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.

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. 

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.”

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.

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. 

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.’”

View Bea’s obituary here.