Stearns Creek opened to the public at a dedication ceremony on June 27, 2019.
Learn more about park trails here.
Agreements were reached with three landowners to sell 118 acres of land in Robinson Township at the south end of Stearns Bayou. This land includes 6,350 feet of frontage along Stearns Creek and will protect nearly 27 acres of high quality wetland.
The purchases were funded by a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program (CELCP) grant, a Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grant, and a gift from the heirs of John J. Helstrom through their donor-advised fund at the Muskegon Community Foundation. In honor of the gift, the new park will feature the Helstrom Family Trail System.
Donations like the one from the John J. Helstrom estate are so important to help the County Parks protect critical properties. Their impact goes well beyond the amount given, because they can leverage other public funding sources. In this case, the impact of the gift was multiplied over tenfold.
In order to secure the CELCP grant, Ottawa County Parks competed against proposals from the entire Great Lakes region. Similarly, the Trust Fund grant involved statewide competition.
The park features a small parking area, trailhead, and hiking trails. Future additional amenities that will be considered by the Parks include access to the bayou for fishing and kayaking/canoeing, an accessible crushed stone trail loop, and overlooks for birding and wildlife viewing. Archery deer hunting may be permitted in the future.
The bayous along the Grand River serve an important function in the life cycle of many species, including rare plants and fish. While much of the bayou land along the river has been developed, a significant portion of this property has not been impacted since the logging era. That is why the project received funding at a national level and protecting this land was a priority for the Parks.
The upland portions of the site include a former family farm. Restoration work on the wetland and farm areas will likely be undertaken in order to foster diversity and provide a favorable environment for native plants, rare and uncommon birds, and other native wildlife. There are also ravines with mature forest and scenic views of the Stearns Creek corridor.