The county voted unanimously on Nov. 15 to apply for a grant from the Coastal Zone Management grant program through the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. The grant would help the county initiate a master plan to develop a campground feasibility study and an ecological study.
The grant would provide $30,000 with an equal match from Ottawa County for the total $60,000 project.
While Ottawa County Parks & Recreation doesn’t always seek grant funding for planning projects, the site provides unique opportunities that lend themselves to acquiring these resources, according to County Parks Spokeswoman Jessica VanGinhoven.
“This is such a special site that we really wanted to have a funded plan,” she said.
A master planning process, which could begin in fall 2019, would include specific plans for a campground on about 30 acres of an 89-acre area of the 345-acre property impacted by the sand mining, VanGinhoven said. The park features a 2-mile trail around an 80-acre lake and Grand River frontage, and the majority of land would remain in its natural state.
The lake is home to numerous fish, and catch-and-release fishing is currently permitted. A fish survey from the Department of Natural Resources could open up other recreational opportunities on the lake, VanGinhoven said.
DNR Trust Fund
The county purchased the Ottawa Sands property in fall 2017 in conjunction with the Land Conservancy of West Michigan, which secured a loan of $4 million to match the county’s $4.2 million acquired through the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Trust Fund.
A second DNR Trust Fund grant is necessary to complete the purchase, and the county will learn if it has been awarded the funds on Dec. 12. With the funding, the county could purchase the park in full by this summer.
According to Land Conservancy Development Director Brian Obits, the organization has received $259,275 in gifts and grants toward Ottawa Sands, with an additional $40,000 grant award recently announced by the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation. This funding will help convince the Trust Fund to award the grant to Ottawa County Parks.
Land Conservancy project expenses are estimated at $200,000, including interest on the $4 million loan from the Conservation Fund that helped temporarily secure the property. All funds raised over and above $200,000 will go to reduce the amount requested from the Trust Fund to repay the loan and permanently secure the property for Ottawa County Parks, Obits said.
The Land Conservancy will continue fundraising until then, Obits said, as additional support is still needed to help ensure the Trust Fund votes to complete the project and protect the property permanently.
If the county is not awarded the Trust Fund grant, VanGinhoven explained, it will withdraw its application for the Coastal Zone Management grant.
“We will do everything we can to secure the remainder of the property,” she said. “We are hopeful we’ll receive the full amount requested from the Trust Fund, so we are able to complete the purchase this summer.
“If the project is not funded in full, I can say the Parks Commission will exhaust every avenue to find the funds needed.”
The acquisition of Ottawa Sands, a former sand mining site, came as a surprise to the county in 2017. A master plan is the beginning of a long term process, VanGinhoven said, and implementation may take place over 5-10 years.