Ottawa County officials hosted a dedication ceremony celebrating their acquisition of the Ottawa Sands corridor on Oct. 15. The event marked the end of a year-long effort to obtain the 345-acre property, connecting green space between Muskegon County to Grand Haven.
“The Ottawa Sands acquisition is the final piece of a puzzle,” said Land Conservancy Executive Director Joe Engel. “With a whole lot of work from a whole lot of people and a little risk, we acquired a property that will benefit everyone, not just people in Ottawa County. What an opportunity.”
What was once a sand-mining site now serves as a home for wildlife, including deer, hawks and a pair of bald eagles. The diverse landscape consists of 49 acres of dunes, wetlands, beech-maple forests and an 80-acre inland lake.
“Ottawa Sands offers a great chance to access nature, feel the wind and see natural beauty,” Engel said. “I hope that people come and become even more enthusiastic about protecting natural resources.”
Gaylen Byker, the previous owner of Ottawa Sands, approached Ottawa County about purchasing the property and donated 25 percent of the land value in 2017.
Ottawa County officials applied for and received an out-of-cycle $4.2 million Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (MNRTF) grant to obtain half of the funding needed for the $8.2 million purchase.
The Land Conservancy of West Michigan obtained a low-interest loan from the Conservation Fund and launched a $400,000 fundraising campaign in support of the acquisition. MNRTF recommended a second $3.84 million grant to pay off the Conservation Fund loan in December 2018. Ottawa County finalized mortgage payments and received the property in July 2019.
“We were on the edge of our seats,” said Ottawa County Communications Specialist Jessica Van Ginhoven.
Ottawa County officials will conduct a feasibility study to determine if they should develop campsites and offer riverfront access. They encourage citizens to provide input throughout the master planning process.
Ottawa Sands is open for public use and includes a parking lot and three and a half miles of designated trails.
“People see value in this property,” Van Ginhoven said. “We’re excited to look at the possibilities for eco-tourism.”
To learn more about Ottawa County parks, visit https://www.miottawa.org/Parks/.