It’s true. We’ve been blessed with some of the finest beaches in the land. People come from miles around to visit our area.
My family has lived in this area for 29 years and the sight of Lake Michigan and its miles of sandy beaches still give me goose bumps.
But now I’ve become more familiar with other attractions in Ottawa County that also make this area a wonderful place to live and to visit.
My wife, Marilyn, and I have our two dogs to thank for our new awareness. We also have a guest dog that enjoys our long walks. We are temporarily taking care of our daughter’s dog.
We like to take the dogs on long walks on weekends to areas where we think they might enjoy. We have become regular visitors to Ottawa County’s amazing parks and open space areas.
Ottawa County has parks located throughout the county. There are thousands of acres available for such things as hiking, biking and horseback riding. Those who enjoy boating and fishing are also accommodated.
The county has done a splendid job of adding and improving the parks through the years.
I first met Ottawa County Parks Manager John Scholtz in 1996 when he was promoting a countywide millage to provide funding for land acquisition, improvements to existing parks, parks operations and development of new parks. He sold me on the concept.
Scholtz managed to convince voters as well. They approved the millage that year. A 10-year funding renewal was approved in 2006.
Scholtz and his staff have done a great job of enhancing the county park system.
Our first foray at hiking with our dogs, though, almost ended in disaster.
We decided to hike North Ottawa Dunes at the Coast Guard Park entrance. We were OK initially on our walk, but we misread a directional sign and found ourselves walking much farther than we had planned. Our planned one-hour walk turned into a two-hour adventure. We and the dogs were very tired by the time we returned to Coast Guard Park.
We have to admit that we just misread the sign. The trails are well marked.
We’ve since learned from our mistake and have the trails down pat.
Although there are some hills to climb, North Ottawa Dunes has become our favorite destination. We love the sandy trails and tree canopies. It is a very enjoyable park to explore.
Looking for some variety in our walks, we headed south to try the trails at Pigeon Creek, Pine Bend and Hemlock Crossing parks. All three of these parks are located about 10 miles from Grand Haven.
Pigeon Creek offers 10 miles of hiking trails through woods and along the Pigeon River. Biking and horseback riding are allowed on designated trails. There are also cross-country skiing and sledding areas during the winter months. Pigeon Creek is not as hilly as North Ottawa Dunes, but it is still very scenic.
Another one of our favorite destinations is Hemlock Crossing. It features more than six miles of hiking through the forest and wetlands. It also offers cross-country skiing. The trails connect to Pine Bend, which is located west of Hemlock Crossing. We like both of these parks because of their easy-to-walk trails and shady trees.
The nice part about theses parks is that there is no entry fee.
Whether you walk with your dog or a spouse or friend, you will enjoy these parks.
At this time of year, you’ll want to use mosquito and tick repellants. You’ll also want to wear comfortable shoes.
Marilyn and I have other county destinations planned. We also want to walk the trails at some of the open space lands owned by the county.
Our dogs love these parks. Marilyn and I do as well. All the walking we’ve done has helped me reduce my waist line to what it was in high school.
If you haven’t already, be sure to visit some of our wonderful county parks. We are indeed fortunate to live in such a great area.
— By Len Painter, Tribune community columnist