Ottawa County mourns the loss of Peter Secchia

The Ottawa County Parks and Recreation Commission and Ottawa County Parks Foundation mourn the loss of former US Ambassador Peter Secchia, who was a long-term supporter and also a dedicated volunteer for Ottawa County Parks.

Over the last few years, Peter Secchia served as co-chair of the Parks Foundation’s Grand River Greenway Campaign, with co-chairs Monica Verplank and Samantha Verplank.

“Peter had such an incredible impact across West Michigan and was a force behind so many projects and for so many causes. We were fortunate to be able to work with him on the Grand River Greenway, and it was an honor for me to be a co-chair with him. He will be greatly missed,” said Samantha Verplank.

Ribbon cutting

Left-right: County Commissioner Matt Fenske, Judge Peter Versluis, Bea Idema, GVSU President Philomena V. Mantella, Ambassador Peter Secchia, and County Commissioner Greg DeJong at the Versluis GVSU Campus Segment of the Idema Explorers Trail ribbon cutting in 2019

The goal of the Grand River Greenway Campaign is to provide philanthropic funding assistance to help complete the core land purchases along the Greenway and connect them with a multi-use pathway, the Idema Explorers Trail, along the south side of the Grand River.  This trail will also link the trail system in Kent County to the lakeshore in Grand Haven.

“Of course, Peter did so much to help make Millennium Park possible and it was his dream for families to be able to bike and hike from Millennium Park to the Lake Michigan beaches,” said Monica Verplank. “He devoted a great deal of time and energy to make this possible. We are nearly to our goal and Peter is a big reason for that. Thanks in great measure to him, generations to come will be able to get out and enjoy all the incredible, beautiful parks the Greenway has to offer.”

The vision for the Grand River Greenway is to create a model ecological and cultural corridor along the Grand River. It will preserve significant natural, historical and cultural features as well as promote healthier, happier, and more vibrant communities.  

There are currently 9,000 acres of public land along the Greenway in Ottawa County, with 3,130 acres managed by Ottawa County Parks including 17 parks and open spaces. To-date, 13 miles of 36.5-mile Idema Explorers Trail route are in place, with additional miles planned for construction over the next few years. In addition to connecting 13 parks along the Greenway and connecting to Kent County, the Idema Explorers Trail will connect the GVSU Allendale campus to Grand Rapids and Grand Haven, completing the first non-motorized route between GVSU’s two river campuses (including the Pew campus in downtown Grand Rapids). The trail will also include key connections to a growing network of regional trails (over 100 miles) and will connect to the Grand River Heritage Water Trail.


Left-right: John Scholtz, Monica Verplank, Peter Secchia, Al Vanderberg, and Samantha Verplank at a Grand River Greenway event hosted by the Secchia Family

Next year, Ottawa County Parks is planning to construct the Jenison Mill segment of the Idema Explorers Trail from Cottonwood Drive to the City of Grandville, which will connect the growing Jenison area to the trail system along the Grand River in Kent County, with bike and pedestrian access to downtown Grand Rapids. The plan is to construct a “gateway arch” over the trail at the boundary of Kent County and Ottawa County, in honor of Peter Secchia.

“I worked closely with Peter on Millennium Park when I was at Kent County,” said Al Vanderberg, Ottawa County Administrator and member of the Grand River Greenway Campaign committee. “Peter deeply believed in making these connections to communities and opening access to our parks. I look forward to completing this section of trail and the arch. The arch represents things that meant a lot to Peter – connecting Grand Rapids closer to its neighbors, connecting people to Millennium Park, connecting to people to nature and the outdoors.”

Full press release