The park is located in the northwestern tip of Georgetown Township, bordering Grand Valley State University’s Allendale campus and the Grand River.
David VanGinhoven, president of the Ottawa County Parks Commission and a board member of the new Ottawa County Parks Foundation, said that when the master plan was created for Grand Ravines, the property’s deep ravines made it a challenge to design a viable hiking trail system.
“We have two obstacles,” he said during the event at the Nature Education Center at Hemlock Crossing County Park in West Olive. “We didn’t have the property to go from south to north, and there’s this big ravine in the middle of it that we had to get across.”
According to VanGinhoven, neighboring landowners Ray and Alma Statema donated a permanent trail easement, and the installation of a suspension bridge was put in the park’s master plan.
“It’s really the only logical way to get from the south to the north, but we really didn’t have the financial means to pull that off,” VanGinhoven said. “It was on the master plan, but it wasn’t really something we understood we could make happen. Well, we did find a way to make that happen.”
It was announced Thursday that Beatrice Aldrink Idema made a “significant major donation” of $350,000 to fund the construction of the suspension bridge at the Grand Ravines, VanGinhoven said.
“(And) there was another component, and that’s where Ray and Alma come back into the story,” VanGinhoven said. “The family donated the funds to create the pathway.”
The 250-foot-long, 70-foot-high bridge will be fully ADA-accessible, with a paved path leading to one side of the bridge. Construction on the bridge will begin this spring, with an anticipated fall opening.
County parks commissioners say the announcement serves to highlight how the new Ottawa County Parks Foundation can be used to enhance private money to enhance the parks system.
"The suspension bridge and the trail leading to it are a perfect example of how private funds can provide the margin of excellence to help the park system go from good to great," said Mark Oppenhuizen, a board member of the foundation and a founding member of the Ottawa County Parks Commission.
“There are many other projects that the parks foundation looks forward to focusing on in the future to enhance the parks system,” he added.
These projects include land acquisition, parks stewardship to manage invasive species, and working on trail and greenway projects such as the Grand River Explorers Trail, which is intended to link Grand Haven and Grand Rapids.
”While the community has been incredibly generous, we have learned that many people would prefer to donate to a nonprofit rather than a government organization,” said Tom Werkman, president of the foundation. “That interest is a big reason, along with many others, why the parks foundation was formed."