Grant secures county's Ottawa Sands park

Alexander Sinn • Dec 13, 2018 at 9:00 AM

The newest Ottawa County park is here to stay. 

A Department of Natural Resources Trust Fund grant was awarded to Ottawa County to purchase the Ottawa Sands property in Ferrysburg, cementing plans to enhance recreational opportunities at the unique site. 

Ottawa County originally requested $4.2 million, but was able to reduce the ask to about $3.8 million, which was approved by the Trust Fund Board on Wednesday. 

The county used a Trust Fund grant in 2017 to purchase half of the property, in partnership with the Land Conservancy. The new grant will allow the county to take full ownership of the park. 

“Everything just fell together,” said Ottawa County Parks Director John Schultz. The property had been on the department’s radar, Schultz said, and the timing was just right to make it happen.

Ottawa County voted in November to apply for a Coastal Zone Management grant to create a master plan for the site, including a campground feasibility study. The grant would provide $30,000 with a county match for a total $60,000 project. 

If the Trust Fund grant were not awarded, the county would have abandoned this opportunity. 

Ottawa Sands, which could feature a campground on 30 acres impacted by previous sand mining operations, presents unique opportunities for a funded plan, Schlutz explained. 

“It is such a special property that we want to make sure that we really are careful and know what we are doing with the future of the site,” he said.

The Michigan Legislature will include the Trust Fund grant in an appropriations bill. Master planning could begin in October 2019, Schultz said, and will go ahead whether or not the Coastal Zone grant is awarded. 

The park features 345 acres of dune environment including a 2-mile trail around an 80-acre lake and views of the Grand River. The lake opened in October to catch-and-release fishing, while more recreation options such as swimming and boating will be available to visitors in the future. 

The park is also home to a family of bald eagles, whose nest can be viewed from the trail. 

“The response we’ve been getting from the public that’s been out there hiking around has been super positive,” Schultz said. “People have been amazed how pretty it is, what a wonderful thing this is to have in their backyard.” 

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