Twelve featured events, a speaker series and two permanent projects will make up a celebration designed to entice people to attend Ottawa County parks year-round.
The 2012 Grand River Greenway Parks Celebration kicks off Jan. 8, with Jigs and Jigsaws at Connor Bayou County Park.
The celebration concludes Dec. 1, 2012, with a Makers of the Grand River Greenway invitation-only event at the Grand River Ravines County Park.
In between will be a series of 24 speakers — 12 on natural topics and 12 on historical topics — at Loutit District Library in Grand Haven. The community will also be introduced to the River Road and Memory Grove permanent projects.
Chairwoman Marjie Viveen said the celebration is the result of a year of planning by a “supercommittee” of volunteers and Ottawa County Parks personnel, whose ultimate goal is to coax residents inland and to reveal the secrets of some of the “jewels” along the Grand River.
“It started with the Fountaineers (Central Park fountain),” Viveen said. “When we got done, it was like we were done with the project, but we weren’t done with each other.” So they said “what’s next,” she added.
Viveen said she’d been doing a lot of work with the Ottawa County Parks Department and was having fun discovering the parks along the Grand River — so she talked to County Parks Director John Scholtz, who asked her to write a proposal.
“I want people to understand the Ottawa County parks are year-round,” Viveen said. “Out of that came monthly events.”
Viveen said many of the county parks along the Grand River are “best-kept secrets,” so they decided to take the events from park to park. Once that was approved by the parks board, the committee was formed.
Viveen said the committee includes environmentalists, artists, public relations personnel and equestrians, along with parks officials. The committee meetings were held at the various parks, including inside an old barn at Jubb Bayou.
“I kept feeling something hitting my head and face,” Viveen said. “I looked up and saw hundreds of bats. ... Nobody was upset.”
Viveen said it was a pretty comical sight — everyone was sitting in their folding camp chairs, with their faces barely visible above the table, with bat guano on their heads.
But it was these meetings on location that helped the committee members see all the possibilities and come up with the right kind of event at each park, Viveen said. For instance, they looked at what kind of winter celebration they could have at the Jan. 8 event at Connor Bayou in Robinson Township.
“We can’t guarantee that there will be snow in February, and we liked the idea of putting puzzles together, so we came up with jigsaws,” Viveen said.
Publicity co-chairman Bobbi Sabine is in an Irish band, which will play at the event. That’s where the “Jigs” comes in, Viveen said.
Participants in teams of four will race against the clock to put together a 550-piece jigsaw puzzle — a limited-edition puzzle created for the event.
Every team that signs up for the event will receive a puzzle. The entry fee for a team is $40. Registration forms can be found at the Loutit and Spring Lake district libraries, the Tri-Cities Historical Museum, and the Ottawa County Parks office.
Also part of the event will be dog-sled running by Tundra Outfitters and Kennels, and a snowshoe event if there is enough snow.
Feb. 11 takes a romantic lean in favor of Valentine’s Day for an adults-only Ski and Smooch at Riverside County Park in Robinson Township. Participants will cross-country ski between stations which will include wine, chocolate, photos and drawings.
On March 2, “Seasons on the Grand,” an exhibit of art inspired by the Grand River, will take place at the Gallery Uptown and the Tri-Cities Historical Museum, both in downtown Grand Haven.
Two events are planned for April, including Grand River Green-Up at Riverside Park on April 21 and a naturalist walk at Crockery Creek Natural Area on April 28. Tours of cemeteries along the river will be held on May 19, and the Grand Lady paddleboat will provide tours of the Grand River on May 24.
A naturalist walk will be held June 9 at Eastmanville Bayou County Park in Allendale Township. Grand River water expeditions with the Gabagouache will be held on June 9 and 16.
A classic car tour of Historic River Road will be held on July 7. That will be followed by a “Jac Jungle” theme picnic.
Dedication of River Road will be done at the picnic. River Road is one of the two permanent projects being completed as part of the celebration.
Viveen said when it’s all done, there will be 42 blazes (numbers or direction indicators) placed on River Road, both north and south of the Grand River. River Road is Leonard Road on the north side of the river; and a combination of Mercury, Green and North Cedar on the south side of the river.
Anyone interested in touring River Road can pick up a brochure, which has descriptions of historic sites along the river. The descriptions are numbered, matching up to the blazes along the road. There is also a map in the brochure, allowing people to do a self-guided tour.
Two events are planned for August: a naturalist walk at Grand River County Park in Georgetown Township on Aug. 4 and a community picnic on Aug. 18 at Connor Bayou County Park.
A travel-at-your-own pace Poker Run Triathlon will be held Sept. 22. Participants will travel between Riverside, Bur Oak (Polkton Township) and Connor Bayou county parks via bicycles, boats and running. Speed doesn’t matter for this event, officials said; the best poker hand wins.
There will be a naturalist walk at Grand River Ravines County Park in Georgetown Township on Oct. 13. The same day there will be an equestrian-themed event at Bass River in Robinson Township and at Eastmanville Farm in Polkton Township — which includes a poker run on horseback, a cookout and a barn dance.
In November, the canines take over in a Bark for Life event at Crockery Creek Natural Area in Crockery Township. The party for dogs will be a benefit for the American Cancer Society.
And finally, the Makers of the Grand River Greenway reception will be held at Grand River Ravines on Dec. 1.
Viveen said they are partnering with a community group for every event.
Publicity co-chairwomen Sabine and Mary Elenbaas said they are enthusiastic about the potential to involve a wide range of ages and interests.
“The Grand River Greenway is a wonderful resource for our residents and visitors,” said Sabine, who also serves as vice president of the Ottawa County Parks Commission. “We are hopeful that these events will raise awareness of the recreation opportunities available all along the Grand, and the progress made toward protecting natural lands for future generations.”
The Greenway celebration is funded through the county parks; with grants from the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation, and from the Marion A. and Ruth K. Sherwood Foundation at the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation.
“None of this would be possible without their support,” Viveen said.
A complete schedule of events can be found online at www.miottawa.org/parks