Over the past two decades, the Ottawa County Parks Department has been working to make its Grand River Greenway Initiative come to life. To date, $20 million in mostly public funding has been invested to preserve over 2,400 of land and create 13 parks and open spaces along the Greenway. Over the next five years, Ottawa County Parks proposes to invest an additional $21 million to acquire 1,000 acres of land and construct an additional 27 miles of new pathway.
“Ottawa County is one of the fastest-growing counties in the state by a lot of measures and we have a population that looks to get outdoors and be active,” said John Scholtz, Director of Ottawa County Parks. “You can protect significant habitats for wildlife and significant wetlands, and these are places where people want to recreate. That all kind of comes together in these greenways.”
The Grand River Greenway project started with an ambitious vision of transforming one of West Michigan’s most underutilized natural resources—the Grand River —into an interconnected network of parks and preserves. This greenway corridor would stretch for miles—reaching from Grand Rapids to the Lake Michigan shoreline at the Grand Haven Pier. In its final form, the greenway would serve the dual purpose of protecting the ecology of the river while also offering a wide array of recreational opportunities.
Starting with only a few, remote public spaces along the river, the greenway has grown rapidly. The final steps to completing the greenway project include acquiring remaining land and constructing a multi-use trail, the Idema Explorers Trail. This non-motorized ADA accessible trail will run along the Grand River from Kent County’s Millennium Park to Grand Haven’s pier. It will connect these natural spaces to each other and to neighboring communities. Following the river corridor, this trail would track the contours of the greenway lands and their varied landscapes, wind along the riverfront, traverse the edges of steep ravines, pass through wooded corridors, and open to wide vistas of farm fields, lakes, and bayous.
- Acquire 700 acres of new public land
- Build 27 miles of new multi-use trail
- Integrate new and existing trails to create a 45-mile long cooperative trail system
- Provide direct connection to Millennium Park trails
- Connect Grand Haven to Grand Rapids
- Connect Grand Valley State University’s Allendale and downtown campuses
- Connect Grand River Greenway lands to each other, as well as to neighboring parks and communities
- Complement river improvement efforts in the City of Grand Rapids, including Grand Rapids Whitewater & GR Forward
- Integrate hiking and biking trail with existing
- Interpret the rich Native American and early settlement history, in addition to existing points of interest
To complete the project and make the greenway accessible to all of West Michigan by 2021, the Ottawa County Parks Foundation’s Greenway Campaign Committee is seeking $7.2 million in funding from philanthropic partners to leverage $13.8 million in public funding. This will supplement over $20 million in public funds that has already been invested. Construction has begun on sections of the trail; land acquisition is ongoing; and $5.5 million in philanthropic funding has been raised to-date.
Idema Explorers Trail:
A 3.9-mile segment of the trail in Robinson Township is now complete; signs and other amenities will soon be added. The trailhead parking lot at the intersection of North Cedar Drive and M-231 offers easy access to the trail, as well as the pedestrian bridge crossing to the Spoonville Trail
Grand Valley State University & Grand Ravines Connection (2018)
This segment is roughly one mile and will be named the Versluis Path in honor of Phillip & Joyce Versluis.
Bend Area to Downtown Jenison Connection (2018)
Work will begin on a segment that connects the Bend Area to Jenison, close to the Kent County border.