The county’s parks system is just one source for people to get out and enjoy the natural world, offering experiences as varied as the North Ottawa Dunes in Ferrysburg to the Grand Ravines in Jenison.
“Between our more developed parks and more rugged open spaces, there are over 100 miles of trails in the park system, and they lend themselves to a number of different experiences — walking, hiking, biking (road and mountain), running, cross-country skiing, and some horseback riding,” Ottawa County Parks spokeswoman Jessica VanGinhoven said. “We seek to make nature available to everyone in the community by offering accessible trails.
“We are very lucky have a variety of scenery in the county, so our parks offer many different trail experiences — wooded dunes, ravines, restored prairie, wetlands — it’s all here,” she added.
And while the county parks system already offers plenty of trails, officials say their planned Grand River Explorers Trail will be an added benefit for residents and visitors.
“While there are multiple greenways in the county, our work along the Grand River Greenway has been especially exciting, and we are focused on the construction of the Grand River Explorers Trail,” VanGinhoven said. “When completed, it will connect 8,500 acres of public land between Grand Rapids and Grand Haven with a 30-mile trail.”
VanGinhoven said the multi-use trail will encourage users to travel its entire way on foot, bike or kayak, and will give people a chance to stop and explore a park in between.
VanGinhoven noted that trails offer more than a place for residents and visitors to explore and enjoy nature.
“We also know they are beneficial to our community’s economy,” she said. “People look at overall quality of life when choosing a place to live, and parks are seen as a significant part of that quality equation. Anecdotally, I can share that I’ve had a number of park users tell me they purchased their home to be in close proximity to a specific park and the trails they love — from North Ottawa Dunes to Upper Macatawa Natural Area. We are proud that every Ottawa County resident lives within 15-20 minutes of a park they can access every day, all year long.”
Grand Haven Area Convention & Visitors Bureau Executive Director Marci Cisneros echoed the ability for natural features to draw people to the area.
“The natural assets of our area are what attracts so many visitors and soon-to-be residents,” she said. “Being in town one minute and hiking through a small forest like Duncan Woods the next minute is very alluring. The variety of experiences available here also helps. Trail heads that start out rather unassuming but soon lead you through steep wooded valleys, followed by towering dunes and expansive beach scenes, are always popular.”
In fact, trails are a great way to explore and get to know an area. It is also a good way to stay healthy and get in those extra steps for the day.
Cisneros also noted that there are a lot of projects underway in Northwest Ottawa County to expand access to trails.
“Spring Lake Township has been very aggressive with their recreational trails in recent years,” she said. “Lukas Hill, community development director, has been a leader in envisioning, funding, building and connecting the recreational trails in the Spring Lake area to those in neighboring communities.”
The community is fortunate to have a great team at Ottawa County Parks & Recreation developing and maintaining parkland over the years, Cisneros said.
“Research and planning years in advance is, in part, why we have such a wonderful parks and trail system,” she said. “It is also because of the continued support of the resident voters and private donations that our parks and trail system continues to develop into one of the best in the Midwest.”