Neighbors clean up Ferrysburg Nature Preserve

Marie Havenga • Sep 30, 2017 at 9:00 AM

FERRYSBURG — Some neighbors of the Ferrysburg Nature Preserve cleaned up debris in and around the 43-acre park Monday evening, after receiving letters from the city last weekend that they were in violation of a city ordinance.

In those same letters, Ferrysburg City Manager Craig Bessinger asked neighbors if they would be willing to volunteer to clean up the park.

Last week, Bessinger and Sgt. Jason Kik of the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office toured the South Holiday Hills property after a presentation by Grand Haven resident Mischelle Julien, a landscape restoration professional, at the City Council’s meeting on Sept. 18. She showed pictures of garbage, old tree stands, forts, household materials, brush and grass clippings littering the park.

Bobbie Twa, wife of City Councilman J. Patrick Twa, requested the presentation.

Following the presentation, council members asked Kik to walk the grounds. He did so last Tuesday.

RELATED: See photos from a walk through the park at the Tribune’s Gallery of Week, coming Monday evening to grandhaventribune.com.

As of Friday, both Bessinger and Kik said the property looks much improved.

“A lot of the materials that were identified in that presentation were taken out,” Bessinger said.

Bessinger said he has asked the city’s public works crew to start inspecting the property on a regular basis.

Kik said he will provide a report at Monday's City Council meeting.

“I can see (the neighbors) have definitely put a great deal of effort into cleaning up the property that the city owns,” Kik said. “As of right now, no citations have been issued. The people I saw out there (cleaning up) were people who volunteered at the meeting to do so, and they followed through on it, which we appreciated — and I think the city does, as well. It's a vast improvement from what I saw about 10 days ago.”

Much of the election season chaos seems to be swirling around the Ferrysburg Nature Preserve. Neighbors, and City Councilwoman and mayoral candidate Regina Sjoberg, strongly support keeping the park as-is.

The other candidate for mayor, Councilwoman Rebecca Hopp, is not as passionate about the park. She has questioned in the past if the property should be considered a park.

Supporters of those candidates have been taking jabs at each other over the park leading up to the Nov. 7 election.


Lisa Royce, a strong supporter of the park, questions the timing of Julien’s presentation and the letters from the city manager.


“Why now?” she asked, adding that some of the debris had been there since the neighborhood was built in the early 1960s. “Here we are just trying to protect the park and we have City Council people trying to give the park a black eye. My grandfather always told me, 'Can't fight City Hall.' Now I know why — because they retaliate.”

Royce said several neighbors spent a couple of hours Monday evening cleaning the park. They pulled out chunks of concrete, railroad ties which had been used to build a fire pit and construction lumber.

“For a 40-acre parcel that hasn't been officially cleaned up in the 54-year history of this city, it was in amazingly good shape,” she said.

Most items will be recycled, Royce said, and none will be put in a dumpster or landfill.

“They were acting like it was a toxic waste site,” Royce said. “We got two small trailers of stuff out of there. It's never been cleaned up by the city. Why are you going to follow an ordinance now when you haven't done it for 50 years? It looks kind of suspicious to me.”

Tribune reporter Becky Vargo contributed to this report.

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