Ottawa County

Ottawa County Honors Employees for Customer Service

Join us in congratulating Britney Brown from the Ottawa County Department of Public Health and Amy Bodbyl-Mast from Ottawa County Fiscal Services, who have been recognized as Ottawa County’s Outstanding Customer Service Award recipients for the first quarter of 2018. You can read the nominations which earned each recipient an award plus learn more about them at

Ottawa County One Step Closer to Acquiring Dune Property Located in Ferrysburg

ottawasandProject recap:

• In the fall of 2017, the current owner offered to sell the property based on an appraisal of $11.2 million and donate 25% of the land value to serve as match in a grant proposal for $8.4 million to the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (MNRTF).
• In December 2017, the MNRTF Board recommended that a $4.2 million grant be awarded in 2018, with encouragement to submit a phase two grant request for the remaining funds needed in 2019.
• Ottawa County Parks submitted a grant request from the MNRTF for phase two in April 2018. If approved, Ottawa County Parks will be notified in December 2018.
• In June the state grant agreement for phase one (188 acres) was received and approved by Ottawa County.
• The Land Conservancy of West Michigan has agreed to purchase the second parcel of property (157 acres) and hold it until grant funding becomes available in 2019.

If all aspects of the acquisition proceed smoothly, the county will acquire 188 acres of the 345-acre site by August 1 and the Land Conservancy will utilize loan from The Conservation Fund to acquire the remaining 157 acres at the same time. “In order to secure this property for the public the purchase needed to happen in full, but we only have grant funding for just over half of the property at this point. The Land Conservancy really stepped up and for that we are very grateful. Without them, the opportunity to purchase this land would not have been possible,” said John Scholtz, Ottawa County Parks Director.

The loan agreement from The Conservation Fund will cover the approximately 4 million dollar purchase price for the second half of the property. The Land Conservancy will launch a fundraising campaign later this summer to cover costs related to the land acquisition. While the purchase agreement and the loan from the Conservation Fund are significant steps in protecting this property, it will not be permanently secured until the loan is paid off and the fundraising is complete. The land owner has generously offered approximately $1.5 million as a contribution in the project and the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund will look to make a commitment to the project in 2019.

Local Farmers at The Shops at Westshore

Holland, MI – Shop local. Eat local. Locally grown. We hear these phrases daily.  And in Ottawa County, those phrases mean a huge variety of foods – strawberries, cranberries, black beans, apples, blueberries, cheese, eggs, pork, and chicken are just to name a few.  All of these foods and many more are grown right here in Ottawa County by the farmers who are our neighbors.  And on June 9, Ottawa County Farm Bureau partnered with The Shops at Westshore to put on an event where these farmers could greet the public, answering questions about where food comes from, how it is produced, and why it is produced that way.  The families attending this free event enjoyed a huge variety of product samples, exhibits, live animals, and one on one chats with farmers.  Kids could take a break with bounce houses, activities, and food trucks.

“Educating consumers about where their food comes is a something that is weaved through everything we do here at Ottawa County Farm Bureau,” commented event chair Joe Austin. Austin is the Assistant County Administrator for Ottawa County Farm Bureau and used his event planning skills learned during his time with Muskegon’s Summer Celebration to put together this inaugural event in Holland. “Ottawa County producers want to tell their story.  They are proud of what they do and that they have the privilege to feed their neighbors.”

Many Ottawa County residents enjoy the bucolic farm scenery as they drive through the countryside.  They love going apple picking and to pumpkin patches in the fall.  But in Ottawa County, farming is also big business.  The County ranks 3rd statewide in total value of agricultural products.  There are 88 family farms producing blueberries on 5,900 acres in Ottawa County.  The County ranks in the top ten in dairy, egg, turkey, and broiler chicken production.  Michigan ranks 2nd nationwide in celery production, and the largest celery farm in the state is located in Hudsonville.  Ottawa County even has cranberry bogs!  There is so much to know about local agriculture, and no one better to tell that story than the folks who do it every day as their livelihood.

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Ottawa County Hosting Fundraiser to Benefit Farmland Preservation

An event to support farmland preservation in Ottawa County!

Ottawa County’s Farmland Preservation Program is holding its 2nd annual Farms are the Tapas fundraising event on Thursday, September 20, 2018, from 6-8pm at Terra Square in Hudsonville. All proceeds from this event will support the preservation of farmland in the County.

This fun evening features a master chef cooking competition with chefs from Sonder Eatery, The Farmhouse Deli, Butch’s Dry Dock, and The Elbo Room. Guests will dine on delicious creations made with locally sourced ingredients and vote on their favorite one. There will be a cash bar with local beer and wine and live entertainment by West Michigan musician Jack Leaver.

New to the event this year is a silent auction that features outstanding agricultural-related items up for grabs, such as a CSA share, a Lake Michigan sunset cruise with a farm-to-table style dinner onboard, half of a locally raised pig complete with processing and freezer, a family farm pass bundled with local coffee and blueberries, as well as an aerial photography package. Also new this year is an Early Bird Gift Basket Giveaway—purchase your ticket(s) before July 31 and you’re automatically entered into a drawing for a gift basket valued at $125 that features gift cards from the event’s participating restaurants and a howler (with a fill) from Farmhaus Cider Co.

All of the proceeds from this event support the thriving agricultural community in Ottawa County, which is the most agriculturally diverse County in the entire state of Michigan. Ottawa County leads the State in the production of turkeys, blueberries, ornamental nursery crops, and perennials. The County’s productive farmland, made up of almost 1,400 farms, offers an abundance of jobs to hardworking individuals. It also lends to the natural beauty that the County is known for, and it provides us all with access to fresh, locally grown agricultural goods. Preservation of this land is of utmost importance amid widespread growth and development.

“Productive farmland is disappearing across the nation. Right here at home in Ottawa County we enjoy a bounty of local agricultural commodities thanks to our abundant farmland,” says Cliff Meeuwsen, President of Zeeland Farm Services and Chair of Ottawa County’s Ag Preservation Board. “To ensure that future generations can enjoy it as much as we do, it’s important to support farmland preservation whenever possible.”

Tickets for Farms are the Tapas are $50. For more information about Farms are the Tapas or to purchase tickets, go to

Active Shooter. What would you do?

Learn what you should do at the “Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events” class, enrolling now. Available Sessions:

July 10 | Register
August 16 | Register

All classes are 7-10PM at the Ottawa County Fillmore Administration Building, 12220 Fillmore, West Olive. There is no cost, but registration is required.

What should you do in the case of an active shooter? Hide? Evacuate? Doing the right things can increase your odds of survival. The Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office is again offering the popular “Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events” training. This thought-provoking and engaging class provides strategies, guidance, and a plan for surviving an active shooter event.

To date, the sheriff’s office has trained thousands of individuals on the topic in communities, at worksites, in schools and in places of worship.

Aquatic Invasive Species Landing Blitz: Focuses on Protecting Lakes

zebramusselsCitizen volunteers and aquatic invasive species experts will team up at boat landings throughout the state to educate boaters about preventing the spread of harmful species during Michigan’s Aquatic Invasive Species Landing Blitz, June 30 through July 8, 2018.

The Landing Blitz is a collaborative outreach campaign to raise awareness about preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS) through recreational boating and related activities. Boaters will learn about preventing the introduction and spread of AIS from the movement of watercraft and equipment between water bodies at both public and private boating access sites throughout the state.

“Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers!”

Locally, the Landing Blitz will be conducted at Riverside Park in Grand Haven on July 2 and 3 from 1-3 pm by Ottawa County Parks and the Lower Grand River Organization of Watersheds. Those who stop by can expect to learn more about:

• Boat washing & equipment decontamination procedures
• The Clean Boats Clean Waters program
• Reporting protocols for watch list species and others
• Awareness of specific regulations (Part 413 of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act PA 451 of 1994, Fisheries Order 245 Fish Disease Control, etc.)
• Proper bait disposal

The Landing Blitz is sponsored by the Michigan Departments of Environmental Quality (DEQ), Natural Resources, and Agriculture and Rural Development in partnership with local organizations as part of Michigan’s annual Aquatic Invasive Species Awareness Week. For more information about aquatic invasive species in Michigan can visit:



Ottawa County Ranks #1 – Healthiest County in Michigan

Ottawa County ranks #1 as the healthiest county in Michigan and has held that place since 2014, according to the 2018 County Health Rankings (CHR). The rankings show us where we live matters to our health and good health is influenced by many factors beyond medical care including jobs, housing, education, poverty and more. Ottawa County maintained or improved in 69 percent of the 35 measures, and did as well or better than Michigan in 85 percent of the 35 measures. However, Ottawa County does not compare favorably to the state or to top counties in the area for access to primary care (medical, dental and mental health providers). The county has consistently had fewer providers for the size of its population, but despite this, Ottawa County compares favorably in many health outcomes.

Noteworthy, the CHR findings coincide with the recently revealed Ottawa County Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) results, which states obesity, as well as poor mental health and access to mental health care providers, as ongoing concerns.

“Ottawa County has all the social and community characteristics that distinguish a community as healthy. We have fantastic partnerships that enable us to achieve healthier outcomes,” said Marcia Mansaray, epidemiologist with the Ottawa County Department of Public Health.

Ottawa County’s #1 rank has six sub-rankings: Length of Life, Quality of Life, Health Behaviors, Clinical Care, Social and Economic Factors and Physical Environment. The county maintained or improved in four of the six sub-rankings. The exceptions were Clinical Care and Physical Environment.

Ottawa County’s Strengths:

•  Longer life span
•  Lower teen birth rate
•  Fewer babies born at a low birthweight
•  Fewer children in poverty
•  Very low unemployment
•  Less inequality among the highest and lowest incomes

AgTech Connections and Resources for Entrepreneurs

contributed by ACRE AgTech

WEST OLIVE, MI – Everyone has their preferred way of investing money, whether it is mutual funds, the stock market, or perhaps bitcoin.  But for the Grand Angels, led by President Tim Parker, the investment vehicle of choice is startup companies and the entrepreneurs who lead them.  Venture capital investments can be risky, and selecting high potential startups takes skill.  It is this skill set that Tim Parker will bring to ACRE AgTech as the newest member of their board of directors.  ACRE AgTech is an entrepreneurial support organization that specializes in ag-technologies that can increase efficiencies in agricultural processes and reduce environmental impacts.

When asked why he chose to volunteer his time on the board of directors for this 501c6 non-profit organization, he laughed, “Well, I like to eat.  But seriously, agtech is such an interesting, rapidly growing, and critically important industry right now that I just had to get involved, and ACRE AgTech leads Michigan in providing services geared toward ag-technologies”.

guyACRE AgTech’s Executive Director, Paul Sachs, was thrilled when Parker showed an interest in joining the ACRE team. “His experience with entrepreneurship combined with his vast corporate skillset makes him a valuable asset to our organization.  ACRE, and our clients, will greatly benefit from his insights and leadership.” Sachs commented that for ACRE’s entrepreneurs, who are navigating a challenging and competitive industry, to have direct access to someone who sees startup successes and failures every day is a huge advantage.  In an industry where adoption rates for new technologies are notoriously low, startups need every advantage they can get.

Entrepreneurs that come to ACRE seeking services are from a wide variety of backgrounds – from engineers to mechanics, chemists to software developers, biologists to farmers. ACRE can help agtech entrepreneurs with the challenges that are specific to agriculture, like on-farm product testing and ag sector venture capital, and also with those challenges that every startup faces, like business planning, prototype development, and market research.  West Michigan is the nexus of all the things agtech startups need for success:  a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem, engineering expertise, and a strong agriculture economy.

ACRE AgTech is a non-profit entrepreneurial support organization that has been providing connections and resources to agtech entrepreneurs in Ottawa County and across Michigan since December, 2014.  For more information about ACRE AgTech, please visit our website,, or contact us at 616-994-4745 or

Invasive Species on the Roadside

ottawacdWhat are Invasive Species?
Invasive species are defined as non-native plants or animals that can cause harm to the local environment. There are many non-native species that have been introduced to Michigan that do not cause harm, or are a benefit, but invasive species are those that can cause harm to the local environment, economy, and even public health.

The Road Commission is concerned with invasive species because they can often take hold along roadside ditches and shoulders, potentially compromising road drainage and roadway integrity. Invasive plant species usually out-compete native plants and can quickly spread and take over an area. Many invasive species of plants are toxic to animals, including insects such as butterflies, that use plants for reproducing. Once an invasive plant becomes established, it can quickly spread and kill off valuable native plants in the area, disrupting drainage systems as well as the local ecosystem. Because of these reasons, the Road Commission is committed to properly managing invasive species, helping stop their spread and preventing future growth.

Managing Invasive Species on the Roadside.
The biggest hurdle in preventing and managing invasive species is the proper identification and management technique for each species. Traditional methods of managing the roadways, primarily through mowing, will not work for most invasive species. Many require multiple chemical treatments during a specific time of year to fully kill the plant and prevent its regrowth. Since the Road Commission is limited in its knowledge and resources to focus on these invasive species, another solution was needed to help manage them.

The Ottawa County Road Commission’s Solution for Invasive Species Management.
In 2014, the Road Commission began talks with the Ottawa Conservation District about invasive plants along county roads. After identifying several areas that required treatment, the Road Commission and the Ottawa Conservation District formed an agreement that has been renewed for the last three years.

This partnership gives the Ottawa Conservation District permission to identify and treat areas with invasive plant species along roads that the Road Commission manages. The Conservation District can then acquire grant money that’s available to combat invasive species. This program helps save the Road Commission money and resources in managing the plants in the right-of-way, and it also allows the Conservation District to eradicate plants on the roadsides before they can spread to other areas.

Invasive Species Management in Ottawa County.


Knotweed can quickly take over a roadside

The Ottawa Conservation District identified four invasive species that they would look for and treat along county roads. They are: Japanese Knotweed, Phragmites, Chinese Yam, and Black and Pale Swallow-wort. All these plants have been identified at the state level as being invasive species that cause harm to the environment.

The most prevalent, and probably most dangerous, invasive plant species in Michigan, and in Ottawa County, is the Japanese Knotweed. This plant is known to have established itself in Michigan. It is very aggressive and because of its size and chemical composition it can quickly and easily out-compete native species. It is toxic to animals and humans. One of the biggest concerns with knotweed is that through its aggressive growth and extensive root system, it can cause damage to buildings, sidewalks, and roads.

Knotweed is very resilient and difficult to kill. In fact, mowing it, especially at certain times of the year, can help spread its growth. It requires specific herbicides and multiple treatments before it can be mowed. Since the Ottawa Conservation District has the knowledge and resources to manage knotweed, they have been a big benefit to managing knotweed along county roads.

Because of the prevalence and threat of invasive species, the Road Commission needed a more comprehensive plan to manage invasive species along county roads. Partnering with the Ottawa Conservation District has proven to be successful and beneficial for both parties and for the residents of Ottawa County.

You can find out more information about the Ottawa Conservation District by visiting their website: To learn more about invasive species in Michigan you can visit: If you think that you may have Japanese Knotweed or any other invasive plant on your property, be sure to contact the Ottawa Conservation District to learn about management options.

Ottawa Parks Offer Healthy Appeal

by Ben Beversluis, Ottawa County Parks Foundation

A surprising chorus of spring peepers. The up-and-down stairs and vistas of Rosy Mound Natural Area. The quiet, twisting waters of the Pigeon River at Hemlock Crossing.

Jen Bradshaw found many rewards in a year-long odyssey to visit all 38 Ottawa County parks and open spaces. But the opportunities for exercise and rejuvenation might top the list of park payoffs.

“I and a couple of girlfriends get out and hike a couple times a week all winter long,” she said. “It just makes the winter go by faster to get this fresh air in your system. I think a lot of people take for granted what we have here in West Michigan – an incredible opportunity to get out and enjoy the woods, the dunes, the wildlife, and to benefit from the healthy aspect of it.”

“So many times, at end of a day I think I just want to go home, but then, meeting some girlfriends, we get out and hike for 45 minutes, and it feels so good, getting the blood flowing, the fresh air in my lungs.”

Bradshaw and colleague Beth DeWilde at Paragon Recruiting in Holland make a habit of regular exercise to refresh mind and body. So, it made sense for them in 2016 to launch the Paragon Parks Tour.

They began that January by hiking Mt. Pisgah at the Historic Ottawa Beach Parks.  After running, hiking, biking and kayaking their way through the year – and through all 38 Ottawa County parks and open spaces – they finished in December at Grand Ravines, Bend Area and Hager Park.

In her blog about the tour, she encourages people to team up with friends or coworkers to explore what Ottawa County parks have to offer.

Indeed, park offerings range from waterfront to dune to deep forest to rivers and streams. They also offer healthier communities, by providing places that motivate healthy activity.

Numerous studies demonstrate the health benefits of green spaces.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls parks and trails “an important part of a community.”

“Having access to places for physical activity, such as parks and trails, encouraged community residents to participate in physical activity and do so more often,” the CDC notes. “The closer you live to a park, the more likely you are to walk or bike to those places, and use the park for exercise.”

Research has shown benefits of spending time in green spaces that include improved mood and attitude, stress reduction, better mental health, and more mindfulness and creativity.

“We now know that nearby nature … directly contributes to quality human habitat and is profoundly important for the health of mind and body,” writes Kathleen Wolf, a research social scientist at the University of Washington who also works with the U.S. Forest Service.

Recognizing that, the Ottawa County Parks Foundation is working to enhance and expand green space offerings in our area.

popupftnessParks and other green spaces provide natural settings for Pop-Up Fitness classes that Necia Ornee leads. She wants people to get away from the idea that they have to work out in a gym, and to understand the value of being out in fresh air.

“It’s really fun to see people not used to doing things outside, they’re surprised at how wonderful it is,” she said.

And Ornee is surprised at how many people aren’t familiar with what area parks have to offer, including trails, beaches, playgrounds, picnic areas and more, all of which support healthier living.

Bradshaw, too, believes the parks spread across Ottawa County can encourage good health practices.

“The opportunities are there,” she said. “There’s always a park close by you, so it lessens the opportunity for excuses to not get out and exercise.”

Bradshaw’s park tour opened her eyes to the variety of opportunities the parks offer – besides wooded trails, shining water and thick forests, there are beautiful venues for weddings, family reunions or other events in woods or along rivers.

Bradshaw pointed out that parks serve the varied and changing interests of the community – offering mountain biking trails at Upper Macatawa Natural Area or Riley Trails, for example, or kayak launch facilities at Hemlock Crossing, Connor Bayou and Grand River Park.

“Ottawa parks have transformed as people’s activities have transformed,” she said. “I think there’s something for everyone to do. There’s no reason to not get out and be active with what has been provided to us in the parks.”

And that could be as simple as enjoying a dune scene or listening to spring peepers.

The Ottawa County Parks Foundation is a 501(c)3 committed to investing in green spaces in Ottawa County through key land acquisitions and park enhancements that facilitate access to diverse nature experiences by all. Join us at

Policy Champion Award


Nick Lyon, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services director; Rep. Roger Victory, R-Hudsonville; Lisa Stefanovsky, Ottawa County Department of Public Health administrative health officer; Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive; and Rep. Daniela Garcia, R-Holland.

The Michigan Public Health Week Partnership, which consists of 10 public health organizations in Michigan, awarded the Ottawa County Department of Public Health (OCDPH) the 2018 Jean Chabut Health Policy Champion award for achieving the Project Public Health Ready (PPHR) national recognition. The Jean Chabut Health Policy Champion award showcases the significant accomplishments of individuals or organizations in the policy arena on the local or state level to improve the health and safety of their communities.

“These individuals and organizations have gone above and beyond to improve Michigander’s health and safety,” said Nick Lyon, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services director. “Much of a person’s overall health is determined outside of a doctor’s office, and these award winners have provided opportunities for our state’s citizens to have healthier lives and communities.”

To achieve the PPHR national recognition, the OCDPH had to demonstrate preparedness and response capability by meeting a comprehensive set of nationally-recognized standards. PPHR standards focus on three main goals: all-hazards planning, workforce development and demonstrating readiness through exercises and real events, and are aligned with federal government requirements and national best practices. Ottawa County joins more than 400 agencies across the country that have achieved PPHR recognition since 2004.

“I was very proud to accept this honor on behalf of our amazing public health team. We strive for excellence in all that we do,” said Lisa Stefanovsky, OCDPH administrative health officer.

For more information on Project Public Health Ready, visit

Medication Takeback Day

Saturday, 4/28/18

494 Butternut Dr.

Holland, MI 49424

Why have a medication takeback day?
As you may know, we are facing an Opiate Epidemic in Ottawa County and throughout the United States. Americans use 80% of the world’s supply of opiates (pain medication). If not carefully managed, opiates can be dangerous as they are easily misused and can cause accidental overdose and death. As a community, we can help by removing unused medications from our homes and safely disposing of them. Feel free to bring in any unused medications to dispose of, we are specifically focused on collecting: pain medications (hydrocodone, Norco, Vicodin, Oxycodone, Coxycontin, Percocet, Tramadol or Fentanyl), Sedatives (Xanax, ambien, valium, and klonopin), Antidepressants, ADHD Medications, Muscle Relaxants, and Veterinarian Medications.

Why should I participate?
By disposing of unused medications it will prevent misuse in our community, accidental medication poisoning, and clears out space in your cabinet! If you are unable to attend our medication takeback event on April 28th, you can find our county’s permanent medication disposal sites here.

If you’ve been impacted by opiates – please contact us!
If someone that you love has been impacted by opiate misuse and you would like to get involved in opiate prevention and education, please reach out to Jessica Irvin by emailing or calling 616-494-4489.

Top Dog Name in Ottawa County

Back-to-Back Titles for Bella

The numbers are in and tabulated for dog licenses issued in 2017. Bradley Slagh, Ottawa County Treasurer, reported that the top names for licenses issued last year were:


“Some of the dog names we take in truly make us smile,” said Brad Slagh, County Treasurer. “Some even make you wonder what the dogs smell or look like to get some of these names. Last year we had a Calla Lilly, Pork Chop, Jake from State Farm, Chiquita, Copper Pot and Burt Reynolds.”

The top five breeds licensed in 2017 were Labrador Retriever, Golden Retriever, Chihuahua, German Shepherd and Shih Tzu.

Since the year 1919 Michigan law has required that dogs be licensed. Additionally, the law requires that to get a dog license proof of a rabies vaccination by a veterinarian must be provided. Along with ensuring that pet owners keep rabies vaccinations up to date, dog licenses save time, money and emotional distress. If a dog is lost, the license will make the return of the pet simple. When a stray is picked-up by animal control (or a friendly neighbor), a dog wearing its license will be returned to its owner quickly for a tail-wagging, slobbery reunion. Unlicensed dogs risk being brought to the animal shelter. The owner may face fines, redemption fees, boarding costs and vet bills. Pets who remain unidentified could be put up for adoption.

Dogs must be licensed at four months of age. In Ottawa County, dog licenses can be purchased at any time but are issued to expire the month of the dogs’ rabies vaccination. New licenses are available for either one or three years and will expire in the month of the rabies vaccination. Owners can purchase licenses through participating veterinarians, some units of government or online at More information about licensing dogs in Ottawa County is available on the  or by calling 616-994-4501.

The top names of 2016 were:

10-Maggie & Daisy (tied)

Ottawa County Department of Public Health Distinguished for Excellence

Health department protects Ottawa County from emergencies and disasters through the national Project Public Health Ready recognition program

The Ottawa County Department of Public Health (OCDPH) has been recognized by the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) for its ability to plan for, respond to and recover from public health emergencies. The OCDPH demonstrated these capabilities by meeting the comprehensive preparedness benchmarks required by Project Public Health Ready (PPHR), a unique partnership between NACCHO and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The OCDPH joins a cohort of 500 local health departments across the country that have been distinguished for excellence in preparedness through PPHR, either individually or as part of a region.

Ottawa County Honors Employees for Customer Service

Join us in congratulating Amy Brown and Kara Bostrom-Young from the 58th District Court and Jocelyn Garris from the Human Resources Office, who have been recognized as Ottawa County’s Outstanding Customer Service Award recipients for the fourth quarter of 2017. You can read the nominations which earned each recipient an award plus learn more about them at

It’s So Easy: Apply for an Ottawa County Job

February 19, Ottawa County launched a new online job application system that will make applying for Ottawa County employment even easier. Job seekers visiting will be able to complete user profiles, search for available positions, apply for multiple openings at once and sign-up for notifications about new employment opportunities.

“This is an exciting time as we move towards providing job applicants with a system that is seamless, user-friendly, and creates greater efficiencies across Ottawa County,” said Marcie Ver Beek, HR Director with Ottawa County. “We believe this transition will help us continue to be competitive in terms of talent acquisition and marketing Ottawa County as a great place to work.”

Internally, the technology will allow hiring managers to quickly and strategically assess skill sets, reduce bias and expedite hiring.

Currently, over 20 positions are posted at and interested applicants can apply online—easily.

Announcing the Idema Explorers Trail

Now announcing the Idema Explorers Trail!
The Ottawa Parks Foundation is pleased to announce a landmark $2 million gift from the Bill and Bea Idema Foundation for the development of the Grand River Greenway.

idemalogoThe Ottawa County Parks Foundation appreciates the great passion and support of Bea Idema for nature, education and for the preservation of the environment for future generations. In recognition of this gift and support, the central feature of the Grand River Greenway – the Explorers Trail – will be named in honor of Bill and Bea Idema.

“Bea Idema is a dear friend of mine. She’s a special person with a generous heart,” said Greenway Campaign Co-Chair Peter Secchia. “Through this gift, the Greenway Campaign has turned a corner – we are now much closer to achieving our goal of raising $7.2 million to expand access to the thousands of acres of land along the Grand River, protect additional land, and complete a trail connection between Millennium Park and the Grand Haven beach.”

beaidema“Bea’s spirit – her love of nature, of sharing nature with others, and educating young people – match the spirit and experience we hope to create with the Idema Explorers Trail,” said Greenway Campaign Co-Chair Monica Verplank.

“We are proud to re-name the trail the Idema Explorers Trail. Bea and her family have done so much for the West Michigan community, for Grand Valley State University, and for Ottawa County Parks. The Idema family also has deep ties to the Greenway lands. That is why we feel the name is a perfect fit,” added Greenway Campaign Co-Chair Samantha Verplank.

Bill and Bea Idema provided support for the development of one of the premier Greenway parks: Grand Ravines. This includes providing funding for the Aldrink Ravines Overlook and $350,000 for a 275’ Suspension Bridge, the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in the state. Bea’s sister, Joyce Versluis played a strong support role and is especially excited about the Greenway connecting the campuses of Grand Valley State University. “It is wonderful that GVSU students will be able to hike, bike, and kayak between the Allendale and Grand Rapids campuses and enjoy the beautiful nature and environment of the Grand River Valley.”

The Greenway Campaign is the culmination of the 30-year vision to create a vast natural space along the Grand River and connect people to it. Thousands of acres of high quality natural and recreational lands have been protected to-date, but to complete the vision and make needed connections Ottawa County Parks plans to acquire 700 acres of additional land and construct 27 miles of new trail (with 13 miles of the trail along or near the river or other water features) over the next five years. This will require $21 million in funding, with the Parks Foundation seeking $7.2 million in philanthropic gifts to leverage anticipated public funding.

In addition to land acquisition and trail construction, an important component of the Greenway plan is to create a distinctive trail “experience” through wayfinding, interpretive displays, and possibly even artwork in appropriate locations.

“It is really important that there is a strong identity on the Idema Explorers Trail and that the Greenway has sense of place. We want users to be confident of where they are going and know what amenities are available along the way,” said Ottawa County Parks Director John Scholtz. As part of this effort to create an identity, Spring Lake design firm Concept A was hired to develop a logo for the trail.

The planned interpretive experience was an important factor for the Bill and Bea Idema Foundation supporting the Greenway project. “The Grand River is not only important to West Michigan ecologically, but is one of the West Michigan’s defining features historical and culturally. Therefore, everyone feels it is important that we use the Greenway to tell the story of the Grand River from pre-European settlement, through the logging era, and to the current time,” said Myron Aldrink, Greenway Campaign committee member. Ottawa County Parks plans to establish a team to assist with the design and development of the interpretive displays throughout the Greenway.


Aldrink Ravines Overlook on the Idema Explorers Trail through Grand Ravines

Active Shooter & Emergency Trainings Available for Citizens & Churches

In just six months, the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office has trained approximately 375 residents on how to respond during an active shooter event. The popular Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events (CRASE) training is a thought-provoking and engaging class provides strategies, guidance and a plan for surviving an active shooter event. In addition to the training for individuals, an Emergency and Security Worksop for Places of Worship is being offered to prepare church leaders for a variety of crisis situations, such as violence, disruptive visitors, plus medical and weather emergencies. The full agenda is online.

“Our hearts are broken for those who have been touched by the recent widely publicized tragedy in Florida and to those who have ever been victim to similar, senseless violence. It’s unfortunate that these types of educational sessions are even necessary, but they absolutely are and are in high demand among our community members,” said Captain Derek Christensen.

The trainings are free, but the Sheriff’s Office asks that you pre-register to reserve your space due to the popularity of the courses. To attend, you must be at least 18 years of age and bring picture ID such as a driver’s license or state-issued identification. Both CRASE sessions will be held at the Ottawa County Administrative Building in West Olive. The session for Places of Worship will be held at Beechwood Church in Holland.

More Details Registration:

CRASE: April 20, 2018 | 7-10PM | REGISTER

Step It Up! Program Begins April 9, 2018

Parks & Public Health team up to offer Step it Up! program for a third year
Register online by April 2:

Step it Up! is free, 8-week program is designed by Ottawa County Parks & the Department of Public Health to help participants get active and visit new parks. All levels of fitness welcome!

Step it Up! participants will have access to a free online step and activity tracker where they can record their progress throughout the challenge. Each week, participants who track their activity are eligible for incentive prizes, including 2018 Ottawa County Parks passes and gift cards to local farmers markets and outdoors stores, Meijer, and the Outdoor Discovery Center.

In order to help participants stay active throughout the program there are weekly guided walks, with varying pace groups, offered for free in both Ottawa and Allegan County Parks. To encourage participants to try other types of exercise, Step it Up! has expanded to include new activities including kayaking, biking, trail running, navigation, and disc golf. These activities are free-of-charge to registered participants who are recording their activity.

stepitup“Step it Up! has helped participants get more active, achieve fitness goals, meet people, and discover parks for three years. We hope that the new activities we are offering this spring motivate more people to sign up and participate,” said Ottawa County Parks spokesperson, Jessica VanGinhoven. “Beginners are welcomed and encouraged- this is the time to try something new!”

Participants can also see their progress along a virtual trail. “The Ottawa County GIS Department creates a virtual map for each season of Step it Up! to show participants how many miles they can travel in just two months. This spring, participants will be able to see how far they have traveled along the Appalachian Trail when they record their activity,” said VanGinhoven.  “It’s fun to see how much your progress adds up over time.”

It can also motivate participants to travel to and explore new places. “The season after our virtual walk followed the North Country Trail, participants emailed to tell us that they had traveled to hike the actual NCT because the photos were so beautiful,” said VanGinhoven.

The challenge begins on April 9.
Commit to fit & register by April 2:

Allegan & Ottawa County Group Walk Schedule

April 11: Grand Ravines (South), 6:00 pm 
April 19: Paw Paw (East) , 6:00 pm 
April 21: New Richmond Park, 10:00 am – Celebrate Earth Day with a walk in the park!
April 28: Pigeon Creek Park, 10:00 am 
May 5: Bysterveld Park, 10:00 am
May 8: Kirk Park, 6:00 pm 
May 14: Allegan Sports Complex, 6:00 pm 
May 16: Grand River Park, 6:00 pm 
May 22: Crockery Creek Natural Area, 6:00 pm 
June 2: Hemlock Crossing, 10:00 am – National Trails Day! Following the walk, we’ll have the wrap up party. 

Community Health Needs Assessment Results

The results are in…

Did you miss the Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) reveal last week? No problem! Here’s the summary and the full report Additional studies that were a part of the CHNA and previous years can be found at See the infographic below for some of the report’s highlights. The CHNA is a:

•   LOOK at the people’s health of Ottawa County.
•   METHOD to find key health problems and resources.
•   TOOL to develop strategies to address health needs.
•   WAY for community engagement and collaboration.

But wait – there’s more!

Come be a part of the 2018 Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP) starting this month. While Ottawa County ranks high in numerous health outcomes, we still have much more work to do! The 2018 CHIP will build on the work of the 2015 CHIP that created plans to address three health areas of concern:

   Access to Health Care
   Mental Health
   Healthy Behaviors

We will also take into account new data from the 2017 CHNA on Adverse Childhood Experiences and much more. There have been so many wonderful happenings since the 2015 CHIP. For one, numerous organizations in Ottawa County developed the Pathways to Better Health program. This program addresses all three health areas of concern by enabling community health workers to help people achieve healthier outcomes. Find out more about the 2015 CHIP progress here.

Register Here.

Community Health Improvement Planning Dates:
March 22 • April 19 • May 31
8:30-10:30 a.m.

We encourage people in health care, public health, business, government, nonprofit organizations, faith-based communities and schools to get engaged. Register today!

Ottawa County Accepting Applications for Farmland Preservation

farmOttawa County is a leader in agricultural production.  It is the most agriculturally diverse county in Michigan and consistently ranked in the top 100 counties in the nation for its value of agricultural products sold.  Our strength in agriculture, however, is also combined with an exceptional quality of life that attracts new residents and businesses to our communities.  This population growth places added pressure on farmers to retain the land needed to produce fresh, locally grown food.

“In order for our agriculture industry to continue to thrive, it’s imperative that we work collectively to protect our productive farmland from development,” stated Cliff Meeuwsen, Chair of the Ottawa County Agricultural Preservation Board and President of Zeeland Farm Services.  The County’s Farmland Preservation Program is in place to help safeguard farm operations from continued development pressure.

Interested landowners can apply to preserve their farms through the Farmland Preservation Program.  Applications can be downloaded from the County’s website at and are due by March 30, 2018.

More information regarding Ottawa County’s Farmland Preservation Program can be found online at  To make a tax-deductible donation to the Ottawa County Farmland Preservation Fund, please visit the Community Foundation of Holland/Zeeland Area at  All donations are used to preserve our local farms.

Ottawa County Park Foundation’s Grand River Greenway Campaign Gaining Momentum

Ottawa County Parks Foundation’s effort to complete its Grand River Greenway Campaign is gaining significant traction with two recent gifts from regional foundations.

The Grand River Greenway Campaign is the culmination of the 30-year vision to protect thousands of acres of high quality natural and recreational lands along the Grand River in Ottawa County and then connect these lands with a multi-use ADA accessible trail. The proposed trail also will complete a contiguous connection from Millennium Park in Kent County to Grand Haven beaches and other destinations such as Grand Valley State University, downtown Grand Rapids, and the Bass River State Recreation Area. In order to accomplish this vision, Ottawa County Parks plans to acquire 700 acres of additional land and construct 27 miles of new trail (with 13 miles of the trail along or near the river or other water features). This will require $21 million in funding, with the Parks Foundation seeking $7.2 million in philanthropic gifts to leverage anticipated public funding.

Recent grants from two West Michigan family foundations, Wege and Frey, totaling $860,000 help build momentum for the Greenway Campaign, which is still pursuing “lead” commitments from donors.

“The show of support from Kent County donors demonstrates that the Grand Rapids area philanthropic community understands the regional value and impact of our vision,” said Peter Secchia, who is co-chair of the Grand River Greenway Campaign Committee and a major donor.

sunsetMr. Secchia has long been interested in revitalization of the Grand River as a leading contributor and supporter of Millennium Park as well as other initiatives such as the MSU Gran Fondo, a fund-raising bicycle race from Grand Rapids to the lakeshore near Grand Haven. “One of the things that I love about this project is not only that it will make the Grand River more accessible to thousands of families, but that it will also connect Grand Rapids and Grand Haven together with a river pathway route for the first time. People will be able to start from Millennium Park, travel from park to park, have ice cream or a burger in Jenison or Allendale, and end with a sunset on the Grand Haven Pier.”

It was this type of regional impact that drew the support of Wege and Frey Foundation trustees.

“The Grand River is an important ecological and recreational asset. Improving riverside lands in Ottawa County and connecting them to Kent County will add incredible value to the on-going work in Grand Rapids to restore the Grand River and the City’s namesake rapids” said Mark Van Putten, President & CEO of the Wege Foundation.

While the Campaign has been successful in engaging donors, Greenway Campaign committee members say broad community awareness of the value of the Greenway is not widely known. “This Greenway, with its tremendous green space and natural wildlife offerings, will enhance the physical, mental, and economic well-being of our community by increasing access to the river’s natural spaces,” said Monica Verplank, co-chair of the Greenway Campaign Committee.

familyRecent gifts represent great progress; still the Grand River Greenway Campaign is actively seeking additional partners. “We are very thankful for the support from our neighbors in Kent County and we hope to have more announcements to come in the near future, but our work is not done yet,” said Tom Werkman, President of the Ottawa County Parks Foundation and a member of the Greenway Campaign Committee.

Ottawa Administrator Delivers the ‘State of the County’ Address

alvanderbergOttawa County is where people want to be. Low property taxes, a flourishing economy, and a region rich in natural beauty are just a few qualities attracting residents to the area. Ottawa County Administrator Al Vanderberg shared this and other Ottawa County highlights from 2017 during January 23rd’s State of the County Address. Other themes in the report include Ottawa County government’s strong financial position; the collaborations and partnerships that enhance services and save tax dollars; exciting park and paved trail developments, and innovative improvement processes.

Vanderberg also listed some of the challenges and projects on the horizon for 2018 including opioid abuse, the increasing need for mental health services and corresponding funding, affordable housing, pension liability, cyber-security, and planning for a new Juvenile Justice Center.

The full speech can be read here.

Give Kids a Smile Day

givekidsasmileDr. Robert Kamminga was the dentist on the Ottawa County Department of Public Health’s Miles of Smiles mobile dental unit this past Friday, Feb. 2 for Give Kids a Smile Day. He provided comprehensive dental care for Medicaid insured and financially qualifying uninsured children at Great Lakes Elementary. Every child received a gift bag complete with a toothbrush, toothpaste, prize and oral health education.

“Our Miles of Smiles program is the best example of a community collaborative effort that I could ever envision,” said Debra Bassett, RDH, BHS Ottawa County Department of Public Health Oral Health Supervisor.

Pain from untreated dental disease makes it difficult for children to eat, sleep and concentrate in school. Poor oral health also affects their self-esteem.

Ottawa County Department of Public Health Miles of Smiles mobile dental unit provides dental services for Medicaid insured and financially qualifying uninsured children in Ottawa County. Partners include dental society involvement, dentist and hygienist volunteers, school administration dedication, community support, funder’s generosity, Ottawa County Administration support and Ottawa County Department of Public Health’s commitment to help improve the health of children.

Please call 1-800-467-5905 to schedule an appointment for your child if they are in need of a dentist, have Medicaid or are uninsured and qualify for the free/reduced lunch program.

The Faces Of Walk For Warmth

from Ottawa County CAA’s Facebook page

Word is spreading along the lakeshore! Thank you Grand Haven Area Community Foundation for donating to our #WalkForWarmth event! We hope to see you Saturday, Feb 10 8:30 AM City On A Hill, Zeeland–Feel the Zeel! SHARE TO GET MORE TEAMS! visit

Grand Haven, Michigan, City of Grand Haven, Michigan – City Hall, Lakeshore Nonprofit Alliance, Michigan Community Action, Community Action Partnership National Office


Ottawa County Parks is Hiring for the 2018 Summer Season!

These employment opportunities are a great way for college students, senior citizens, graduating high school students (age 18+), and others who enjoy working outdoors to learn from industry experts and gain valuable work experience in a team-oriented atmosphere.

Seasonal employees work varied shifts ranging from 10-40 hours a week, depending on the position. Shifts may include weekends, evenings, and holidays from late April through Labor Day. Work locations are available throughout the county.

To view job descriptions, hourly wages, and application requirements and qualifications, visit: Applications are accepted and may also be completed at Ottawa County Human Resources.

job descriptions

Best Financial Credit Union Opens Its First Ottawa County Branch Office in Spring Lake

A small, aging industrial building had long occupied the corner of School and Savidge Streets in Spring Lake Village, but on January 16, 2018 Best Financial Credit Union (CU) will open the doors of their first Ottawa County branch office in that location. Best Financial CU’s President, Morgan Rescorla, commented “We are very excited to become a part of the Spring Lake community and better serve our Ottawa County members”. Best Financial CU constructed a brand new, 2,500 square foot building that will be the workplace for seven full time and two part time employees. They offer their members a wide variety of financial services, including checking, savings, loans, and retirement vehicles. A grand opening event is slated for January 26, 2018 at 3:00pm.

Long before Best Financial CU noticed the property, a number of different types of businesses were operated at this corner, from industrial wood working to metal fabrication. As a result of the chemicals used in those processes, the site had soil and groundwater contamination that needed to be addressed by Best Financial CU when they purchased property. The environmental contractor working with Best Financial CU advised them to contact the Ottawa County Brownfield Redevelopment Authority (OCBRA) for financial assistance for the environmental assessments and clean-up planning that would be needed in order to redevelop the site.

The OCBRA was able to help Best Financial CU access multiple financial incentives to offset the additional costs of redeveloping a brownfield site. The $1.15 million price tag for the project was supplemented by grant funding from the Environmental Protection Agency, a loan from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, and the capture of incremental property taxes. Rescorla stated that this site was exactly right for their Ottawa County location, but being a good steward of member funds is a priority, so securing these incentives were make or break for choosing this site over a non-brownfield site. The incentives offset added projects costs stemming primarily from the removal of approximately 800 tons of contaminated soil, 5 million gallons of contaminated water, and the installation of a vapor intrusion barrier.

In addition to the added jobs and services brought to the community by this project, Village Manager Chris Burns says, “Village Council and staff are thrilled to welcome Best Financial Credit Union to the Village! Best Financial CU and Ottawa County Brownfield Redevelopment Authority’s commitment to the remediation of this (formerly) blighted property serve as an example of an outstanding redevelopment project. We are optimistic developers can use this site as an example of successful public/private collaboration that can be replicated elsewhere within the Village.” The project site is immediately adjacent to a wetland, and one block away from a public park situated on the Grand River.

For more information about brownfield redevelopment, contact the Ottawa County Redevelopment Authority at 616.738.4852,, or by visiting


Grand River Greenway & Explorers Trail

A primary focus of Ottawa County Parks has been the Grand River Greenway Initiative. Over 2,400 acres of land has been preserved and 13 parks and open spaces have been created along the Grand River Greenway. Grand River Explorers Trail

Ottawa County Parks proposes to invest in additional land (including land for the Bend Area) and the construction of 27 miles of new, multi-modal pathway connecting Grand Rapids to Grand Haven.

This investment will create recreational, educational, conservation, and historic attractions by protecting some the highest quality land remaining along the river. It will connect the greenway properties to each other and complete the most critical remaining unfinished link in the regional pathway system – the Grand River Explorers Trail.

Prepare Your Child for Success in School

Children’s hearing and vision impacts their success in school. An undiagnosed hearing problem may impact a child’s ability to pay attention or follow directions. An undiagnosed vision problem may affect a child’s ability to read and learn.

Have your child’s hearing and vision tested by your local health department beginning at age 3 and again just BEFORE the start of kindergarten at no cost. Michigan law requires screening PRIOR to kindergarten entry. If your child is enrolled in school, continuous screenings begin in kindergarten. If your child is not enrolled in a formal school setting, he or she can receive free screenings at your local health department by appointment. Call (616)396-5266 to schedule an appointment with the Ottawa County Department of Public Health at any one of our three locations (Grand Haven, Holland or Hudsonville).

Hearing & Vision Screenings

Michigan Law requires local health departments to offer no cost hearing and vision screening at least once between the ages of 3 and 5; in kindergarten; 2nd and 4th grades (hearing only); and 1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th and 9th grades (vision only).

For more information, visit watch this short video about our screening process at to play video

County to Acquire Historic House in Bend Area Park

Moss House, aerial view

Moss House, aerial view

The Ottawa County Board of Commissioners took action at its September 28 meeting to approve a purchase agreement with the estate of Joyce Carle to acquire 1.28 acres including a historic house located on 12th Avenue in the Bend Area, a county park property on the Grand River in Georgetown Township.  The Bend Area Open Space is currently 258 acres and a grant project pending is expected to add up to 240 additional acres later this fall. The 1.28 acre house parcel is surrounded on all four sides by the pending grant acquisition property.

The Ottawa County Parks Foundation will be assisting the Parks Commission with the $160,000 purchase price with a $17,000 grant. The Parks Commission will explore adapting the house for weddings and other public gatherings, similar to the Weaver House located at Pine Bend..

The house was built in 1913 by Cornelius John “CJ” Moss, the father of Joyce Carle, who passed away in recent months. CJ Moss was a dairy farmer who also spent time as the “town sheriff” of Jenison before he was tragically killed along with his wife at age 45 in a car-train crash in Jenison.

The long-range vision for the Bend Area park property is to acquire 700 acres with park improvements to provide opportunities for swimming, boating, fishing, hiking, biking and picnic facilities. The Parks Commission’s work on the project began in 2000 when it worked with gravel mine operators to develop a master plan for the area that doubled as both a mine reclamation plan and a long-range parks plan.

Volunteers Making a Difference in Ottawa County

The Detroit Free Press published an in-depth article, submitted by the Michigan DNR sharing information about the fight against Hemlock Woolly Adelgid (HWA). Estelle Charroud, a Holland-native and dedicated Ottawa County Parks volunteer was featured in the article.

Estelle Charroud

Estelle Charroud

“Holland’s Estelle Charroud regularly meets with her neighbors urging them to look for signs of HWA and coordinate treatment in their subdivision. ‘It’s a complicated problem to tackle,’ she said. ‘But we owe it to our children to try, we owe it to the majestic forest that surrounds our homes, and, most importantly, we owe it to the amazing wildlife for whom it is home.'”

Read the article here.

More information about the fight against HWA can be found online:

Photo from Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Ottawa County Road Commission – Snowplow Roadeo

Road Commission Employees Prepare for Winter at The 2017 Snowplow Roadeo

roadeoRoad Commission employees participated in the Annual Snowplow Roadeo on October 11th. The event is hosted by the Mid-Michigan Chapter of the American Public Works Association and representatives from Road Commissions, MDOT, and Public Works Departments from around the state participated. The event included contests for “Pride of the Fleet”, “Innovative Ideas”, and a snowplow driving course. The Roadeo also provided seminars on best practices for supervisors and drivers, as well as presentations from leaders in the industry on current trends and innovations for tackling the snow season.

The event is a great way for public organizations to collaborate, compete, and learn from each other in preparation for winter. It is one of the many ways in which the OCRC prepares for the snowplowing season.The snowplow truck, with fabrications from Road Commission staff, and the plow blade painted by local high school students won Pride of the Fleet. The Innovative Idea was an invention that helps make loading and unloading trucks more efficient through modifications to the tailgate, which will help Road Commission workers year-round.

Events, like the Snowplow Roadeo, are a great way to demonstrate the hard work and innovation of Ottawa County Road Commission staff, as well as learn from other agencies.

Preparing for Winter at 2017 Snowplow Roadeo!

roadeoprepDrivers from Road Commissions and Public Works Departments from across the state practiced and competed in a snow plow driving course.




guyandplowOCRC Equipment Supervisor, Randy Nagelkirk, stands next to the Road Commission’s winning entry for “Innovative Idea”.





plowpicsOCRC’s winning entry for “Pride of the Fleet”

Identifying HWA – Hemlock Woolly Adelgid

You can identify Hemlock Woolly Adelgid (HWA) by looking for a white woolly substance found on the base of the needles. This woolly substance is actually a mass of eggs.

HWA close up

These small adelgid insects suck on the sap of hemlock trees causing a tree to slowly lose its vigor over time. As the insect continues to feed and spread throughout a tree, the needles will turn gray and begin to shed. From a distance, a tree will look very stressed and unhealthy as its foliage thins out and bare branches are exposed. Over time, severely infested trees will die.

Close-up photo from the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station.


Ottawa County Road Commission – Snowplow Safety

Seven Snowplow Safety Tips

plowingWinter in Ottawa County usually means lots of snow, and that means snowplows on the road to help keep them clear of snow and ice. The Road Commission wants to keep everyone safe on the road, and so here are seven tips for this winter:

1. Always give snowplows plenty of room on the road. It’s best not to drive next to a plow, or too close behind it. Visibility is limited for snowplow drivers.

2. Don’t park your car on the side of the road or on the shoulder. This can limit the snowplow driver’s ability to clear the road.

3. Make sure your children don’t wait too close to the edge of the road for the school bus. In the mornings, especially during a snowstorm, snowplow driver’s sight is limited and small children in the road can be hard to see. Also, snowplows push up a lot of snow, so make sure your children stay back from the edge of the road.

4. Never play in or leave items in roadside piles of snow.

5. Since snowplows push snow to the right, pile snow on the right-hand side of your driveway (looking towards the road). This will help reduce the amount of snow that can be pushed back into your driveway.

6. When placing your garbage can, don’t place it on the street. When shoveling out your driveway, dig out a spot for your garbage can that is clear from the road.

7. Remember to be patient and drive safely during winter storms. The Road Commission clears the highest volume roads first. Consequently, during major snow events some local roads can take longer to be plowed. Drive cautiously on all roads with ice or snow.

If you follow these tips, you can help keep the roads clear and safe for everyone.

Watch For Green Lights!

greenlightsChanges to Michigan law in 2016 allowed for municipalities and Road Commissions to use green lights on their maintenance vehicles. OCRC has been transitioning its trucks to have green flashing lights. Green lights on the road, especially during the winter, are a signal to slow down and be careful of snow plows. You can read more about the decision to switch to green lights HERE.

Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Grant Awarded to Help Eradicate Hemlock Woolly Adelgid in West Michigan

In October, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) awarded West Michigan Shoreline Regional Development Commission (WMSRDC) a $600,000 grant through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

WMSRDC will partner with its West Michigan Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area (CISMA) partners, which includes Ottawa County Parks, to launch efforts to control and eradicate Hemlock Woolly Adelgid (HWA), a devastating invasive species now established in Michigan that has damaged forests along the east coast over the past decade.

Distribution data from Michigan Departments of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) will be used to begin treatments, but grant funds will be used to survey and record other infestations throughout Lake Michigan’s coastal zone. The project also includes outreach and education for public and private landowners; effective data management; early detection, rapid response and treatment of infested sites.

“The Eastern Hemlock tree plays a crucial role in the forests in Michigan. Hemlock trees are long-lived and provide habitat for a large variety of birds and animals, offering both shelter and forage. The heavy shade given by hemlock trees keep the forest temperatures lower and rivers and streams cooler, which allows for more robust fisheries,” said Kathy Evans an Environmental Program Manager at WMSRDC.

Stand of hemlocks at Port Sheldon Natural Area in Holland, MI

Stand of hemlocks at Port Sheldon Natural Area in Holland, MI

In 2016, eradication efforts led by CISMA and Ottawa County Parks transitioned from a few contained escapes from nursery stock to a more widespread problem. “After speaking with biologists from the east coast, there are many factors that lead us to believe that early efforts can contain the infestation and prevent the major loss of forest, but immediate action must occur if we are to remain optimistic,” said Melanie Manion, Ottawa County Parks.

See video of Allison Kanoti, a forest entomologist with Maine’s Forest Service presented at the Ottawa County Parks Nature Education Center at a public meeting in March. 

The effort to slow the spread of the HWA and protect stands of hemlock trees will strengthen Michigan’s natural forest ecosystem. The loss of the hemlock tree would increase the effects of climate change by allowing the forest temperatures to rise, which would be detrimental to wildlife, as well as the beauty of our natural forests. It would also adversely affect the outdoor recreation economy, especially in northern Michigan. Source: MSU Extension

Public outreach and education will be conducted in Oceana, Muskegon, Ottawa, and Allegan Counties in an attempt to obtain information on additional infested trees. New sites that are discovered through outreach efforts will be recorded and inspected. The outreach campaign will also educate the public about the spread of HWA by birds at bird feeders and infested yard waste; best practices will be taught to mitigate these modes of spread.

This grant will allow for the treatment and protection of 65,405 acres of Lake Michigan shoreline and coastal zone from the effects of HWA. It will also help to cover treatment costs for private landowners.

“Funding at this critical point, in which HWA is not yet widespread, is crucial to start the outreach and treatment,” said Evans. “In order to keep management costs low and the possibility of eradication high, the immediate initiation of control efforts is of the utmost importance. We are grateful for the support of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to help contain this forest pest before it spreads across the state.”

The Grand Ravines Suspension Bridge is Now Open

The Grand Ravines Suspension Bridge

The Grand Ravines Suspension Bridge spans 275′ across a 70′ ravine in Jenison, MI

Ottawa County Parks is pleased to announce the Grand Ravines Suspension Bridge is open to the public as of this morning.

Until recently, a suspension bridge in the Ottawa County Parks system seemed like a pipe dream. “When the master plan was created for Grand Ravines, those beautiful, deep ravines made it challenging to design a viable hiking trail system. We were fortunate to get a permanent trail easement donated by neighboring landowners, which helped in navigating the steep terrain. For a full loop, crossing a major ravine with a trail was unavoidable and a suspension bridge was added into the plan, knowing it was an amenity that may never be financially feasible,” said David VanGinhoven, President of the Parks Commission.

Thanks to a generous individual, with great interest in the Parks’ “pie in the sky” idea, that dream has become reality. “Beatrice Aldrink Idema, known by most as Bea, has very generously donated the funds needed to construct a suspension bridge, allowing a trail connection between the north and south sides of the park,” said VanGinhoven at an event this spring.

Bea was in attendance at a small unveiling event on September 14 and was the first person to cross the officially completed bridge. She will be honored at the Grand Ravines Dedication Event on October 5, 2017 (see below for details).

The Grand Ravines Suspension Bridge is 275′ feet long and 70′ in the air; it’s believed to be the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in Michigan, and, the greater midwest region. It is fully ADA accessible, with paved, accessible paths leading to the bridge on both sides (both segments of pathway that connect to the bridge were covered by yet another donor).

The bridge was constructed by Anlaan Corporation, based out of Grand Haven. “We were incredibly impressed with their work and their timeline. They completed the bridge in three months, right on schedule. It will be a great spot to see fall color,” said Parks Director, John Scholtz. “Grand Ravines is already such a beautiful place and this bridge makes it a true Michigan destination. We are confident that this bridge, and the Grand River Explorers Trail that will run through the park, will bring visitors from near and far, eager to enjoy everything this area of the county has to offer.”

The Parks Commission has received many donations, both large and small, from the community throughout the years. Many parties are to thank for making Grand Ravines the special park it is today. The ravine overlook was built with a gift from the Aldrink family. The dog park has received support from park users, Chow Hound Pet Supplies, the Hudsonville-Jenison Community Foundation, local veterinarians and businesses, most recently WorkSmart Database Masters, LLC and many others.

Masko Family enjoying overlook

Pictured: Masko Family enjoying overlook


Ottawa County Awarded $600,000 for Water Quality Improvements

The Ottawa County Water Resource Commissioner’s Office has been awarded $600,000 from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s Nonpoint Source Pollution Control Grants Program. The funding will reduce Nonpoint source pollution within the upper Sand Creek watershed, located in Wright and Chester Townships in northeast Ottawa County. Sand Creek flows into the lower Grand River and ultimately Lake Michigan.

Nonpoint source pollution is caused when rain, snowmelt or wind carry pollutants off the land and into lakes, streams, wetlands, and other water bodies. Officials will reduce this polluted sediment reaching the Sand Creek by stabilizing the unnaturally eroding stream banks, restoring the filtering wetlands and promoting the farm bill pollution prevention practices. The improvements along the creek will reduce sediment by an estimated 1,250 tons per year, improving water quality throughout the watershed.

The Sand Creek has been identified among the top ten priority Grand River sub‐watersheds for restoration.  The creek is a coldwater and designated trout stream.  Unfortunately, the coldwater fishery is no longer supported due to excessive sedimentation, siltation, nutrients, temperature and flow regime alterations. 

Ottawa County Water Resources Commissioner, Joe Bush, oversaw the Upper Sand Creek Restoration Assessment Study conducted in 2014-2015 by GEI Consultants. The assessment was funded by a $260,919 grant from the MDEQ. The study laid the groundwork for the work that will be completed with the assessment, planning, and design of best practices to improve the health of Sand Creek.

The grant is funded under the federal Clean Water Act – Section 319 and the Clean Michigan Initiative – Nonpoint Source Pollution Control Grants Program.

Over $800,000 Distributed to Ottawa County Libraries

If you have ever wondered what the fine for a speeding ticket supports, look no further than your local library. A portion of the fines collected through the courts from criminal violations and civil infractions supports libraries. Today, Bradley Slagh, Ottawa County Treasurer, announced that the funds heading to the nine local libraries total $826,633.

The Michigan State Constitution of 1963 requires that all penalties collected for violations of the state penal laws be divided into court costs, statutory fees and penal fees. The penal fines are placed in a library fund to be used for the support of public libraries and a county law library. The distribution of these dollars is based on the size of the county population that is served by each library.

“In Georgetown Township, penal fines are an important source of funding for the Library, and as a revenue source, rank second only to the Township’s appropriation to the department,” said Pamela Myers, Director of the Georgetown Township Public Library. “The Library utilizes revenue from penal fines to support programs, services, and collections (e.g., books, DVDs, music CDs, eBooks, audiobooks, etc.). In short, funding from penal fines assists the Township in providing invaluable access and service to Georgetown Township residents through its public library.”

“In recent years the total has ranged from $700,000 to over $900,000 depending on the citations written using the state penal code and the fines levied by the court,” said Brad Slagh. “This year the total fines collected and disbursed are very close to the amounts that were dispersed in 2016.”

Road Commission Video

The Ottawa County Road Commission has released its first video!

We hope to use videos to help keep the residents of Ottawa County better informed about the Road Commission. All of our videos will be uploaded to our YouTube Channel and will be used on our social media and website. So be sure to follow, subscribe, and share!

Our first video highlights one our preventative maintenance programs: Chip Sealing

Ottawa County’s Ranked 9th in Nationwide Survey

The Center for Digital Government and the National Association of Counties announced the winners of the 15th annual Digital Counties Survey. Ottawa County, Michigan was named 9th in the nation compared to counties with populations from 250,000 – 499,000. The survey identifies the best technology practices among U.S. counties, including initiatives that streamline delivery of government services, encourage collaboration and shared services, enhance cyber security and even reduce carbon emissions.

“It is an honor to be recognized nationally. Offering a secure website robust in services is simply good customer service. Citizens can access permits, records, and other needs 24-7 without leaving home. It is efficient for citizens and the County.” said Shannon Felgner, Ottawa County’s Communication Manager. Citizens in Ottawa County are actively visiting for those online services. By the close of business on June 30, Ottawa County topped the ten million dollar mark in total transactions conducted via Its first e-service was property tax searches beginning in December of 2005.

Along with services, residents can stay connected through technology. Ottawa County added email subscription services in 2015 as a way to push information to residents. To date, 26,000 people are subscribed to receive county news via email.

“Though we have consistently been recognized for having a top website, we are never finished. We continue to grow our online services, increase transparency and work in creative ways using technology. Our website is always a work in progress. A new design with improved functionality and accessibility is scheduled in the coming months,” Felgner added.

“Digital counties are leveraging technology to improve the ways they conduct business and engage with citizens in increasingly innovative and exciting ways,” said Todd Sander, executive director, Center for Digital Government. “The Center for Digital Government congratulates this year’s winners for their work to reduce costs, encourage citizen engagement, increase efficiencies and proactively address citizen expectations.”