Late last week, Ottawa County closed on the purchase of 80 acres of Spring Lake Township-owned wooded dune land that will become part of North Ottawa Dunes Park.
Last fall, the Spring Lake Township Board approved an agreement with local developer David C. Bos that essentially swaps 80 acres of land commonly known as the Brill property with 100 acres of then-township-controlled land surrounding Lake Hills Elementary School off 180th Avenue.
As part of the agreement, the county will pay Bos $400,000 from parks millage money. The developer will construct a road off 180th Avenue that will also serve as a second entrance to North Ottawa Dunes. He will also bring sewer to North Holiday Hills, a residential area still serviced by septic tanks.
Bos will also purchase the 20-acre Hammond property, which is contiguous to the 100 acres surrounding Lake Hills Elementary School.
“It made so much more sense to have that part (Brill property) be part of the park,” Township Supervisor John Nash said. “David Bos is a very good developer. I think we can be confident he'll develop something that will be a place a lot of people will want to live. It will be a great thing every way you look at it, and the 80 acres will be part of the park for the rest of time. They're not making any more sand dunes.”
Nash called the swap a win-win-win, but said some people voiced opposition.
“Some people were saying we were selling park property,” he said. “We're trading park property for park property. Our 100 acres was just sitting there. I was always concerned about liability. People hunt there and ride motorcycles there. Now, it's secure.
“I don't spend 11 years on a project I don't think is very, very worthwhile.”
County Parks Director John Scholtz said he's glad the long-term plan finally came to fruition.
The acquisition boosts the total park area to nearly 600 acres.
"This expansion has been part of our planning for some time now and we couldn't be more pleased to complete this park,” Scholtz said. “We also want to recognize all of the effort John Nash ... and his board have made over the years to help secure this land for the public.”
In a whirlwind fundraising effort, the community raised $1.35 million in private donations in a matter of weeks. This, with a $3.9 million Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grant, $1.85 million from the county parks millage and $600,000 in donated value from Northern Trails Development Corp. allowed the county to acquire the property in late 2005.
North Ottawa Dunes includes 502 acres in Spring Lake Township and 78 acres in the City of Ferrysburg. The park extends north about 2 miles from the county's North Beach Park in Ferrysburg to P.J. Hoffmaster State Park in Norton Shores.
The property trade, along with the township donating the Brill property, has been in the works for more than 10 years. But when the real estate market stalled in the mid-2000s, so did the plans for the trade.
Scholtz said because of its location and natural features, the Brill property has been considered a “key segment” for more than a decade. He said the property is worth much more than the $400,000 in millage money being paid as part of the agreement.
“We'll end up with a piece of property valued at ... over $1 million,” Scholtz said.
Discussions were so serious a decade ago that the county included the Brill property in its 2007 Master Plan.
“It is such a key piece in terms of the trails and how they function in the park,” Scholtz said. “Right now, the terrain can be challenging. This piece will allow us to have much better trail access in North Ottawa Dunes. In our Master Plan, we also call for another access point on the northeast side of North Ottawa Dunes.”