke survivor and show them that recovery is possible!

Stearns Connector Public Comment August 12, 2020

The Ottawa County Parks & Recreation Commission is seeking public comment on the proposed route for the “Stearns Bayou Connector” segment of the Idema Explorers Trail in Robinson Township. This segment will connect Connor Bayou Park to the Grand Haven Township trail system. Eventually, the pathway will be connected to Grand Haven to the west and Grand Rapids to the east.

Public comments and questions will be received at a special public input session at 7:00 pm on Wednesday, August 12 on the patio of the cabin at Connor Bayou County Park, 12945 North Cedar Drive, Grand Haven, MI 49417.

For more information, call the Ottawa County Parks office at (616) 738-4810 or email us.

Bend Area Expansion

Update: March 3, 2021

Join us on June 11, 2021 (time TBD) to celebrate the acquisition of 149 acres of land at Bend Area Open Space in Jenison. This property is undeveloped now, but its future is bright. Attendees are invited to explore a newly developed hiking loop and an important Idema Explorers Trail connection. 


Update: November 3, 2020

Following the purchase of 87 acres of land to expand the Bend Area Open Space in Georgetown Township earlier this year, the acquisition of an adjacent 62 acres of former gravel mining land was completed in October. In addition to Ottawa County Parks millage funding, this expansion was made possible by a grant from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund, as well as funding from the Ottawa County Parks Foundation’s Grand River Greenway Campaign.

bend area map

“We are working to assemble and create another major destination along the Grand River,” said Parks Commission President Kelly Rice. “Each acquisition milestone gets us closer to that goal.  With its close proximity to population centers in Georgetown Township, we think the Bend Area could ultimately become one of the most popular parks in our system.”

The Bend Area Open Space is a key property along the Grand River Greenway, which is an effort to create a model ecological and cultural corridor along the river in Ottawa County. Additional details and background about the Grand River Greenway project and the Bend Area Open Space can be found here.

“We are working to assemble and create another major destination along the Grand River,” said Parks Commission President Kelly Rice. “Each acquisition milestone gets us closer to that goal.  With its close proximity to population centers in Georgetown Township, we think the Bend Area could ultimately become one of the most popular parks in our system.”

The Bend Area Open Space is a key property along the Grand River Greenway, which is an effort to create a model ecological and cultural corridor along the river in Ottawa County. Additional details and background about the Grand River Greenway project and the Bend Area Open Space can be found here.

The purchase of this land accomplished the following:

  • Increased public land along the Grand River Greenway to 9,127 acres, 3,130 of which are managed by Ottawa County Parks
  • Expanded the Bend Area Open Space to 421 acres
  • Added 23.9 acres of man-made pond area, for a total of 115 acres of water features
  • Added channel from Grand River to inland ponds
  • Added ecologically valuable wetlands and floodplain
  • Completed acquisition of all properties on the east side of 12th Avenue north of Taylor Street –Parks frontage on the east side of this road now totals 4,400’. Prior to the gravel mining activities, multiple historic family farms were located along 12th Avenue, and there is still an existing farmstead home (owned by Ottawa County Parks) located there that is over 100 years old.

It also provides additional hiking along the Grand River waterfront and allows for the future development of a marked hiking trail system approximately four miles in length, with a trail loop along the Grand River.

When this new hiking trail system is complete, Ottawa County Parks plans to integrate it with the recently completed section of the Idema Explorers Trail along 10th Avenue, Taylor Street, and 12th Avenue. There will be a grass trailhead parking area on 12th Avenue and multiple locations where pedestrians can enter the Bend Area Open Space to hike through the property.

“The Bend Area Open Space is not well-known yet, and even though it will be a large project for us, we haven’t been quite ready to promote it,” said Parks Director Jason Shamblin. “Now, with the added land, development of a preliminary hiking trail system, and the connection with the Idema Explorers Trail, we hope people will check it out and get a sense of its potential.”

Depending on situation with COVID-19, a dedication ceremony may be scheduled next spring to celebrate the expansion of the Bend Area Open Space, the new hiking trail system, and the newly completed section of the Idema Explorers Trail. More details will be released in the coming months.


April 15, 2020

The Ottawa County Parks and Recreation Commission and the Ottawa County Parks Foundation reached an important milestone toward completing the Bend Area and expanding the Grand River Greenway

An agreement has been reached with landowners to sell 87 acres of former gravel-mining land in Georgetown Township. This acquisition is key to a long-term plan to develop a major regional park – the Bend Area – in the County’s most populous local unit and adds vital natural and recreational land to the Grand River Greenway.

“The Grand River Greenway and Bend Area are projects that have been in the works for decades,” said Parks & Recreation Commission President and Ottawa County Parks Foundation Treasurer, David VanGinhoven. “With this agreement, we have taken an important step forward in achieving both of these visions. The past few weeks have shown how critical it is to have outdoor spaces available, and that gives added urgency to Ottawa County Parks’ efforts to conserve natural areas.”

The purchase is expected to be completed in late spring/early summer and is funded by a grant from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund, the Ottawa County Parks millage, and $50,000 in funding from the Ottawa County Parks Foundation’s Grand River Greenway Campaign.

A Grand Vision

The vision for the Grand River Greenway is to develop a model ecological and cultural multi-use corridor along the Grand River. By supporting outdoor recreation, conservation, health & wellness, and economic activity, it is hoped the Grand River Greenway project will promote a healthier, happier, and more vibrant West Michigan community.

The Greenway vision will be accomplished by preserving key natural and recreational lands along the river and connecting them together with land and water trails (the Idema Explorers Trail and the Grand River Water Trail). Ottawa County Parks is currently focused on an effort through 2025 to complete acquisition of additional Greenway properties and construct the 37-mile-long Idema Explorers Trail to connect Grand Haven to Kent County, Millennium Park, and beyond. This is being supported by the Grand River Greenway Campaign, which to date has raised over $6.6 million of its $7.2 million goal.

grand river greenway videoNot familiar with the Grand River Greenway or the Idema Explorers Trail? Learn more by watching this video.

“I have been a huge supporter of the Millennium Park in Kent County and I know that with determination and effort you can take a site like this and transform it into something great for everyone to enjoy,” said Grand River Greenway Campaign Co-Chair Peter Secchia. “At the same time we conserve properties like this, we will keep pushing to make sure that families from all over the region can bike and hike from Kent County to the lakeshore.”

In fact, a section of the Idema Explorers Trail that will connect the Bend Area property to residential neighborhoods in Georgetown Township is planned to be completed this summer. In 2021, another connection is hoped to be made that would directly connect the Bend Area to the Kent County trail system.


May 22, 2018

In December of 2016, Ottawa County Parks was awarded a Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grant to assist with the addition of 231 acres to the Bend Area. The grant will cover $729,000 of the $1,215,000 project, with the balance coming from the Parks Millage. Ottawa County Parks anticipated acquiring the additional acreage in fall 2017, but was delayed due to environmental work. That work was completed and appraisals are in process for the acquisition and will be submitted to the DNR upon completion. Acquisition is expected in the summer of 2018.

The Bend Area is a developing park project on the Grand River in Georgetown Township. Currently, the Bend Area is a 258-acre, Open Space property but could grow to over 700 acres and become a fully developed park with areas for swimming, fishing, trails for hiking and biking, boating, and many other activities. The Parks Commission has been working since 2000 to transition gravel mining properties in this area to park land as mining is completed.

Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grants have been hugely helpful to the expansion and improvement of the Ottawa County Parks system, and many other park systems in the state. We are grateful for the funding and the park development made possible through this program.

Eastmanville Connector Public Hearing February 5, 2020

The Ottawa County Parks & Recreation Commission is seeking public comment on the proposed route for the “Eastmanville Connector” segment of the Idema Explorers Trail in Allendale Township.  This segment will connect neighborhoods in Allendale to Eastmanville Bayou Open Space.  Eventually, the pathway will be connected to Grand Haven to the west and Grand Rapids to the east.

Public comment will be received at the regular meeting of the Parks & Recreation Commission at 5:00 pm on Wednesday, February 5 in Conference Room F of the Ottawa County Fillmore Complex, 12220 Fillmore St., West Olive.  Staff will also be available to review plans with individuals from 5:30 pm to 6:00 pm.

For more information, call the Ottawa County Parks office at (616) 738-4810 or email us.

Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund board recommends $300,000 for Grand River Greenway

The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (MNRTF) board recommended $300,000 in development funds to be allocated to Ottawa County Parks & Recreation for development and construction of a 1-mile segment of the Idema Explorers Trail in Jenison at their annual meeting in December. 

The Idema Explorers Trail is a key feature of the Grand River Greenway which is comprised of 9,000 acres of public land between Grand Haven and Grand Rapids. The preservation of this land provides scenic natural spaces and high quality habitat for both wildlife and recreation. Currently, 13 miles of the 36.5-mile Idema Explorers Trail have been constructed with another 12 being engineered.

This Jenison Mill segment will connect a portion of the Idema Explorers Trail along Cottonwood Drive to existing trail in Kent County. It allows users easier access the Grand River; great recreation areas like Millennium Park, which has 20 miles of paved pathway; and, many miles of regional trail, including seven miles of riverfront trail in Kent County, the Grand Rapids bike lane network, Kent Trails, and the Fred Meijer Standale Trail.

“One of our goals is to connect with neighboring communities and to connect to our waterfront,” said Jim Wierenga, Georgetown Township Supervisor. “We were excited the Idema Explorers Trail created a connection to Allendale last fall and look forward to connecting with Kent County, as well as to the Grand River. We are a community with a river that runs through it and that resource is often overlooked. The more the Grand River Greenway project moves forward, the more this asset in our community begins to capture the attention of our citizens. I get many thanks from the people within our township for the Grand River Greenway,” said Wierenga.

Other partners in the project are thrilled about this news. “We are working hard to raise the funds needed to make the vision of the Grand River Greenway a reality. Having the support of the Trust Fund and the community makes our work that much easier. We believe in what we’re doing, but it is great to hear that they do too,” said Bobbi Jones Sabine, President of the Ottawa County Parks Foundation. “Giving everyone access to the scenic spaces and connected trails along the Grand River Greenway will improve the quality of life for current and future West Michigan residents.”

More Recreation Opportunities

In addition to opening up recreation opportunities on land, it also creates more access for anglers.

“Connecting Georgetown Township and Ottawa County trails to the Kent County trails on the east side will provide anglers an easy path to access quality shorefishing sites,” said Dr. Dan O’Keefe Michigan Sea Grant Coordinator at MSU Extension in a letter of support for the project. “Certain areas are also wadeable in summer due to the hard substrate. Wading is very popular upstream in Grand Rapids, but virtually unheard of in Ottawa County due to the lack of access to rare hard-bottomed areas such as this.”

Read more about the MNRTF recommendations here.