Ottawa County Parks mourns the loss of Bea Idema

The Ottawa County Parks and Recreation Commission and Ottawa County Parks Foundation mourn the loss of Bea Idema, who was a long-time supporter of the county parks system. Bea leaves Ottawa County Parks with a legacy of generosity that will touch the hearts and souls of our community for generations to come.

“Bea had an adventurous spirit, a kind, giving heart, and an infectious joy. We will miss her dearly. She grew up in Allendale Township and often spent her childhood exploring the Grand River. With her many gifts, so many will be able to grow in fondness and love for these special places as she did growing up,” said Monica Verplank, co-chair of the Grand River Greenway Capital Campaign.

“The gifts of Bea and her family had such a significant impact on the Grand River Greenway Project. I was lucky enough to see Bea at Connor Bayou this summer. She was smiling ear to ear witnessing the beauty of the park system and so excited for what’s to come! It is fitting that the trail – the Idema Explorers Trail – connecting the Greenway parks together will bear her name, but more importantly, preserve her memory,” said Samantha Verplank, who is also co-chair of the Grand River Greenway Capital Campaign.

bea idema and ray statema
Bea Idema walking across the Grand Ravines Suspension Bridge with Ray Statema.
Bea generously provided the funds to construct the bridge.

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 3,204 acres managed by Ottawa County Parks including 17 parks and open spaces. To-date, 13 miles of the 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 complement the Grand River Heritage Water Trail.

bea at the grand ravines suspension bridge ribbon cutting
Left-right: Parks Commissioner David VanGinhoven†, Bea Idema†, Parks Commissioner Ray Statema†, Alma Statema, and County Commissioner Greg DeJong at a dedication event for Grand Ravines County Park.

Bea grew up on the Aldrink family dairy farm in Allendale Township near Grand Ravines County Park (located just south of Grand Valley State University in Georgetown Township). One of the most scenic parks along the Greenway, Grand Ravines had deep family ties for Bea, her sister Joy, and the Aldrink family. Once the property became a park, the family stayed closely connected to Grand Ravines and, through their contributions, helped to create an enchanting and beloved experience. 

“We give Bea Idema full credit for helping to make the Grand Ravines one of our most popular parks.  People instantly fall in love with the wide-open views of the Grand River and all of the park’s hidden places. The park also has a unique personality with amenities that are unlike anywhere else in the park system – the Ravines Overlook, the Suspension Bridge, and soon, the Ravines Tree House. All of these things just delighted Bea and gave her a big smile. Grand Ravines is a reflection of Bea’s joy in helping to create such special places for everyone to enjoy,” said Bobbi Jones Sabine, President of the Ottawa County Parks Foundation. “We’re really going to miss her.”

Several transformative contributions have been made through the Bill and Bea Idema Foundation to Ottawa County Parks. While the Idema Explorers Trail is named in honor of the Idema family, there will be special recognition of Bill and Bea individually along two specific trail segments, which have been identified to give character and a sense of place along the trail. The Bill Idema Moraine Nature Segment of the Idema Explorers Trail is under construction and will connect Grand Ravines to Grand River County Park. The Bea Aldrink Eastmanville Legacy Segment is planned for construction in future years, and will be dedicated to Bea, who made “many wonderful childhood memories” there. 

Recently, the Bill and Bea Idema Foundation again played a role in connecting people to nature, the Greenway, and to each other through a gift to construct the Idema Explorers Camp and associated amenities at Ottawa Sands County Park in Ferrysburg. The Camp is a place for adventure, joy, and creating memories and will be an integral capstone feature at the west end of the Grand River Greenway.

 “The acquisition of Ottawa Sands in 2019 was unexpected and the result of an unprecedented collaboration between many stakeholders. The scale of the property and its location as a gateway to the Grand River and the Lake Michigan dune corridor required a master plan for restoring and preserving the property while incorporating access to this treasure so that it could be more broadly experienced,” said Ottawa County Parks Commission President Kelly Rice.

“Since the acquisition was unanticipated, Ottawa County Parks was initially unable to turn these dreams into reality in the short term. However, Bea and her family believed in our vision for expanding access to Ottawa Sands with a gentle footprint. Their gift will now allow so many to experience the Greenway she helped to shape,” Rice added.

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

Over the past several years, Bea has participated in many park and trail dedications for Ottawa County Parks including a trail dedication for the Versluis GVSU Campus Segment of the Idema Explorers Trail on the GVSU Allendale campus with her sister, family, and friends. This dedication included former Ambassador Peter Secchia, who recently passed away. Secchia was also a Greenway Campaign Co-Chair and would often speak fondly of Bea, who had helped him with so many of his endeavors. Last summer, Bea attended an event at Connor Bayou County Park in Robinson Township where Governor Gretchen Whitmer promoted a park funding plan.

“The whole Ottawa County Parks family will greatly miss Bea Idema, who was ‘a friend of nature, with a passion for fun and good times’ as it states on the dedication plaque for the Bea Aldrink Eastmanville Legacy Segment,” said Ottawa County Parks Director Jason Shamblin. “As is always the case with Bea, the plaque also invites others to share in the fun: ‘Now, it’s your time to make memories.’”

For more information about Bea’s funeral service, click here

grand river greenway
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