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State recommends $5.3M in park funding for area communities

Alex Doty • Dec 9, 2017 at 10:00 AM

There’s good news this week for recreation and outdoors in our area.

The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (MNRTF) announced its annual grant recommendations to the state Legislature, with more than $5.3 million of the $40.3 million in grant funding coming to Ottawa County.

The biggest local contribution is a $4.2 million recommendation for the county parks’ acquisition of the Ottawa Sand property, located along the Grand River in Ferrysburg, on the south side of North Shore Drive.

“It is a fantastic piece of property,” County Parks Director John Scholtz said. “It would preserve this really tremendous corridor.”

The property is 353 acres, with 219 acres in designated critical dune area and 5,585 feet of frontage along the Grand River. The property has an 80-acre man-made inland lake.

Scholtz said he was surprised at the opportunity to be able to acquire the property, as it was a last-minute addition to the county’s round of grant submissions to the state.

“It came to our attention a couple of months ago that the owner was interested in selling the property,” he said.

Given the last-minute nature of the grant submission, Scholtz said his department had only a few days to put together an application and present something to the state trust fund.

“Because of the somewhat significance of this property, they felt there was a chance they would consider it even though it was after the deadline,” he said. 

At the end of November, the Ottawa County Board of Commissioners approved a letter of support for the acquisition of the Ottawa Sand property using a grant from the state trust fund, contingent upon the landowner donating 25 percent of the property value. The county would agree to pay the closing costs.

Scholtz noted that the MNRTF reviewed the project and agreed to fund it in this and the next grant cycle, with $4.2 million coming this year.

Scholtz said they plan to give the public a chance to comment on the grant and property acquisition at an upcoming Parks Commission meeting.

“We would consider that (feedback) going forward,” he said.

Here’s a rundown of the other local projects recommended for funding by the MNRTF:

City of Grand Haven: Sluka Field Restroom/Concession Building Renovation, $300,000

The city plans to renovate the 50-plus-year-old Sluka Field baseball complex on the east side. This project includes parking, walkways and replacement of the existing restroom building with a building that includes accessible restrooms and concession sales.

Crockery Township: Development of Phase 2c of the North Bank Trail, $300,000

The township plans to construct a trailhead and extend the North Bank Trail non-motorized pathway 1.25 miles from 130th Avenue to 112th Avenue in Nunica. Concurrent to this project, another segment of the North Bank Trail will be constructed as well as a connection to the Spoonville Trail.

When all of these projects are complete, the North Bank Trail will run from Spring Lake to Nunica, and then connect to the Spoonville Trail, which leads south across the Grand River to trails in Robinson Township.

Ottawa County: Stearns Creek Acquisition, $528,000

This will go toward the acquisition of 117 acres, with 6,000 feet of frontage along Stearns Creek. The property is located at the creek's entry to Stearns Bayou. 

The site features eroded bluff ravines, old-growth woodlands and pine plantations that would be converted into oak savanna. The site will be used for hiking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, wildlife viewing, canoeing, kayaking, archery hunting and fishing.

Ottawa County: Historic Ottawa Beach Waterfront Improvements, $291,000

The county plans to construct an accessible canoe/kayak launch, waterfront trail, restroom, paved parking lot and natural storm water drainage. The project will complete a long-term effort to expand waterfront access along the north side of Lake Macatawa, complete a pathway connection to Holland State Park’s pier, add a key access point to the Lake Michigan Water Trail and support the first dedicated Lake Michigan transient boating facility in the Holland area.

A total of 166 applications seeking $76.1 million in funding were considered, with all eligible applications being evaluated on scoring criteria developed by the state trust fund board.

The trust fund is financed through interest earned on funds derived from the development of publicly owned minerals such as oil and natural gas. Over the past four decades, the fund has granted more than $1 billion to develop and improve public outdoor recreation opportunities in all 83 Michigan counties.

The board's recommendations will go to the state Legislature for review as part of the appropriations process. Upon approval, the Legislature will forward a bill to the governor for his signature.

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