The Ottawa County Parks and Recreation Commission and the Ottawa County Parks Foundation reached an important milestone toward completing the Bend Area and expanding the Grand River Greenway
An agreement has been reached with landowners to sell 87 acres of former gravel-mining land in Georgetown Township. This acquisition is key to a long-term plan to develop a major regional park – the Bend Area – in the County’s most populous local unit and adds vital natural and recreational land to the Grand River Greenway.
“The Grand River Greenway and Bend Area are projects that have been in the works for decades,” said Parks & Recreation Commission President and Ottawa County Parks Foundation Treasurer, David VanGinhoven. “With this agreement, we have taken an important step forward in achieving both of these visions. The past few weeks have shown how critical it is to have outdoor spaces available, and that gives added urgency to Ottawa County Parks’ efforts to conserve natural areas.”
The purchase is expected to be completed in late spring/early summer and is funded by a grant from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund, the Ottawa County Parks millage, and $50,000 in funding from the Ottawa County Parks Foundation’s Grand River Greenway Campaign.
A Grand Vision
The vision for the Grand River Greenway is to develop a model ecological and cultural multi-use corridor along the Grand River. By supporting outdoor recreation, conservation, health & wellness, and economic activity, it is hoped the Grand River Greenway project will promote a healthier, happier, and more vibrant West Michigan community.
The Greenway vision will be accomplished by preserving key natural and recreational lands along the river and connecting them together with land and water trails (the Idema Explorers Trail and the Grand River Water Trail). Ottawa County Parks is currently focused on an effort through 2025 to complete acquisition of additional Greenway properties and construct the 37-mile-long Idema Explorers Trail to connect Grand Haven to Kent County, Millennium Park, and beyond. This is being supported by the Grand River Greenway Campaign, which to date has raised over $6.6 million of its $7.2 million goal.
“I have been a huge supporter of the Millennium Park in Kent County and I know that with determination and effort you can take a site like this and transform it into something great for everyone to enjoy,” said Grand River Greenway Campaign Co-Chair Peter Secchia. “At the same time we conserve properties like this, we will keep pushing to make sure that families from all over the region can bike and hike from Kent County to the lakeshore.”
In fact, a section of the Idema Explorers Trail that will connect the Bend Area property to residential neighborhoods in Georgetown Township is planned to be completed this summer. In 2021, another connection is hoped to be made that would directly connect the Bend Area to the Kent County trail system.
More about the Bend Area
Currently, the Bend Area Open Space has 263 acres of land, 9,907’ of Grand River frontage, and 48 acres of inland water features with 12,746’ of frontage. Once completed, the current acquisition would expand the Open Space to 350 acres, add 42 acres of inland water features with 9,829’ of water frontage, and add critical floodplain and wetland acreage– including habitat for State-Threatened amphibian species. This land would also connect directly to the “Moss House” property that was acquired in 2016 with the assistance of funding from the Ottawa County Parks Foundation.
Completing the Bend Area acquisitions is a key component of the Greenway effort. The Bend Area project is guided by a master plan that the Ottawa County Parks and Recreation Commission, Georgetown Township and a number of gravel operators in northeastern section of the Township completed in 2000. Under the plan, Ottawa County Parks are committed to acquire gravel mining properties once operations were completed and convert them into a park. This will be the fourth acquisition completed as part of the Bend Area plan. On April 1, a Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grant application was submitted to assist with the next possible acquisition.
The future Bend Area park is envisioned to be over 700 acres, to serve as a central feature of the Grand River Greenway, and to potentially include amenities such as a swimming beach, hiking, biking, a system of interconnected lakes for paddling, playgrounds, picnicking, fishing, as well as other recreational opportunities. In the short term, as with the rest of the Bend Area, the former gravel mining site will remain undeveloped. However, it is likely in the long term that this new site would include significant restoration to improve its natural and recreation value. Any improvements will be identified as part of a pubic update of the master plan when Bend Area acquisitions are completed.
Once this purchase of this site is completed, the new site will be opened to the public this summer or early fall with parking available from the current Bend Area lot at the end of 12th Avenue. The Bend Area Open Space does not currently have a developed hiking trail system – however, the open space is a popular fishing access, and the new site will expand fishing opportunities. While there are no designated access points, paddlers would be permitted park to drop in and access the water features. Archery deer hunting may be permitted in the future.