Until recently, a suspension bridge in the Ottawa County Parks system seemed like a pipe dream.
"When the master plan was created for Grand Ravines, those beautiful, deep ravines made it challenging to design a viable hiking trail system,” said David VanGinhoven, president of the parks commission. “We were fortunate to get a permanent trail easement donated by neighboring landowners, which helped in navigating the steep terrain. For a full loop, crossing a major ravine with a trail was unavoidable and a suspension bridge was added into the plan, knowing it was an amenity that may never be financially feasible."
Thanks to a generous individual, with great interest in the county parks' "pie in the sky" idea, that dream has become reality.
"Beatrice Aldrink Idema, known by most as Bea, has very generously donated the funds needed to construct a suspension bridge, allowing a trail connection between the north and south sides of the park," Ottawa County Parks spokeswoman Jessica VanGinhoven said.
Bea was in attendance at a small unveiling event on Thursday and was the first person to cross the officially completed bridge. She will be honored at the Grand Ravines dedication event on Oct. 5.
The Grand Ravines Suspension Bridge is 275 feet long and 70 feet in the air. It's believed to be the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in Michigan and perhaps the Midwest. It is fully ADA accessible, with paved, accessible paths leading to the bridge on both sides (both segments of pathway that connect to the bridge were covered by yet another donor).
The bridge was constructed by Anlaan Corp. of Grand Haven.
"We were incredibly impressed with their work and their timeline,” Parks Director John Scholtz said. “They completed the bridge in three months, right on schedule. It will be a great spot to see fall color.”