Ottawa County

Ottawa County Chickenpox

October 18, 2018  |  Ottawa County

On Wednesday, October 17, 2018, the Ottawa County Department of Public Health (OCDPH) received information on a confirmed case of chickenpox in an unvaccinated student attending Waukazoo Elementary in West Ottawa. Parents of students in this school building were notified of the chickenpox case in a letter stating:

By order of the Ottawa County Department of Public Health under the authority of the Michigan Public Health Code Act 368 of 1978, if your child has not been immunized and you cannot provide a verification of a previous diagnosis of chickenpox, he/she will be excluded from school until November 1, 2018, and may return to school November 2, 2018, provided they have not developed chickenpox during this time period.

If you suspect that your child has chickenpox you are encouraged to contact your medical care provider. All individuals diagnosed with chickenpox should be kept home until the rash has crusted over (usually about five days).

If you have been told previously that your child should not receive the vaccine because of a medical condition, please contact your child’s medical provider in the event of chickenpox exposure.

If you have any questions about chickenpox please contact your family’s physician.

Additionally, children and adults who have a compromised immune system through medication or a medical condition should contact their physician.

Chickenpox is a highly contagious illness that generally starts with a slight fever, followed by a blister-like, itchy rash. Although this is usually not a serious illness, in some children and certain high-risk individuals chickenpox can cause much more severe illness leading to hospitalization or even death. Learn more about chickenpox at

Ottawa County Chickenpox

September 27, 2018  |  Ottawa County

On Tuesday, September 25, 2018, the Ottawa County Department of Public Health (OCDPH) was notified of confirmed chickenpox cases in students attending Jenison Public Schools at Kids First (ECC/El Puente). Parents of students in this building were notified of the chickenpox cases in the school, where the OCDPH noted:

• If your child has not been immunized and you cannot provide a verification of a previous diagnosis of chickenpox by a health care provider, your child will be excluded from school for 21 days after onset of the last confirmed case.

• If you have been told previously that your child should not receive the vaccine because of a medical condition, please contact your child’s medical provider in the event of chickenpox exposure.

• If you suspect that your child has chickenpox you are encouraged to contact your medical care provider. All individuals diagnosed with chickenpox should be kept home until the rash has crusted over (usually about five days).

Chickenpox is a very contagious disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus. The virus spreads easily from infected people to others who have never had the disease or been vaccinated. Chickenpox is spread mainly by touching or breathing in the virus particles that come from chickenpox blisters, and possibly through tiny droplets from infected people that get into the air after they breathe or talk.

Parents who elect to waive vaccination for their children meet with a public health nurse and receive education which includes actions that may involve exclusion from school. The OCDPH respects the rights of parents to make vaccination decisions on behalf of their children, but the OCDPH also carries the responsibility of taking actions that provide a balance so the rights of one do not adversely impact the rights and health of others. The importance of protecting the health of the community is what guides the health department’s actions.

“We understand how trying this can be for families. During a conversation with one of the parents impacted by this, we talked about the vaccination waiver they signed and how it included a warning that 21 or more days of school could be missed if a case of a vaccine preventable disease was suspected in their child’s school,” said Health Officer Lisa Stefanovsky. “They remembered that conversation, but admitted they didn’t think it would really happen and hadn’t comprehended how long that would really be.”

The OCDPH carefully considers the concerns of all county residents and other affected community members whenever exercising their local public health authority. Health officials thoroughly review the most current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Michigan Department of Health and Human Services guidelines available.

The OCDPH has issued the least restrictive disease control measures that will still provide reasonable public health protection to reduce further transmission and the chances of a community outbreak. It remains in the best interest of public health to exclude unvaccinated children since those who have been excluded from school cannot be determined to be contagious until they do, or do not exhibit symptoms. This requires a waiting period of up to 21 days.

The best way to prevent chickenpox is to get the chickenpox vaccine. Children, adolescents and adults should get two doses of chickenpox vaccine. The chickenpox vaccine is very effective at preventing the disease. For more information, visit or contact your doctor.

Active Shooter. What Would You Do?

What should you do in the case of an active shooter? Hide? Evacuate? Doing the right things can increase your odds of getting through alive. So far in 2018, more that 800 people have attended a “Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events” class put on by the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office. This thought-provoking and engaging class provides strategies, guidance, and a plan for surviving an active shooter event. Sessions of the popular course are available on:

February 27 | Register | Share Facebook Event
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There is no cost for the class, but registration is required. Weekday sessions are held from 7-10PM. The Saturday class is from 9AM-NOON. All courses are held at the Ottawa County Fillmore Administration Building, 12220 Fillmore, West Olive.

Apply Now for the Citizen Police Academy

The 9-session Citizen Police Academy offers 25 citizens an inside look at law enforcement. Sessions are from 6 to 9PM on Thursdays from March 7 through May 9. Potential candidates for the Citizen Police Academy must meet the following criteria:

• Minimum age of 18
• Live or work in Ottawa County
• No Misdemeanor arrests within one year of application
• No prior felony arrests

Applications will be processed on a first-come-first-serve basis. Pending a background check and eligibility, applicants will be notified of their acceptance into the academy near February 15.

For more information on the Citizen Police Academy and the selection process please contact Sergeant Derek Gerencer at (616) 738-4044.

Register Now

Topics covered in the academy include Road Patrol, Corrections, 911 Central Dispatch, Undercover Investigations, Narcotics, Marine Patrol, Dive Team, K9 Unit, E-Unit, Criminal Scientific Support Unit, Crime Scene Investigation, Firearms, Range, Simulator, Special Operations, Legal System, Accident Investigations and Community Policing. Most sessions will be held at the West Olive Fillmore Complex 12220 Fillmore Street, West Olive, MI 49460. The location of the session may vary depending on the topic.

Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events

There is also space in the Sheriff Office’s Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events sessions. The Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events (CRASE) course provides strategies, guidance, and a plan for surviving an active shooter event.

Participants must be at least 18 years of age; please bring picture ID such as a driver’s license or state-issued identification.

February 27 Register
March 4 Register

Residents Give Ottawa County Government High Marks

According to the results of a Citizen Survey released today, Ottawa County government continues to receive high marks from its residents. Seventy-eight percent of residents said that Ottawa County operations are heading in the right direction. A decade ago in 2008, just 54% of residents shared this view of the county.

thumbsuptaxesrightAn overwhelming majority (72%) reported their tax burden to be “about right” when considering the government services they receive compared to just 55% in 2008. Ottawa County has the fifth lowest millage rate in the state when compared to all 83 Michigan counties. On average, a resident pays about $270 annually for Ottawa County government services, such as law enforcement, courts, public health, record keeping and many others.

Your Lead Foot Buys Books

Do you have a lead foot? While we are not urging you to drive above the speed limit, your costly speeding ticket has a silver lining. A portion of the fines paid to the courts from criminal violations and civil infractions is distributed to local libraries. This year, Ottawa County fines netted nine public libraries a total of $749,943.

The Michigan State Constitution of 1963, requires that all penalties collected for violations of the state penal laws be divide into court costs, statutory fees, and penal fees. The penal fines support public libraries and a county law library.

“Prior year payouts have ranged from $700,000 to over $950,000 depending on the number of citations written using the state penal code and the fines levied by the court,” said Brad Slagh, Ottawa County Treasurer.

Diane Kooiker, the Director of Herrick District Library in Holland, said, “Penal fine revenue is an extremely important component of library funding. Herrick District Library relies on penal fine revenue to provide physical and electronic resources, programming and services for library users”.

The amount paid to each public library is determined by the percentage of the county population living in the area which each library has an agreement to serve. The Library of Michigan-Department of Education dictates the eligible libraries and its associated population.


Ottawa County Tackles Challenging Groundwater Issues with Proactive Planning

One of the last places you would expect to encounter a challenge with ensuring a sustainable supply of fresh groundwater is Ottawa County. Situated along 24 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, with the Grand River traversing its landscape and Lake Macatawa and Spring Lake within its borders, Ottawa County is a popular destination for recreation, business, and living. Access to water is perceivably abundant. However, the water that is located underground and out of view, which is used by thousands of residents as their primary source of fresh drinking water as well as by farmers to irrigate their crops, is at risk.

Originally alerted to groundwater concerns nearly a decade ago, Ottawa County hired Michigan State University (MSU) in 2011 to conduct a comprehensive study of the quality and sustainability of the County’s groundwater system. MSU’s scientific findings released in Spring 2018 confirmed the anecdotal evidence—water levels in the deep bedrock aquifer are declining, and chloride concentrations in the water are increasing. Moreover, the findings of this study support what we’ve known all along—water conservation is critical, even in our Great Lakes State.

MSU’s groundwater study points to unique geological features located underneath several communities in the central areas of Ottawa County as a contributing factor to the groundwater challenge. These areas are seeing declining groundwater levels due to thick layers of clay deposits that prevent water from re-entering the bedrock aquifer locally. As groundwater is continually pumped out of the aquifer, the system is not being “recharged” fast enough to keep up with demand. Furthermore, as the water levels continue to decline, naturally occurring brines (salt) found in the bedrock aquifer are mixing with the groundwater at an increasing rate, resulting in a higher concentration of chloride in the water.  Elevated levels of sodium chloride in water can corrode pipes, damage crops, and potentially exacerbate health concerns among individuals with high blood pressure. The Static Water Levels (SWLs), which is the level of water in a well when the pump is not operating, have actually been on the decline in this area since the 1960s. Extensive historical data shows that some areas of the County have seen a drop of as much as 40 feet over the last 50+ years. Estimates show that if water consumption continues on the current path without intervention, these areas will see another 10 to 15-foot decline in the next 20 years. A decline of this magnitude could result in wells that are inoperable due to reduced or minimally available water resources or unusable because of high chloride concentrations.

Effective water management and planning is key to reversing these issues. “The groundwater concern in Ottawa County is not unresolvable,” said John Yellich, Director of the Michigan Geological Survey. “Other areas of the country have faced similar challenges, and they’ve been able to develop successful strategies to ensure a sustainable water supply.” Another important factor in Ottawa County’s planning effort is to promote and reinforce the need for all residents and businesses to practice water conservation. Paul Sachs, Director of Ottawa County’s Planning and Performance Improvement Department, added, “As the County, West Michigan, and Michigan as a whole continue to prosper, the need for everyone to recognize and practice water conservation will become increasingly more important. Our fresh water supply is not unlimited.”

The County’s Plan for managing its groundwater resources into the future is a collaborative effort that involves multiple partners including, but not limited to, Grand Valley State University’s Annis Water Resources Institute, Michigan Geological Survey, Michigan Groundwater Association, the County Department of Public Health, and County Road Commission Public Utilities Department, among many other stakeholders, scientists, experts, and local decision-makers.

To learn more about how Ottawa County is proactively addressing this groundwater issue and what you can do to help, go to Here you can watch a short video titled “Managing Our Groundwater,” read in-depth about the County’s Groundwater Study and the conceptual Groundwater Management Plan, utilize an interactive groundwater mapping tool, and learn ways to conserve water at your home or workplace.

Ottawa County Parks & The Land Conservancy Partner on Property Purchase


Click to view full-sized image.

Along the banks of the Grand River, just upstream from Grand Haven’s famous musical fountain, along a cut-out in the river known as “the sag,” is a mile of shoreline that has been privately held for many decades.

The 345-acre property sits between green space owned by the cities of Grand Haven and Ferrysburg and North Ottawa Dunes. The site has long been used for sand mining, but has been inactive in recent years. The property includes forested dunes, an 80-acre, and riverfront land with wetlands.

This fall, the public will have the opportunity to experience the natural beauty this property holds for the first time.

This property is now co-owned by Ottawa County Parks and the Land Conservancy of West Michigan (LCWM). It will open to the public on October 15, 2018 following boundary marking, safety improvements, sign and trail marking installations.

A partnership seeking permanent conservation

The Land Conservancy purchased half the property by securing a loan from The Conservation Fund and has leased its portion of the property to Ottawa County Parks for management. Once the funds have been secured to pay back the loan used for purchase, and additional expenses, the property will be transferred to and fully owned by Ottawa County Parks.

“In order to secure this property for the public, the purchase needed to happen in full, but we only had grant funding for just over half of the property. 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.

Now both organizations are working to secure the remaining funds needed to protect all of the property. Ottawa County Parks submitted a 2018 grant application to the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund and a decision on that request will be made in December of 2018. The Land Conservancy will need to raise a minimum of $200,000 to cover costs related to the loan.

“The Trust Fund grant is critical to the success of this project, and they will be looking to see how much the community stands behind it,” said Land Conservancy Executive Director Joe Engel. “Strong public support is crucial; the more we are able to raise before the final grant decision, the more likely the trust fund is to approve the grant.”

Anyone interested in making a contribution to help save this property for public enjoyment and nature preservation can visit:

Sensory Trail at Grand River Park

Eagle Scout constructs trail for children and families living with autism to experience the outdoors

Theodore (Tas) Stoetzner of Boy Scout Troop 354 of Jenison completed his Eagle Scout project by constructing the park system’s first sensory trail in May.

“I chose this project to help kids and families who live with autism enjoy the parks and be outside more. When I was learning about trails, I learned that autistic children sometimes have challenges with senses and decided that I should help them with four stations to help them hear, see, and feel different things in nature,” said Tas.

tasandothersRecognizing that this trail would need extra attention and upkeep, the Parks Department required Tas to recruit a local organization or business to adopt the trail. Tas connected with Autism Support of West Shore, and they agreed to sign on as Adopt-a-Park volunteers.

“Having sensory trails in parks throughout West Michigan makes parks more accessible,” said Linda Ellenbaas from Autism Support of West Shore. “Many children with autism have sensory challenges, either under or over stimulation, and these trails allow children to engage their senses in a safe, natural setting. Those who seek extra movement like running or extended walks can also utilize the trail, with the added bonus of the sensory input.”

An Adopt-a-Park commitment to Ottawa County Parks requires volunteers to visit a park multiple times throughout a year. Ottawa County Parks is grateful for companies who are able to dedicate the time required to the program. When asked what inspired Autism Support of West Michigan to make the commitment, Ellenbaas said, “Our children are often not successful in what would be considered child-friendly places for play and enjoyment. The Autism Support of West Shore board saw this as an opportunity for children on the spectrum to have a place to go and enjoy the outdoors providing them a unique sensory experiences in nature. Autism Support of West Shore is proud to collaborate with Tas and Ottawa County Parks on this unique venture.”

The sensory stations

sensory stations• At two listening stations, users can identify the local birds and their calls.
• At the walk through station, users will walk on pine cones, stones, wood chips, and logs to feel different textures.
• At the manual dexterity station, children can dig and find 15 hidden paving stones, each with different textures.
• The yoga station is intended to help users stretch their bodies and enjoy their surroundings.

Begin at the trail head closest to the picnic building/lake and follow the loop to intersection 7 to 6 to 3 and end at intersection 2 to see all of the stations.

Trail map below


New System Allows Residents to View Crime Online

The Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office and Ottawa County Geospatial Insights and Solutions released a new, mobile-friendly incident mapping system last month. The system allows users to search for police activity by date, location and type of incident. Incident types are categorized as traffic and crashes, crimes against persons, health and safety, drugs and alcohol, property, marine and other services. The incidents listed include a basic description of the call and the general area of occurrence. Calls under the jurisdictions of GVSU, Zeeland, Grand Haven, and Holland are included in the system.

The incident mapping system is a transparency tool allowing residents to be better informed and potentially safer in their neighborhoods. Citizens can see what types of complaints Ottawa County has been responding to in their communities.

Users of the system should note that:

• The incidents listed are law enforcement calls for service, and not necessarily cases or substantiated crimes.
• House numbers are truncated and other data is stripped to protect the privacy of individuals.

Find a link to the system at

Increase in Local Cases Legionnaires’ Disease

coughingAugust 23, 2018 – Legionnaires’ disease is more common during the warmer months when temperatures are ideal for bacteria growth. However, regional epidemiologists are seeing an increase in cases in Ottawa, Kent and Muskegon counties. This increase corresponds with state and national increases. No common source has been identified related to the recent cases.

“It is important people are aware of the signs and symptoms of this serious type of lung infection and contact their doctor right away if they become sick,” said Marcia Mansaray, epidemiologist with the Ottawa County Department of Public Health.

legionnairesLegionnaires’ (LEE-juh-nares) disease
Legionnaires’ disease, a type of severe pneumonia (lung infection), is caused by breathing in small droplets of water that contain Legionella. In nature, Legionella live in fresh water and rarely cause illness. In man-made settings, Legionella can grow if water is not properly maintained. In general, people do not spread Legionnaires’ disease to other people.

If you develop pneumonia symptoms and may have been exposed to Legionella, see a doctor right away. Be sure to mention if you have used a hot tub, spent any nights away from home or stayed in a hospital in the last two weeks.   LEARN MORE

Legionnaires’ Disease Can Cause Pneumonia Symptoms
Signs and symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease can include:

• Cough
• Muscle aches
• Fever
• Shortness of breath
• Headache

Doctors use chest x-rays or physical exams to check for pneumonia. Your doctor may also order tests on a sample of urine and sputum (phlegm) to see if your lung infection is caused by Legionella. Legionnaires’ disease is treated with antibiotics (drugs that kill bacteria in the body). Most people who get sick need care in a hospital but make a full recovery. However, about 1 out of 10 people who get Legionnaires’ disease will die from the infection.

Certain People Are at Increased Risk for Legionnaires’ Disease
Most healthy people do not get Legionnaires’ disease after being exposed to Legionella. Being 50 years or older or having certain risk factors can increase your chances of getting sick.

These risk factors include:
• Being a current or former smoker
• Having chronic lung disease, such as emphysema or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
• Having a weakened immune system from diseases like cancer, diabetes or kidney failure
• Taking medication that weakens your immune system

Certain People Are at Increased Risk for Legionnaires’ Disease
Outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease are often associated with large or complex water systems, like those found in hospitals, hotels and cruise ships.

The most likely sources of infection include:

• Water used for showering (potable water)
• Cooling towers (parts of large air conditioning systems)
• Decorative fountains
• Hot tubs

New Grand Haven Dental Center

The Ottawa County Department of Public Health partnered with My Community Dental Centers Inc. (MCDC) to provide greater access to dental care in Ottawa County. A new dental center will open in Fall 2018 at 805 S. Beacon Blvd., Grand Haven. MCDC is operating the six-chair center on behalf of the health department. The center will provide quality dental care to all – children and adults enrolled in Medicaid, Healthy Kids Dental, Healthy Michigan Plan and private dental insurance. MCDC also offers MyDental Program (MyDP) for people without dental insurance, which provides reduced fees based on household income. An initial dental exam with X-rays will cost $39 for new patients. New patients may register now by calling (877) 313-6232 or visiting

Services offered:

• Dental exams
• Cleanings
• Fillings
• Tooth removal
• Partials
• Dentures
• and other dental procedures.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, good oral health is an important part of good overall health. Oral diseases—which range from cavities to gum disease to oral cancer—cause pain and disability for millions of Americans. They also cost taxpayers billions of dollars each year. When an oral health emergency strikes, people enrolled in Medicaid or those who are uninsured often go to the emergency room, not a dentist. “This new center is a much-needed service in the community,” stated Debra Bassett, oral health team supervisor for the Ottawa County Department of Public Health. “We look forward to the center’s opening and providing accessible and affordable dental services to residents in Ottawa County who have been unable to find a dentist.”

Ottawa County’s Fundraising Effort for Extended Paved Shoulders on Lakeshore Drive is a Success

From miles of bike paths and paved shoulders to sandy beaches, Ottawa County has made outdoor recreation a priority and continues to seek opportunities to expand upon its extensive network of non-motorized transportation facilities. Of the popular cycling routes in Ottawa County, Lakeshore Drive remains at the top for many great reasons, including its scenic views, winding terrain, and regional connection from Grand Haven to Holland.

The effort to construct 4 foot-wide paved shoulders on Lakeshore Drive began in 2002 when the Ottawa County Non-Motorized Pathway Plan was created. This Plan was developed by soliciting input from stakeholders, the public, and local cycling groups to create and expand an interconnected, Countywide non-motorized transportation system.

Since 2002, a collaboration among Ottawa County, the Ottawa County Road Commission, local units of government, cycling groups, and various public and private-sector entities has occurred to fund and add 4 foot-wide paved shoulders along Lakeshore Drive to create a safe separation between motorists and cyclists that ride their bikes along this route. This effort is about enhancing the quality of life for residents, employees, and visitors.

The 4 foot-wide paved shoulders on Lakeshore Drive have been constructed in various stages over the years as a result of a partnership with the Ottawa County Road Commission. In alignment with the County’s Non-Motorized Pathway Plan, the Road Commission has constructed 3 foot-wide shoulders along selected routes in the County with the remaining 1 foot being funded through efforts of the Ottawa County Planning and Performance Improvement Department.  According to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), a 4 foot-wide shoulder is the optimum width for user safety. To date, over 13 miles of 4 foot-wide paved shoulders have been constructed along Lakeshore Drive – with a final 5 mile stretch remaining in Park Township, from New Holland to 168th Avenue.

From a successful crowd-funding campaign in 2015 spearheaded by the Planning and Performance Improvement Department, to collaborative efforts with local units of government and businesses, the expanded paved shoulder network along the entirety of Lakeshore Drive is the result of wide community support.

“The widened paved shoulders on Lakeshore Drive will improve cyclist safety in Ottawa County and increase opportunities for environmentally-friendly transportation alternatives in West Michigan,” noted Park Township Supervisor, Jerry Hunsburger. “Park Township will benefit from this project for many reasons and we are very excited that the final stretch of this project is within our jurisdiction.”

The fundraising effort to complete the final 5-mile stretch from New Holland to 168th Avenue is a success because of our valued public and private community partnerships. The project would not be possible if it weren’t for the generous donations from the following organizations:

• Ottawa County
• Ottawa County Parks Commission
• Park Township
• Macatawa Area Coordinating Council
• Haworth
• Shine Foundation
• Rock ‘n’ Road Cycle
• Velo City Cycles

“I’m very pleased to see this long-term project of widening Lakeshore come to completion,” says Tim Meyer, owner of Rock ‘n’ Road Cycle bicycle stores in Holland and Grand Haven. “The 4 foot-wide paved shoulders provide a safe option for cyclists moving too fast for a multi-purpose path. Lakeshore Drive will be safer for all users – and motorists will have an easier time because of the extra room for cyclists to use the road. Cooperation between units of government in Ottawa County has been commendable.”

Commercial Photography/Videography Permits in Ottawa County Parks

Special permits for commercial photographers will be available in the fall

Since the beginning of the Parks Commission in 1987 it is against the rules to operate a commercial business from parks and open spaces (Rule 6.1k). This is in place to maintain the ambiance, and so visitors can have the experience at the park that you would expect from a park setting. Additionally, unregulated commercial business on park and open space property is a liability to the Parks Commission and could possibly cost the tax payers dearly if an uninsured business owner causes an injury in the park.

Over the years we have not actively enforced this rule in regards to commercial photography and videography. We have allowed commercial businesses to use county parks for their own profit without ensuring that the County’s liability was covered. Recently, several photographers have taken advantage of that leniency and set up make-shift studios in the parks complete with signage, props, lights, and even a receptionist desk. Others frequently blocked trails, or prevented regular users from accessing parts of the park.

Acknowledging that many residents enjoy having family photos taken on park property, the Parks Commission voted in March 2018 to allow photographers to apply for a special commercial photography/videography permit, instead of simply enforcing the current rule (which would have banned all commercial photography from the parks). A special permit will allow commercial photographers to continue to use our beautiful parks as the backdrop for their work, and also cover the county’s liability, while setting some important ground rules.

Unfortunately, as with any permit process, there are administrative costs and costs to enforce the permit requirement. The fee charged is to cover these costs. The County Parks do not expect to make any revenue off of these permits. The goal of this process is the same goal we have for everything we do: To make the parks a great place for visitors to come and enjoy the outdoors.

Ottawa County Parks will begin accepting and awarding applications for commercial photography in the fall of 2018. Until permits become available, review the application and be sure to follow the outlined rules. Please contact Jason Boerger with any questions prior:

If you are a commercial photographer and wish to receive an update when the permit application becomes available, please sign up for our Photography email list Found online here:

As this is a new policy, we welcome feedback. Questions and concerns may be directed to the Parks office:

The Commercial Photography/Videography Application & Regulations can be found online: This permit will not allow for the use of a drone or similar device.

Permits will be required if a photographer:

• Sells produced images
• Uses imagery for advertisement
• Is paid for service while on Park property
• Uses props or equipment not typical of amateur or hobby photographers (see regulations for what props are allowed)

A permit is not required for:

• Personal use
• Special occasion photography / videography taken within a rented/ reserved area of the park
• Members of the news media on official business
• A student project produced only for a grade and not commercial use

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