FERRYSBURG — Despite the cooler weather and rain, a crowd gathered at the Ottawa Sands county park for a dedication ceremony Tuesday.

The Ottawa County Parks system has been working since 2017 to acquire this 345-acre property off North Shore Drive in Ferrysburg.

“This was an $11 million project. It adds a piece to the puzzle,” said Jason Shamblin, director of the county parks system, noting in acquiring Ottawa Sands, the county has connected a publicly owned lakeshore corridor from the Grand River to Muskegon. “This could not be possible without partnerships.”

When the land came up for sale from the previous owner Gaylen Byker, with 25 percent of the property donated, the county parks department applied for a Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grant for half of the funding necessary to purchase it. The Land Conservancy of West Michigan secured a low-interest loan for the remainder of the bill.

Ottawa Sands was opened to the public in October 2018. In late July of this year, the acquisition of the property was complete with a second Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grant and private dollars raised by the Land Conservancy of West Michigan. 

“It seems that, 18 months ago, this beautiful piece of land wasn’t on anyone’s radar,” said Joe Engel, executive director of the Land Conservancy of West Michigan. 

On Tuesday, groups of people walked along the lakeside, picked up a few fishing lessons, participated in nature hikes, and learned about Ottawa Sands’ history and natural and invasive flora and fauna.

“This truly is what conservation in Michigan looks like,” said Sam Cummings, board member of the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund. “This is what the Trust Fund was created for.”

The park’s master planning phase was kicked off during Tuesday’s event. Public input meetings are tentatively set for February. For more information, visit miOttawa.org/Parks.

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