Ottawa Sands Closed for Construction & Ecological Restoration

Ottawa Sands County Park is currently closed to the public. Anticipated to reopen in late summer 2024, the park is abuzz with new developments. In addition to the work that continues at the Idema Explorers Camp, major construction has commenced on the day-use area parking lot and modern restroom, paved loop path around the lake, and ecological enhancements at the lake and other restoration areas in the park. All these activities make the park unsuitable for public use at this time.

We are sorry for the inconvenience but look forward to opening all these projects later this summer. For announcements on when the park will reopen and when camp reservations will be taken, please follow us on Facebook

Ottawa Sands Master Plan

Work is underway on access improvements and ecological enhancements at Ottawa Sands. These projects are expected to continue through 2024 as part of a nearly $8 million effort to begin implementation of the Ottawa Sands Master Plan. This work is in various stages of design and construction and is intended to ensure that people of all ages and abilities can enjoy the sublime experience of this park. When completed, these projects will help to ensure that Ottawa Sands remains a distinctive and timeless place.

About the Master Plan

Overuse and overdevelopment were identified as top concerns during the Master Plan’s community engagement process. With this in mind, efforts were made to craft a balanced Master Plan that maintains the serene aesthetic features of the site while also enhancing ecological health and expanding access.

  • Restoration and enhancements will happen on 238 acres.
    • 69% of the site in total will be restored and enhanced.
    • Active ecological enhancements will happen on at least 26 acres (8% of site).
  • There will be limited areas of active recreational improvements.
    • Only 8% of the site is proposed for improvements.
  • Enhancements will integrate high performance green infrastructure which will benefit the ecological health of the park. 

Projects Underway

Improving Accessibility

Ottawa County Parks was recommended for a Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grant and a Land and Water Conservation Fund grant for two complementary projects to establish a “day-use” area at the northeast corner of the Ottawa Sands lake and to construct an accessible pathway around the lake. Work will begin in spring of 2024 on the following features: 

  • Parking area with ADA spaces and modern restroom

    Restoration work will begin this spring to enhance 3,300′ of lake shoreline along the Ottawa Sands lake to improve habitat and stabilize the shoreline. Picture courtesy of Andrew Roszkowski from the Department of Strategic Impact.

  • Scenic views of lake 
  • Paved 1.6-mile “Lake Loop” trail around lake 
  • Accessible benches 

Restoration Efforts

While undeniably a beautiful aesthetic experience, 188 acres of the park have been significantly disturbed by the previous sand mining operations and are not functioning as intact natural communities, including the manmade mined lake. In collaboration with Audubon Great Lakes and MDNR, with funding from the Sustain our Great Lakes program and the Fisheries Habitat Grant program, design work is underway on ecological enhancements.

  • Convert six-acre area of filled-in mining lagoon to dunal wetland 
  • Enhance 3,300’ of lake shoreline to improve habitat and stabilize shoreline  

Idema Explorers Camp

Construction has commenced on the Idema Explorers Camp! This project was made possible through a $3.48 million gift from the Bill and Bea Idema Foundation. The campground will feature three treehouses, five yurts, and 10 tent pads. Treehouses and yurts are expected to be available by late 2024 for overnight stays. Reservations will not be accepted until there is an exact open date. We will announce any new information on our Facebook as it becomes available.

The current construction project will include the following amenities:

Paved access to the Idema Explorers Camp. Picture courtesy of Andrew Roszkowski from the Department of Strategic Impact.

Access improvements 

  • Paved non-motorized pathway access from North Shore Drive to the lake loop
  • Paved access drive from North Shore Drive to Idema Explorers Camp 
  • Vehicle parking and bicycle loops 
  • Universally accessible kayak launch at “the Sag” with access to Grand River

Idema Explorers Camp 

  • Construction of ten camp sites, five yurts, and three treehouses 
  • Conversion of former mining office to “Welcome Center” 
  • Accessible pathway around the camp with scenic views of the Grand River 
  • Camp restroom with sustainable design features

Utilities 

  • Buried electric lines and public water 

 

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