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Ottawa County announces $2M gift for Greenway trail

Alex Doty • Jan 13, 2018 at 2:00 PM

A $2 million gift from the Bill and Bea Idema Foundation to the Ottawa County park system announced Friday will help shore up support for the long-planned Grand River Explorers Trail greenway project.

In recognition of this donation, the Explorers Trail will be named in honor of Bill and Bea Idema.

Grand River Greenway Campaign co-chairperson Peter Secchia said that Bea Idema is “a dear friend” and a “special person with a generous heart.”

“Through this gift, the Greenway Campaign has turned a corner,” Secchia said. “We are now much closer to achieving our goal of raising $7.2 million to expand access to the thousands of acres of land along the Grand River, protect additional land, and complete a trail connection between Millennium Park and the Grand Haven beach.”

With Friday’s contribution, the county now has $5.5 million, more than three-quarters of the way to reaching its $7.2 million goal for the campaign.

Others on the Greenway Campaign were just as enthusiastic about the Idema Foundation gift.

“Bea’s spirit — her love of nature, of sharing nature with others and educating young people — match the spirit and experience we hope to create with the Idema Explorers Trail,” Greenway Campaign co-chairperson Monica Verplank said.

Bill and Bea Idema provided support for the development of one of the premier Greenway parks: Grand Ravines. This includes providing funding for the Aldrink Ravines Overlook and $350,000 for a 275-foot suspension bridge — the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in the state.

The Greenway Campaign is the culmination of a 30-year vision to create a vast natural space along the Grand River and connect people to it.

Although thousands of acres have been protected to date, Ottawa County Parks plans to acquire 700 acres of additional land and construct 27 miles of new trail over the next five years. This will require $21 million in funding, with the Ottawa County Parks Foundation seeking $7.2 million in philanthropic gifts to leverage anticipated public funding.

County officials say an important component of the Greenway plan is to create a distinctive trail “experience” through way-finding, interpretive displays and possible art installations.

“It is really important that there is a strong identity on the Idema Explorers Trail and that the Greenway has sense of place,” County Parks Director John Scholtz said. “We want users to be confident of where they are going and know what amenities are available along the way.”

To help create an identity, Spring Lake design firm Concept A was hired to develop a trail logo.

County officials say the planned interpretive experience was an important factor for the Bill and Bea Idema Foundation’s support of the project. Ottawa County Parks plans to establish a team to assist with the design and development of the interpretive displays throughout the Greenway.

”Everyone feels it is important that we use the Greenway to tell the story of the Grand River from pre-European settlement, through the logging era and to the current time,” said Myron Aldrink, a member of the Greenway Campaign committee.

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