Stearns Creek Park dedicated to 'a man who loved his family'

ROBINSON TWP. — Ludwig Vollmer used to tell his children that their farm and 40 acres of land would one day be a park. That dream came true this week. Ottawa County officially opened Stearns Creek Park on Thursday with a dedication ceremony featuring several speakers, such as Ruth Smeenge, one of Vollmer’s eight children. Smeenge, 83, listed off her siblings present in the small crowd gathered at the park: Elizabeth, Ray, Stuart and Irene; as well as the three no longer living: Lou, George and Ida Belle. “And I know Dad’s looking down here with Mom,” Smeenge said. “They’re here in spirit, I’m sure. We come with beautiful memories of living here on this farm with Daddy.” The siblings had kept the farm for nearly 30 years after their father died in 1988, but in 2016 Smeenge called former Ottawa County Parks Director John Scholtz when her brother told her it was time to fulfill their father’s dream. “I used to hear Dad say, ‘Ruthie, I just can’t break this farm up,’” Smeenge said. “We remembered those comments and tried to honor them. In his last days, he said, ‘You’ll have to harvest the trees and sell the outlying property, but the farm goes last.’ “Well, Dad left us this legacy shortly after that. It was in 1988. I call it a legacy of love,” she added. “... It was home and we love the memories that we made here.” Stearns Creek Park is one of five county parks included in a larger project, according to Marjorie Viveen, who is on the Ottawa County Parks Foundation Board. “This park is a piece of a bigger picture, called the Grand River Greenway,” she explained. “It’s going to be 24 miles of wonderful paved, nonmotorized trail that goes from the county line in Kent County in Millennium Park all the way to Grand Haven State Park for you to explore. And in between those two park sandwiches are five now, five Ottawa County parks that will be linked by that Greenway.” The new park is already known for its diversity in ecosystems, with Stearns Creek and bayou, and both wetlands and highlands. The park has 1.7 miles of trails. Creation of the park was funded by a federal grant, the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund, private donors, the Ottawa County Parks Foundation and the county parks millage. The Vollmer family history will live on in the park and will be honored, according to David VanGinhoven, president of the Ottawa County Parks and Recreation Commission. “It’s an uncommon man who had the property,” he said. “It was built from love, a man who loved his family. So, for us, we are going to try to make sure this is (not just) a park, but a tribute to the Vollmer family. It tells a special story (and) we will try and honor that.” Smeenge says she feels at peace knowing her father’s dream has been fulfilled. “I feel wonderful,” she said at Thursday’s opening. “I wanted this to happen. It was very emotional, even today, and I know that when I walk this farm now, I’ll always feel like I’m at home. We’ve been blessed and my whole family knows it.”

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