The Wege and Frey foundations contributed a total of $860,000 help build momentum for the Greenway Campaign.
County officials say that while recent gifts represent great progress, the campaign is still actively seeking additional partners.
“We are very thankful for the support from our neighbors in Kent County, and we hope to have more announcements to come in the near future, but our work is not done yet,” said Tom Werkman, president of the Ottawa County Parks Foundation and a member of the Greenway Campaign Committee.
Once complete, the trail will complete a contiguous connection from Grand Haven to Millennium Park in Kent County, and the recreational areas in between.
To accomplish this vision, Ottawa County Parks plans to acquire 700 acres of additional land and construct 27 miles of new trail, with 13 miles of the trail along or near the river or other water features. This will require $21 million in funding, with the parks foundation seeking $7.2 million in philanthropic gifts to leverage anticipated public funding.
“The show of support from Kent County donors demonstrates that the Grand Rapids-area philanthropic community understands the regional value and impact of our vision,” said Peter Secchia, co-chairperson of the Grand River Greenway Campaign Committee and a major donor.
According to a release from Ottawa County Parks, Secchia has long been interested in the revitalization of the Grand River as a leading contributor and supporter of Millennium Park, as well as other initiatives such as the MSU Gran Fondo, a fundraising bicycle race from Grand Rapids to the Lakeshore near Grand Haven.
“One of the things that I love about this project is not only that it will make the Grand River more accessible to thousands of families, but that it will also connect Grand Rapids and Grand Haven together with a river pathway route for the first time,” Secchia said. “People will be able to start from Millennium Park, travel from park to park, have ice cream or a burger in Jenison or Allendale, and end with a sunset on the Grand Haven pier.”
The regional impact is what drew the support of West Michigan foundations, officials say.
"The Grand River is an important ecological and recreational asset,” said Mark Van Putten, president and CEO of the Wege Foundation. “Improving riverside lands in Ottawa County and connecting them to Kent County will add incredible value to the ongoing work in Grand Rapids to restore the Grand River and the city's namesake rapids.”
While the campaign has successfully engaged donors, Greenway Campaign Committee members say broad community awareness of the value of the Greenway isn’t widely known.
“This Greenway, with its tremendous green space and natural wildlife offerings, will enhance the physical, mental and economic well-being of our community by increasing access to the river’s natural spaces,” committee co-chairperson Monica Verplank said.