Ottawa County

Grand Explorers’ Trail Race on June 24

1st Annual Grand Explorers’ Trail Race

June 24, 8:00 a.m.
Grand River Park to Grand Ravines Park
10K • 5K • 1 Mile Kids Run/Walk/Craft

👟>> General Race Info & Registration <<👟


Run through two beautiful Ottawa County Parks in one race! #2Parks1Race

What can we say? This trail race is Grand: Grand River, Grand Ravines, Grand bridges, and Grand views!

The course starts at Grand River County Park winding you through a natural surface trail until you hit the newly completed Idema Explorers Trail segment that leads you along the Grand River to Grand Ravines County Park. As you enter Grand Ravines, you will see an old, covered bridge and go up an incline to a spectacular view of the river. If you’re lucky, you might even see the resident bald eagles out fishing.

If you are running (or walking!) the 5K, you will turn around at this point. If you are running the 10K, you will continue to wind yourself through Grand Ravines Park, around the dog park, through the meadow, across the Idema suspension bridge, and back through the woods to Grand River Park.

Sounds pretty grand, doesn’t it?

Swing by the Grand River Park Lodge on Friday, June 23 from 4:00-7:00 pm to pick up your shirt/bib OR pick up your shirt/bib the morning of the event!

Why participate?
• Because your participation helps support our parks.
• Your participation will help bring awareness to parks and projects like the Grand River Greenway and the Idema Explorers Trail.
• Because parks are for everyone.
• Because parks, nature, and open spaces are essential for our mental and physical health.

Can’t participate the day of the race?
• If you want to support the parks but can’t come the day of the race, you can sign up to participate virtually! Virtual supporters will be guaranteed a shirt.

Find more details and race rules:
Get updates on Facebook

Trail Maps and Courses

• Kids’ 1-mile Fun Run/Walk – $16/person
• 5k Course – $35/person
• 10k Course – $38/person

Directions to the Park
Please be aware that the start/finish area is at Grand River County Park. Google Maps will give you the correct routing to get there. Do not go to Grand Ravines North or South! These parks are nearly adjacent to each other and are similarly-named, which does cause confusion at times.

Public Comment Sought at Ottawa Co. Transportation Committee Meeting Tomorrow

Public Comment Sought at Transportation Committee Meeting on June 21, 2023
submitted by Joel Fitzpatrick, Transportation Planning Director, West Michigan Shoreline Regional Development Commission

The Muskegon and Northern Ottawa County Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), which is responsible for transportation planning in the area, is seeking public comment on the transportation planning process. The planning process includes the 2045 Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP), the development of the 2050 Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP), the Fiscal Year 2023 – 2026 TIP, Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Program of Projects (POP), and other agenda items.

The TIP is developed in a cooperative effort between federal, state, and local officials and serves as the final link in the transportation planning process. Its primary purpose is to identify transportation programs and projects to be funded with federal aid in accordance with federal law and regulations. This plan is an outline of the transportation needs of Muskegon County and Northern Ottawa County for the next four years. The LRTP is a look at the MPO’s future transportation network and is to be used as a guideline for transportation investment. The FTA POP includes 5307 and 5308 funds for the Muskegon Area Transit System and Harbor Transit. Recommendations for new construction, safety improvements, congestion (traffic) management, air quality, non-motorized, transit, planning, etc. will be accepted.

A public comment period is scheduled at the MPO Policy Committee Meeting on June 21, 2023 at 1:30 p.m. The meeting is being held at the office of the West Michigan Shoreline Regional Development Commission, 316 Morris Avenue, Suite 340, Muskegon, Michigan. Meeting materials will be made available on the event calendar at and also on the meetings page at

MiFarmLink Cultivates New Connections

Program moves across state to continue preserving Michigan farms and farming communities.
submitted by Ottawa County, Michigan

MiFarmLink, a program that connects beginning farmers with the land and resources they need to be successful, is moving to a new home at the Washtenaw County Conservation District. Ottawa County will continue to support MiFarmlink by providing outreach, training and staff support as the program makes the transition to the Southeast Michigan hub. Ottawa County will continue to serve as the hub in Western Michigan. [Photo by Rich C. Lakeberg/Ottawa County]

When you think of Michigan’s largest economic drivers, what comes to mind? Automotive has topped the list for decades, but agriculture is an important second. Michigan’s diverse food and ag system accounts for approximately $105 billion in economic activity annually. Though strong, the ag industry is contracting. Older farmers are leaving the industry faster than young farmers are coming in – at a rate of 4 to 1 – and while some older farmers have heirs, many do not. The good news is many first-generation farmers want to step into those shoes, but most are not from farming backgrounds and struggle to find land.

So how do we bring together these landless young farmers with those who are about to park their equipment for the last time? Michigan agricultural leaders and advocates knew they needed to focus on protecting farming’s very finite and critical asset – land.

Enter, a platform where Michigan growers leaving the industry can post their land where new farmers in need of acreage can find it. 

Becky Huttenga, Ottawa County Economic Development Coordinator

“Other states have successful platforms to connect and support farmers of all ages,” said Becky Huttenga, economic development coordinator for Ottawa County, which is third-largest agricultural economy in Michigan. “There are plenty of resources out there for Michiganders interested in farming, but we as a state lacked a sort of one-stop shop. With MIFarmLink, we created just that.

As an agricultural and food processing leader with the fastest growing population in the state, it made sense for Ottawa County to be the first hub for MiFarmLink. Since its initial launch in 2021 with funds from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Beginning  Farmer and Rancher Development Program, MiFarmLink has connected farmers from Leelanau to Washtenaw and features information about land for sale, succession planning, mentorship and events. Now, the MiFarmLink baton is being passed to the Washtenaw County Conservation District (WCCD).

“As home to the largest number of beginning farmers in the State, and with large diversified and thriving direct markets, Washtenaw County is an ideal location to start an agricultural business,” said WCCD Executive Director Megan DeLeeuw. “Which is why it is also the perfect place to continue to build MiFarmLink.”

The website garnered the attention of Ann Arbor Natural Area Preservation’s Land Acquisition and Sustainability Deputy Manager Remy Long. He was amazed by the timing.

“Washtenaw region land protection specialists have long recognized the need for a platform like MIFarmLink and were finally about to start fundraising to create one when I heard about the work Ottawa County was doing,” said Long.

He connected Ottawa County with land preservationist Trilby MacDonald, who had been leading the effort to create a land-link program in Washtenaw County.  “As a former farmer who struggled to buy land, watching the conversion of farmland to developments is especially painful,” said MacDonald. “Conservation leaders had talked about the need to develop a tool to connect farmers for years, but nothing happened. So I volunteered to get local conservation leaders together to gather data and raise money.”

MacDonald, Huttenga and DeLeeuw worked together to obtain two years of financial support from The Americana Foundation, Towsley Foundation, and the Carls Foundation, organizations that Huttenga describes as “leaders in community programming that appreciate the need to support our first generation and underserved farmers as they pursue their dreams in agriculture.” Their support has allowed for MiFarmLink’s next phase of growth in southeast Michigan. 

Sam Stokes, New MiFarmLink Coordinator, farmer 

A Washtenaw County local, Sam Stokes, has been hired by the WCCD to serve as the full time MiFarmLink coordinator. “As a farmer in the southeast Michigan region, this project really grabbed my attention,” said Stokes. “The cost of land and the rate at which it’s being sold for development is just frightening, and MiFarmLink will be a great tool to get land into the hands of new farmers and protect it from conversion into housing, commercial, industrial or other non-farm uses.

MiFarmLink will grow under the guidance of an advisory committee made up of leaders from the agricultural community who are dedicating their time and expertise to make MiFarmLink a platform and program that represents and serves their communities. These advisory committee members each wear numerous “hats” within the food system that include – but are not limited to – land preservationists, beginning and first-generation farmers, legacy farmers, agricultural landowners, food systems experts, educators, advocates and community organizers.

To stay up-to-date on MiFarmLink, you can subscribe to their E-newsletter, keep tabs on the website and follow/like the Facebook page

Parks & Public Health Team Up to Offer “Step it Up!”

Walking Program free in Ottawa & Allegan counties

click to view full file

Get signed up for Step it Up!, a free, 8-week program created in partnership by Ottawa County’s Parks & Recreation and the Department of Public Health. Step it Up! was designed to help participants get active and visit new parks. All levels of fitness are welcome!

Participants will be able to set activity goals and track their activity through the Step it Up! online platform. Participants can also look forward to:

  • Guided group walks and group adventures
  • Discovering new parks in Ottawa and Allegan counties
  • Meeting new people
  • Motivation and accountability by logging activity and setting goals
  • Incentive prizes

The program begins May 2! To sign up, visit:

👟 >> Click here to sign for Step it Up! today << 👟

Group Walks & Activities
In order to help participants stay active throughout the program, there are weekly walks – lead by a guide – in Ottawa and Allegan Counties! To encourage participants to discover new recreational activities, the program also offers opportunities to try kayaking and orienteering. These activities and necessary equipment are free-of-charge to registered participants.

Click here for the walk and activity schedule.

click to view full file

Step it Up! begins May 2
Sign up today!

Rep. VanWoerkom Sworn in to Represent New 88th House District

Rep. invites residents to contact office at new phone number

State Rep. Greg VanWoerkom (R-Norton Shores) was sworn into office for his third term today. He now represents the people of Michigan’s new 88th House District, which encompasses parts of Muskegon and Ottawa counties, including Ferrysburg, Grand Haven, Spring Lake, Norton Shores, and the townships of Crockery, Olive, Port Sheldon, and Robinson.

The representative said he is eager to get to work addressing the issues that matter to West Michigan residents, such as inflation relief, public safety, parental involvement in education, access to child care and more.

“I represent a new district, the House is under new leadership, and our state is facing new challenges,” VanWoerkom said. “I am ready to get to work and continue to be a voice for the people of West Michigan. I am confident House Republicans and Democrats will be able to find common ground on the important issues facing our great state.”

Rep. VanWoerkom invites residents to contact his new 88th District office with any concerns, thoughts or ideas about state government and legislation by phone at (517) 373-1830 or by addressing mail to N-1192 Anderson House Office Building, P.O. Box 30014, Lansing, MI 48909. His email address,, remains the same.

From right to left, Rep. Greg VanWoerkom is joined by his mother, Valerie VanWoerkom, his son and daughter, Ewan and Rowan VanWoerkom, and his father, Jerry VanWoerkom, former Michigan representative and senator, as he is sworn in for his third term by House Clerk Gary Randall.

OCRC Reminds Motorists to be Safe, Alert This Winter Season

Ottawa County Road Commission crews are working hard to help keep area roadways clear during our first major snow event of the 2022-23 winter maintenance season.

As our crews begin to share the road with area drivers, the OCRC is offering up some tips and information on winter operations, from plowing priorities to snow plow safety.

Plowing Priorities

Winter maintenance operations are conducted in accordance with the established priority system based on traffic volumes, road classification, and location.

The priorities are as follows:

1 – State Trunklines (i.e. I-96, I-196, US-31, M-45)
2 – Multi-lane Primary Roads
3 – Primary Roads
4 – Local Paved Roads
5 – Subdivision Streets
6 – Local Gravel Roads
7 – Dead End Streets and Cul-de-sacs

Tips For Driving


Do not attempt to pass snow plow vehicles while they are plowing. Never attempt to pass a snow plow on the right.

Do not crowd the plow! Plow drivers have limited visibility and they cannot see directly behind their trucks. Please be aware that snow plow trucks may back up at intersections.

Be sure your windshield is clear of ice and snow. Make sure washer fluids are full, tires have proper air pressure and tread, and your vehicle is equipped with essential emergency equipment.

Posted speeds are for ideal road conditions. Michigan law requires motorists to drive at a “careful and prudent speed” in all conditions. Reduce speeds and increase following distances. Accelerate and brake slowly and avoid over-steering.

Beware of ice patches. Bridges and overpasses freeze first.

Avoid distractions. Don’t talk on your cell or text.

Always wear your safety belt. Ensure that all passengers are properly buckled, and children are in appropriate child-restraints.

Keep Away from the Road

Our plow drivers often deal with low visibility during winter weather events. Snow is constantly flying onto the windshield and around the plow truck. These conditions make it a challenge for our drivers to see anyone along the road — both children playing and homeowners shoveling or blowing snow on their driveways.

Just because you can see or hear the plow truck doesn’t mean the driver can see you! Make sure your far enough off of the road and away from the truck when it is operating in your vicinity. 

Plows can throw large chunks of ice into ditches when plowing, these chunks of snow and ice could cause you to become injured.

Make sure you remind your children that it is never a good idea to tunnel into snow or build forts in the snowbanks along the side of the road. Our drivers will not be able to see you, and if you’re in the tunnel, you could be “snowed in” when a truck plows next to you.

January 3 Ottawa County Board of Commissioners Meeting

The first Board of Commissioners meeting of 2023 will be held on January 3, 2023 at 8:30 a.m. This meeting is known as the Organizational Meeting and the board will be sworn in and details such as committee assignments and meeting schedules will be determined. The meeting takes place in the Board Room at 12220 Fillmore Street, West Olive and is open to the public. The meeting opens and closes with an opportunity for the public to comment. Comments can also be submitted online at The meeting can also be watched on YouTube.

A Home for the Holidays: Ottawa Celebrates Adoption Day

Courts host Adoption Day Celebration on November 22

The holiday to give thanks is upon us and the importance of family is top of mind. Families come together in many of ways, one of which, is adoption. Recognized nationally since 1995 and statewide since 2002, November is Adoption Month. Locally, the 20th Circuit and Ottawa County Probate Courts celebrate Adoption Day alongside the Michigan Supreme Court on the Tuesday prior to Thanksgiving. To honor this tradition, the Court will host its twentieth event in hopes it will inspire some to open their hearts and homes to consider foster care and adoption.

With great joy, the Court will kick off what is warmly known as the “happiest day at the court” with a brief ceremony on Tuesday, November 22 at 9:00am. Confirmation hearings presided by Chief Probate Court Judge, Mark A. Feyen and Family Division Judge, Kent D. Engle, will follow. All events will take place at the Fillmore Complex in West Olive.

Please join us in celebrating the families who choose to open their hearts to these children and provide them with their forever home.

Local and State Adoption Facts:

  • In fiscal year 2022, more than 1,600 Michigan children were adopted through the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services or private agencies.
  • At any given time, there are approximately 10,300 children in Michigan’s foster care system and of those, nearly 250 children are in need of a forever family through adoption.
  • Typically, adoptions are finalized in private, but on Adoption Day, more than 30 courts statewide are expected to host events, to raise awareness and to inspire more families to think about adoption.
  • People can adopt whether they are single or married. They do not have to be wealthy or own their own home but must have adequate financial resources to provide for a family.
  • Children in the foster care system become eligible for adoption following termination of parental rights due to abuse or neglect. The goal for most children in the foster care system is reunification with their families.
  • There is support for families who want to adopt. In fact, approximately 95 percent of children who are available for adoption qualify for assistance to help families with some of the costs of bringing children into their homes.
  • More information is available at the Michigan Adoption Resource Exchange website:

Ottawa County Clerk & Elections Coordinator Answering Your Elections Questions – 10/25/22

Ottawa County Clerk Justin Roebuck and Elections Coordinator Katie Sims to Answer Elections Questions


West Olive – We hope you’ll join us at Loutit District Library in Grand Haven on Tuesday, October 25th for our third Community Conversation! Come with your questions regarding elections in Ottawa County. We encourage you to RSVP and submit questions ahead of time though it is not required. We are so excited to have the opportunity to host these events and further our goal of being an accessible resource to the residents of Ottawa County.

Keep up to date and receive election information by email or text Ottawa Votes to GOV-311 (468-311) to receive text messages.

Waterman Selected as Deputy Ottawa County Administrator


After wading through a pool of 47 applicants, Ottawa County Administrator John Shay announced today that Patrick Waterman has been selected to serve as the next Deputy County Administrator. Waterman’s contract was approved at the Ottawa County Board of Commissioners meeting on September 27.

“We are thrilled to have Patrick join the Ottawa County Team,” said Shay. “His many years in city management, community development and municipal planning will serve the residents well.”

Waterman has been a resident and public servant of Ottawa County for over twenty years. He and his family currently reside in the City of Hudsonville where he has served as City Manager since 2010. During his time there, Waterman led the city’s efforts to revitalize their downtown and expand pedestrian connectivity. He was instrumental in the completion of several economic development and quality of life enhancement projects. Prior to Hudsonville, Waterman served as the Community Development Director for Grand Haven Charter Township for eight years. He also has over a decade of private sector experience, having worked for various municipal planning and engineering consulting firms in Michigan.

Waterman received his Bachelor of Science in Urban and Regional Planning from Michigan State University, and Master of Public Administration from Grand Valley State University. He is a certified professional planner with the American Institute of Certified Planners.

“I am very excited to begin this next chapter of my career,” said Waterman. “I have a tremendous amount of admiration and respect for Ottawa County. Their reputation as a model of efficiency, collaboration, and innovation is recognized statewide, traits that can only be attributed to the county’s exceptional leadership and capable team of dedicated employees.

It has been a tremendous honor and privilege to serve the wonderful community of Hudsonville these past twelve years. I now look forward to the opportunity to take on new challenges and serve at the county level.”

Patrick Waterman will fill the position vacated when John Shay was promoted to County Administrator in March of 2022. The Deputy County Administrator position pays $158,000 per year and Waterman will take his post on November 21.

Ottawa County Ranks Among the Top Healthiest Counties in Michigan

(HOLLAND, MI.) – According to the 2022 County Health Rankings (CHR), Ottawa County ranks among the healthiest counties in Michigan. The annual report ranks Michigan counties based on data collected in two areas: Health Outcomes and Health Factors. Ottawa County ranked number two out of 83 counties in the State of Michigan in both categories.

The current overall health of Ottawa County residents is measured in the Health Outcomes category, which tracks data for five health measures in the areas of Length of Life and Quality of Life.

The future health of county residents is highlighted in the Health Factors category, which tracks 30 health measures in the areas of Health Behaviors, Clinical Care, Social and Economic Factors and Physical Environment.

  • Ottawa County did as well or better than Michigan’s overall rating in 80% of measures.
  • Compared to top U.S. performing counties, Ottawa County met or exceeded 26% of the benchmark measures.

The CHR also highlights opportunities for improvement.

Ottawa County does not compare favorably to top performing counties for:

  • Access to primary care (medical, dental and mental health providers). Though Ottawa County has consistently underperformed in these provider access measures by comparison, its people maintain a high level of overall health as reflected in top rankings for Length of Life and Quality of Life. These two areas mirror the current health of a community. The Ottawa County community has taken deliberate action through its Community Health Improvement Plan to help residents navigate the often complicated health care system and to create solutions that fill gaps.
  • Air quality concerns, due to the geographic position we share with other counties along the lakeshore in southwest Michigan, are captured by one of the measures in an area called Physical Environment, where Ottawa County has consistently ranked lower than other Michigan counties and top U.S. performing counties. Despite the current ranking, air quality in Ottawa County has improved over the last two decades.

Other areas where Ottawa County has opportunities to improve involve addressing social determinants of health such as:

  • Violent crime, where Ottawa County ranked higher than other Michigan counties, but lower than top U.S. performing counties.
  • Excessive drinking increased to 22% of the adult population in this year’s rankings and alcohol-impaired driving deaths remained elevated with 30% of motor vehicle crash deaths involving alcohol.
  • Driving alone to work remains a common practice in Ottawa County (82%), slightly higher than the State of Michigan and much higher than top-performing counties across the U.S.

For more information, see the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps information for Michigan.

Ottawa County to Break Ground on New Family Justice Center

Architect Rendering

Ottawa County officials are set to break ground on the new Family Justice Center with a ceremony on June 9 at 10 a.m. The new 56,000-square-foot facility will bring all of the departments of the 20th Circuit Court’s Family Division under one roof on the West Olive campus. This includes Juvenile Court, Friend of the Court and other related offices to provide coordinated and centralized services to residents.

Date, time and location of groundbreaking ceremony:

  • Thursday, June 9, 10-11 a.m.
  • Ottawa County Fillmore Complex, Parking Lot C

Ottawa County awarded the project as an Integrated Project Delivery agreement with Granger Construction, DLZ Michigan, Steel Supply & Engineering, Allied Mechanical Systems, Buist Electric and Accurate Controls. Including designers, contractors and key subcontractors in early project planning is intended to keep costs on target, incentivize savings and result in a well-designed and thoughtfully-constructed facility. 

Facilities studies dating as far back as 2006 had identified inadequacies in the court facilities in West Olive including insufficient courtroom space and acoustics; lack of privacy for clients and attorneys; no separate waiting spaces for victims or witnesses; lack of ADA compliant restrooms; and other shortcomings.

The anticipated completion date of the new Family Justice Center is Spring 2024.

Ottawa County Medication Take Back Event – April 30th

Remove the Risk from your Home – Ottawa County Medication Take Back Event
Spectrum Health Zeeland Community Hospital
Saturday, April 30 from 10am-2pm

Proper disposal of medications, sharps, and vapes is not only good for the environment but it provides a safe method to remove these items from your home.  Community Mental Health of Ottawa County and Spectrum Health Zeeland Community Hospital are partnering with Michigan OPEN and the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department to host a medication take back event on Saturday, April 30th from 10am-2pm.

This will be a drive thru event to ensure the safety of everyone participating.  Please bring any unused or expired medications, sharps, or vapes to be safely disposed of.  We will be offering medication lock boxes as well as Narcan training/distribution for those who are interested.

Did you know?

  • Every 10 minutes a child visits the emergency room for medication poisoning.
  • 12.5 million people age 12 and older misused opioids in the last year.
  • Three in five teens say prescription pain medication is easy for them to get from their parents’ medicine cabinet.

Community medication take back events provide a safe process for disposing of unused medications, sharps, and vapes while protecting our communities, children, and environment.

We encourage you to remove the risk from your home and bring your unused medications, sharps, and vapes to Spectrum Health Zeeland Community Hospital at 8333 Felch Street, Zeeland, Michigan 49464 this Saturday, April 30th from 10am-2pm.

If you would like more information or have questions contact or call 616-494-5545.

New Public Defender Appointed for Ottawa County


Nichole Jongsma Derks is the newest Public Defender for Ottawa County. The Public Defender post was vacated earlier this year upon the retirement of Robert Hamilton.

“I am humbled to serve as the Public Defender for Ottawa County and build on the firm foundation we established with our first Public Defender, Mr. Robert Hamilton,” said Derks upon her appointment. “The outcome a person receives in the criminal justice system should not depend on their ability to pay their defense attorney. I am proud to lead an elite and diverse team of litigators who believe in this mission as we represent our fellow citizens.”

Derks served as First Assistant Public Defender for Ottawa County since 2018. Prior to joining the County, she practiced criminal defense and litigation at Foster, Swift, Collins, and Smith PC. Derks attended The Ohio State University for her undergraduate studies and earned her juris doctorate at Michigan State University College of Law. Nichole Jongsma Derks is an Ottawa County native who was born in Zeeland and raised in Jenison.

New Chief Deputy County Clerk Appointed for Ottawa County


GRAND HAVEN: Ottawa County Clerk and Register of Deeds Justin Roebuck announced that as of March 7, 2022, he has appointed Renee Kuiper as Chief Deputy County Clerk. The Chief Deputy Clerk position was previously held by Sherri Sayles, who retired in December of 2021 after 33 years of service with Ottawa County.

Kuiper has served in the Circuit Court Records Division of the County Clerk’s Office since 2013, where she has led the way for the department on numerous technology projects such as the implementation of a new jury management system in 2016, and as the project manager for the Clerk’s Office as Ottawa County’s 20th Circuit Court implemented the Michigan Judiciary’s Electronic Filing System, serving as a state pilot. Kuiper also serves as the Site Emergency Coordinator for the Grand Haven Courthouse, where she works closely with County Emergency Management to update site emergency plans, and actively plans drills and conducts staff exercises for the Courthouse facility.

“I am excited to appoint Renee Kuiper to this critical leadership role within our department”, said Roebuck. “As someone I have worked closely with for a number of years, I know that Renee embodies the values and culture of our team and of Ottawa County as an organization.”

Kuiper received her undergraduate degree from Arizona State University and her J.D. from Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School. She resides in Allendale with her husband Cameron and two children Rhys, 5, and Marlowe, 1.

Shady Side Farm Awarded MDARD Farmland Preservation Funds

Olive Township grower is one step closer to preserving 123 acres; applications for PDR program being accepted through end of April

WEST OLIVE – Mike Bronkema, co-owner and operator of Shady Side Farm in Olive Township, is no stranger to the idea of farmland preservation. “In ’92 we bought the farm that we’re on,” said the Holland-area native. “The farmer that sold me the land that I’m on wanted to see it preserved. He wanted me to buy the farm because he knew I was going to farm it instead of subdividing it.” Years later, Bronkema was part of the committee that helped push for the Agriculture Preservation Board he sits on today. “I realized that preserving farmland in Ottawa County was important, and that whatever we did had to benefit the farmers.”

Now, with a $168,750 grant from the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Bronkemas will be able to rest easy knowing the farm they’ve built over 30 years will continue to produce long after they’ve shorn their last sheep. These funds will help pay for an agricultural easement to permanently protect five parcels totaling 123 acres.

Shady Side Farm as seen from above in Olive Township. Run by the Bronkema family, their 123-acre operation is now one step closer to preservation thanks to a $168,750 grant from the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. [Ottawa County photos]

But getting to this point wasn’t easy. Supporting the program and qualifying to protect your own operation are two very different things. “(Sitting on the board) has nothing to do with it,” Bronkema mused. “Put it this way. It’s all the practices that you put in, in your farming, on your farm – in things that you’re doing to improve sustainability in your farm is what gets you approved for farmland preservation.”

The Bronkemas will be the sixth farming family to protect their land through Ottawa County’s Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) program. This program uses a combination of state and/or federal grant funding, private donations, and landowner contributions to purchase the development rights to farmland, creating a permanent agricultural conservation easement.

Creating easements through the sale of development rights guarantees the land is used for ag purposes or remains in a natural state in perpetuity. Landowners are compensated for lost development potential, yet still own the land and retain all other rights associated with it. The Bronkema easement brings the total number of acres protected by the PDR program to 566. This is in addition to 654 acres permanently preserved by the State of Michigan.

PDR applications being accepted through April 30

Interested in protecting your own farm, or know someone who might? Now through April 30, farmers and other landowners can apply to preserve their eligible, agriculturally zoned property by selling its development rights. Start the process today by completing a preapplication at

For more information on the Purchase of Development Rights Program, and other County efforts to ensure our vibrant local agricultural industry continues to thrive for generations, visit

About the Ottawa County Farmland Preservation Program

With area farmers producing more than $506 million in products annually (2017 Ag Census), Ottawa County is an agricultural powerhouse. Ottawa is also the fastest growing county in the state and has a low unemployment rate. But this positive growth comes at a cost to agriculture: between 2012 and 2017, Ottawa County lost 8 percent of its farmed acreage and 17 percent of its farms. Ottawa County’s Farmland Preservation Program seeks to protect this vital industry and slow the loss of farms and farmland through programmatic efforts, including the Purchase of Development Rights Program.

Funded through a combination of private donations and state and federal grants, the PDR program preserves farmland through the purchase and donation of development rights for actively farmed property. This voluntary program allows participating landowners to receive compensation for the development potential of their land, yet still retain ownership and other rights associated with it through a permanent easement.

To learn more, visit

Ottawa County Board Votes John Shay as next Administrator

John Shay

March 24, 2022 – By a unanimous vote, the Ottawa County Board of Commissioners have extended an offer to John Shay to serve as the next County Administrator. Terms of the contract including wages and other benefits will be finalized in the coming weeks.

Shay began his service to Ottawa County as Deputy County Administrator in June of 2018. Before that, Shay served 15 years as the Ludington City Manager and a as Village Manager of Almont for the five-years prior. He received his Bachelor of Arts in History from Boston College and Master of Public Administration from Oakland University.

Outside of his work for Ottawa County, Shay governs on the Football Field as an official for the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association. John and his wife, Carla, have three children.

John Shay replaces former County Administrator Al Vanderberg who left in July of 2021 to become the Kent County Administrator. Shay will begin his duties as County Administrator pending the approval of an employment contract.

“I am very honored to officially be named Ottawa County’s next Administrator and to lead a dedicated team of public servants, providing excellent public services in a cost-effective manner,” said Shay.

Sign of Spring: Severe Weather Warning Siren Test

The first of several monthly outdoor warning siren tests for 2022 in Ottawa County will happen on Friday, April 1 at noon. These tests will continue through October on the first Friday of each month.

The warning sirens are designed to alert those who are outdoors of an imminent hazard, most often severe weather, prompting them to find shelter and seek further information. Sirens can typically be heard (outdoors) within a mile radius from their sounding location. More at details are available at

The tests are good reminders for residents to prepare for severe weather by having emergency supplies in their homes, such as water, flashlights, non-perishable foods and other items. Learn more about building a kit at  

Outdoor warning sirens represent only one part of a broader public emergency notification system. Other components include National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration All-Hazards Weather Radio, law enforcement, emergency management, text notification networks, private sector meteorologists and the media. Smartphone apps can also provide notification of weather watches and warnings.

Ottawa County Broadband Internet Initiative Marches Forward

Internet survey data being analyzed; county and partners prepare for next steps

Since June 2021, Ottawa County – in collaboration with Merit Network, Inc. – has been surveying area residents and businesses to capture a more accurate picture of local high-speed internet access and connection speeds. This data includes – but is not limited to – households with access to broadband and those without; households struggling to pay for broadband; and the reliability of existing broadband networks. This survey and data collection effort is part of a larger Comprehensive Digital Inclusion Strategy, a four-part initiative to ultimately establish universal access to affordable and reliable broadband throughout Ottawa County.

Next steps: Analyzing the data, developing solutions
Merit Network has been diligently analyzing and compiling the data collected during last year’s surveying efforts. Soon Merit will be presenting its findings to the Ottawa County Broadband Data Collection Steering Committee, Ottawa County officials, and Urban Wireless. With report in hand, Urban Wireless – with support from Ottawa County – will then develop a feasibility analysis, a preliminary engineering design, and a cost model.

Public-private partnerships are key
The Digital Inclusion Strategy will also be heavily dependent upon the development of strong public/private partnerships. “With a project of this magnitude, Ottawa County cannot go it alone,” said Paul Sachs. “We need to partner with internet service providers, fiber providers and equipment providers among others to bring this plan to fruition.” Some preliminary discussions have been had with companies operating in the region; as the weeks go by, the County anticipates more companies will express interest in the initiative.

Network managed as a public-private partnership
Once the broadband network is developed, Ottawa County expects it will have an ownership interest. However, this does not mean the County is interested in operating its own broadband network. The County’s interest would be that of deploying and owning the infrastructure, such as conduits to facilitate fiber lines, and towers where wireless is expected to be deployed. This infrastructure would then be leased to any providers that wish to sell their service in Ottawa County. Pursuing this model has potential benefits:
• It greatly reduces the amount of capital a service provider has to expend to provide broadband service in Ottawa County.
• It would likely keep prices reasonable by providing multiple service options and creating competition among the providers.

How will this work be funded?
Funding will come from a variety of resources. There are numerous grants, including ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) and the recently enacted Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), just to name a few. The specific grants for which Ottawa County is eligible depends in large part upon the results of its data collection. It is also not beyond the realm of possibility that the County could look to its constituents for some contributions.

For more information on Ottawa County’s Digital Inclusion Strategy and how to participate, check the Digital Inclusion website often or contact the Ottawa County Department of Strategic Impact at

Ottawa County Administrator Finalist Interview to be Held in Public

John Shay

Following an extensive national search, a selection committee is recommending that the Ottawa County Board of Commissioners move forward with a familiar candidate, John Shay, for consideration as the next County Administrator. Shay is currently serving as the Interim County Administrator and has been in the role of Deputy County Administrator since 2018. As part of its regular meeting, the Board will be conducting a Public Interview Session on March 24 at 5PM with Shay. The interview will be held in the Board Room located at 12220 Fillmore Street in West Olive. The public is invited to submit potential interview questions via On March 24, residents can watch the interview unfold live online or in person.

There were 36 applicants for the post of County Administrator. Four of those applicants were interviewed for the position. The selection committee for the County Administrator included outgoing Board Chair, Roger Bergman, current Board Chair, Matthew Fenske, and current Vice Chair, Allen Dannenberg plus citizen representative from each of the four county quadrants. Those individuals were Monica Verplank, northwest; Michelle Fare, southeast; Jose Gomez, northeast; and Jennifer Owens, southwest.

Apply Now for the Citizen Police Academy (Ottawa County)

submitted by the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office

If you cannot make it this year or the course is full, watch for future trainings and sign up to be notified.

The multi-session Citizen Police Academy offers 25 citizens an inside look at law enforcement. Sessions are from 6 to 9PM on Thursdays from May 5 through June 30. 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 April 15.

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.

For more information on the Citizen Police Academy and the selection process please contact Sergeant Ryan DeVries at (616) 738-4038.

Sign Up Now for Free “Step it Up” Walking Program

Parks & Public Health team up to offer Step it Up! Walking Program free in Ottawa & Allegan counties 

Get signed up for Step it Up!, a free, 8-week program created in partnership by Ottawa County’s Parks & Recreation and the Department of Public Health. Step it Up! was designed to help participants get active and visit new parks. All levels of fitness are welcome! 

Participants will be able to set activity goals and track their activity through the Step it Up! online platform. Each week, participants who track their activity are eligible for incentive prizes.

Participants can also look forward to:

  • Guided group walks with varying paces & guided group adventures
  • Discovering new parks in Ottawa and Allegan counties
  • Meeting new people
  • Motivation and accountability by logging activity and setting goals
  • Incentive prizes

The program begins April 11! To sign up, visit:

>> Click here to sign for Step it Up! today << 


Ottawa County Roads’ Seasonal Weight Restrictions Begin Tuesday, March 1

Seasonal weight restrictions go into effect Tuesday, March 1, at 6 a.m.

The Ottawa County Road Commission gives notice that at 6 a.m. Tuesday, March 1, 2022, spring weight restrictions will be in effect and strictly enforced on all county roads under their jurisdiction.

The Road Commission has implemented a 24-hour-a-day recorded answering system for the public to use to check the status of the seasonal weight restrictions. To access this message system please call (616) 842-0086 or 1-800-394-0290.

You can also visit our website,, to find the latest information about seasonal weight restrictions, as well as obtain all trucking-related maps and permit information. 

For a statewide list of counties and their weight restriction status, visit the County Road
Association of Michigan’s Seasonal Weight Restriction website at

Why seasonal weight restrictions are necessary

By law, road agencies can enact weight restrictions on any roads not designed as “all
season” roads. All season roads are much thicker and designed to allow trucking year-around.

The Road Commission employs weighmasters who enforce seasonal weight restrictions on county roads.

Weight restrictions lower axle loading limits and reduce maximum travel speeds for certain vehicles.

The Road Commission must strike a balance between “business as usual” and protecting the roads when determining to implement seasonal weight restrictions.

Road damage caused by heavy vehicles during winter and spring thaw periods is a problem that affects all northern states.


Unless a roadway has been designed and constructed for heavy vehicle loads year-round and designated to be an “all season” road, a significant loss of pavement strength occurs during a seasonal thaw.

The damage to a road is directly related to the amount and frequency of the loading applied.

Michigan law provides that the months of March, April and May are automatically reduced loading months, but the statute also allows the Road Commission to implement those restrictions earlier, or suspend reduced loading, depending upon the weather and road conditions.

Area Emergency Managers to Host Virtual Townhall Meetings on Regional Mitigation Plan

submitted by Ottawa County

Grand Rapids, Michigan – Kent and Ottawa Counties and the City of Grand Rapids are holding three virtual townhall meetings to gather stakeholder input on the Regional Hazard Mitigation Plan. This plan is a comprehensive analysis of our regional hazards and vulnerabilities and potential ways to decrease the effects of those hazards. The regional plan is a requirement to be eligible for FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant Funds for pre and post disasters.

Each of the three regional partners have a designated virtual townhall; however, the public is welcome to participate in any of the meetings.

• Ottawa County ∙ February 9, 2022 ∙ 6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
• Kent County ∙ February 16, 2022 ∙ 6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
• City of Grand Rapids ∙ February 23, 2022 ∙ 6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.

These virtual meetings are a great opportunity for residents to learn about the Regional Hazard Mitigation Plan, ask questions and provide input, and to meet the emergency managers from Kent County, Ottawa County, and the City of Grand Rapids.

The meeting links and the Regional Hazard Mitigation Plan can be found at A Spanish translator will be available at the February 23 meeting.

Children’s Special Health Care Services

State of Michigan expands Children’s Special Health Care Services coverage to adults with sickle cell disease
submitted by the Ottawa County Department of Public Health

Michigan adults over age 21 are now eligible for health care coverage for sickle cell disease through the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS).

Under the fiscal year 2022 budget signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, the Children’s Special Health Care Services program has expanded to include sickle cell disease coverage for adults – with $6.7 million to cover treatment for a projected 400 adults with sickle cell who were not previously covered.

“One of MDHHS’s top priorities is expanding access to health care coverage through innovation,” said Kate Massey, senior deputy director for the department’s Health and Aging Services Administration. “Addressing the needs of adult patients has been a challenge for many years. Expanding eligibility for sickle cell disease coverage to adults over age 21 improves the quality of care provided in Michigan.”

The program now covers services directly related to sickle cell, including copays, deductibles, transportation, care coordination, access to Children’s Special Health Care Services clinics and case management. 

Expansion of the eligibility was effective Oct. 1. There are approximately 2,800 adults in Michigan with sickle cell disease, with approximately 120 adults currently covered

For more information on the program or to apply for coverage, individuals should contact Brenda Kempf at the Ottawa County Department of Public Health at 616 393-4445 or 616 396-5266. Eligibility is based on medical circumstances and not on income.

For more information, visit Children’s Special Health Care Services.

Sibshops Peer Support Groups Now Offered in Ottawa County for Siblings of Children with Special Needs

submitted by Ottawa County Department of Public Health

Sibshops peer support groups are now being offered in Ottawa County for brothers and sisters of children with special needs. The Sibshops offer an engaging space for siblings to be heard, understood, and supported. 

Sisters and brothers will likely have the longest-lasting relationship with a sibling who has special needs or disabilities, a relationship that can exceed 65 years. During their lives, children who have siblings with special needs or disabilities will experience most of the unique joys and concerns their parents do, yet few will have the chance to talk about their experiences with other siblings who understand this unique experience. 

Sibshops are peer support groups that provide children with the opportunity to meet other siblings, and talk about both the good and difficult parts of having a sibling with special needs. Siblings also learn about their siblings’ special needs or disabilities and the services that child receives. Finally, siblings learn new ways to cope with the challenges of having a sibling with special needs. All while having fun and playing games!

Offered in communities around the country and the world, Sibshops are a place for siblings to be heard, understood and supported.

Sibshops is now in Ottawa County and children aged 6-13 are welcome to attend. Contact Andréa Vugteveen at or 616 460-3781 for more information. Check out Sibshops on Facebook at Ottawa County Sibshops.

Ottawa County Courts Pause Jury Trials

Jury trials expected to resume in February

GRAND HAVEN – In consultation with the Ottawa County Department of Public Health, the 20th Judicial Circuit Court and Ottawa County Probate Court will pause summoning the public to the courthouses to serve as jurors. The Courts intend to resume jury trials on February 1, 2022. All jury trials scheduled before February 1 will be adjourned and new dates will be set.

Trial Division Director Susan M. Franklin Promoted to Ottawa County Court Administrator

Following a 44-year career in the judicial system, including nearly 19 years in Ottawa County, Court Administrator Kevin J Bowling announced his plans to retire on January 14th. This announcement began a four-month recruitment and selection process that was completed earlier this month.

The national recruitment process resulted in numerous applications, including candidates from several Michigan jurisdictions, several states (AZ, CA, NV, PA, UT), and Canada. Based on the Interview Panel assessments, a thorough review of all application materials, and input from all judges, the Chief Judges selected Trial Division Director Susan M. Franklin as the next Circuit/Probate Court Administrator.


Ms. Franklin’s credentials for this position include a Bachelor of Arts in English (GVSU), a Master of Public Administration (GVSU), and a Juris Doctor cum laude (MSU College of Law), as well as SCAO certifications (CEO, Mediation) and MSP LEIN certifications. As a member of the State Bar of Michigan (P66047) Ms. Franklin developed court specific experience serving as Law Clerk for the 9th Circuit Court in Kalamazoo, before moving into private legal practice for 12 years with Williams Hughes, PLLC in Muskegon. For nearly four years, Ms. Franklin has served with distinction as the 20th Circuit Trial Division Director – leading many of our staff who directly assist the Circuit Judges and help maintain daily courtroom operations. In addition to being a State Bar member and member of the Ottawa County Bar Association, Ms. Franklin is an active member of the Michigan Association of Circuit Court Administrators and the National Association for Court Management.

Due to the hard work of all the Circuit/Probate judges and employees, the Ottawa County Courts have developed a reputation as a high performing jurisdiction. Building on this reputation of success, the Courts are looking forward to Susan Franklin’s leadership while pursuing strategic goals and continuing strong collaborative relationships with community, County, and State partners.

Ottawa County Commissioners Elect Chairperson and Vice-Chairperson

The Ottawa County Board of Commissioners unanimously elected Matt Fenske (District 11) as chairperson and Al Dannenberg (District 4) as vice-chairperson at the January 3rd, 2022 Ottawa County Board Organizational Meeting.

Matt Fenske

Matt Fenske is in his third term as a County Commissioner and served as vice-chairperson since 2020. He has served on multitudes of County Boards and has chaired the Mental Health Board as well as the Agricultural Preservation Board. Prior to becoming an Ottawa County Commissioner for District 11, Fenske had a 33 year career with the 17th Circuit Court in Kent County. Fenske also serves Tallmadge Township on the Planning Commission and has sat on the Zoning Board of Appeals and Board of Trustees in the past.

Al Dannenberg

Al Dannenberg was elected County Commissioner in 2013 after a decade serving as a Zeeland City Councilman. He currently serves on the Health & Human Services Committee, the Planning & Policy Committee, the Community Mental Health Board, WEMET, the Solid Waste Planning Committee, the Food Services Appeals Board and the Zeeland Recreation Board. In addition to his numerous public service roles, Dannenberg is also a realtor and enjoyed a 35 year career at Mead Johnson.

Access services and learn more about the Ottawa County Commissioners at 

Bella Named Top Dog in the County

For the fifth year running, the name Bella retrieves the top spot as the most popular dog name in Ottawa County 

The Ottawa County Treasurer’s Office has the list you’ve been waiting fur all year:  the most popular dog names and breeds from October 1, 2020 – September 30, 2021 based upon the licenses issued. 

The most common dog names for Ottawa County are:

  1. Bella
  2. Charlie
  3. Lucy
  4. Luna
  5. Cooper
  6. Buddy
  7. Max
  8. Tucker
  9. Bailey
  10. Sadie

One look around your neighborhood and it’s not far-fetched that Ottawa County’s leading breed is the Labrador Retriever. Next on the list are 2-Golden Retriever, 3- German Shepherd, 4-Goldendoodle and 5-Shih Tzu. The top five breeds licensed the 2019-2020 were 1-Labrador Retriever, 2-Golden Retriever, 3-German Shepherd, 4-Chihuahua and 5-Shih Tzu. 

If Santa delivers a new, furry friend to your family this year, be sure to stay on that nice list and have your dog licensed with the County.

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. The stray’s license number can be entered online by anyone at and the corresponding owner information will be displayed. 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 online or by calling 616-994-4501.

Ottawa County Releases the 2021 Healthy Ottawa Plan

Healthy Ottawa Council calls on residents to get involved in creating a healthier community

(OTTAWA COUNTY, MI) – A consortium of key health and human service leaders in Ottawa County, the Healthy Ottawa Advisory Council, announced the 2021 Healthy Ottawa Plan on November 15th, detailing the results of the 2020 Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA), and recommendations for how to create a healthier Ottawa County. The Council is calling on community organizations and individuals to get involved and be part of the solution.

More than 100 representatives from cross-sector industries, and more than 200 Ottawa County residents, participated in the 2021 Healthy Ottawa Plan to gauge the overall health climate of Ottawa County, and identify the top three health issues in the County. The top three areas of health concern for the County remained unchanged from 2018, and have likely been amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic: access to care, mental health and healthy behaviors. The Healthy Ottawa Plan identifies these health concerns and their root causes, sets goals for each and provides recommended strategies for community agencies to use when developing programming. The plan also provides recommended strategies for individual community members to use as they make daily decisions impacting health. Implementation of the 2021 plan will begin in January 2022.

Some of the notable key findings in the 2020 CHNA include:

  • Access to Care
    1% of “underserved and vulnerable” adults had trouble meeting their healthcare needs in 2020. These same individuals identified high cost as the number one reason they had trouble meeting their healthcare needs in the last two years. Key informants also identified “the ability to afford out of pocket expenses like co-pays/deductibles” as the number one barrier to access to care.
  • Mental Health
    The 2020 CHNA showed that the pandemic had the greatest impact on Ottawa County residents’ mental health. Almost double the number of adults in Ottawa County identified being in “poor” mental health – 15.3% in 2020 compared to 8.8% in 2017. Three in 10 teens reported feeling sad and hopeless, and 4.9% of adults and 18.5% of youth thought about committing suicide.
  • Healthy Behaviors
    “Underserved and vulnerable” residents identify access to free or low-cost nutrition/healthy eating and access to free or low-cost fitness/exercise as top resources lacking in the community. Adults classified as obese increased from 29.9% in 2017 to 34.5% in 2020. The percentage of adults who consume less than one fruit per day increased to 43.6% and the percentage of adults who consume less than one vegetable per day increased to 31.8% in 2020.

In order to see the kind of positive change related to population health that the Council seeks in Ottawa County, many stakeholders are needed to actively engage in the work of addressing public health challenges. The Healthy Ottawa Council is asking for individual community members to take steps to better understand the greatest health challenges affecting themselves or their families and be involved in solutions. Recommended strategies can be found by reviewing the 2021 Healthy Ottawa Plan or by contacting Healthy Ottawa at

The priority health care concerns identified in past reports have guided strategies developed in previous Healthy Ottawa Plans, as well programming developed by local agencies and funding priorities by area foundations and organizations. Past successes include the development of the Suicide Prevention Coalition, Ottawa County Pathways to Better Health, Thrive Ottawa County and the expansion of the work of Ottawa Food. Funding from numerous agencies, such as those from the Healthy Ottawa Advisory Council, and grants from the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation and the Community Foundation for the Holland/Zeeland Area have enabled the continued progress of these strategies.

Healthy Ottawa
The vision of Healthy Ottawa is healthy people living in healthy communities. Its mission is to achieve positive health outcomes for Ottawa County residents by partnering to identify health issues, plan, and implement strategic actions for change. Its values are equity, collaboration, excellence and best practice. More information about community assessments and planning can be found here.

Emergency Broadband Benefit Program Deadline Approaches

submitted by Ottawa County
Deadline to apply for broadband internet credit is 12.30.2021; program becomes Affordable Connectivity Program on 12.31.2021

The temporary Emergency Broadband Benefit Program (EBB), launched in 2021 to help households afford high-speed internet service during the pandemic, is being replaced by a permanent Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). Just like the EBB, the ACP will continue to provide eligible households with a discount on broadband internet service and connected devices.

Here’s a breakdown of what benefits these programs provide and how they’re changing in a question-and-answer format:

When does the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program switch over to the Affordable Connectivity Program?

The ACP officially supplants the EBB program beginning on Dec. 31, 2021.

What does the change mean for participants?

The discount drops from $50 to $30 per month. Currently under the EBB, eligible households receive discounts of up to $50 per month toward broadband service, and a one-time discount of up to $100 to buy a laptop, tablet, or desktop computer. After the transitionary period, beginning March 1, 2022, households enrolled in ACP (formerly EBB) will receive $30 per month to go toward broadband service.

What does the transitionary period mean?

The Infrastructure Act provides for a 60-day transition period for households that were enrolled in the EBB Program before Dec. 31, 2021. This means households participating in EBB will continue to receive a $50 per month discount toward internet service through March 1, 2022. If a household applies after Dec. 30, if deemed eligible, they will receive the $30 per month benefit. You can still apply for EBB until Dec. 30, 2021 – see ‘Can I still sign up for EBB?’ section below for more information.

Do I need to reapply for the Affordable Connectivity Program?

Only if your household qualified for EBB due to loss of income because of a job loss or furlough beginning Feb. 29, 2020, or by meeting other eligibility criteria for a participating provider’s COVID program.

Will there be more options from providers?

Yes! Participating providers must now provide the ACP discount on any internet service offering they provide.

Can I still sign up for EBB?

Yes! Eligible households can and are still encouraged to apply for the EBB program through 6 p.m. Dec. 30. Those who enroll by 6 p.m. Dec. 30 will be eligible for the EBB subsidy during the 60-day transition period to the ACP. Those who enroll after Dec. 30 will be eligible for the applicable ACP monthly benefit, not the EBB. Please note that applying on Dec. 30 may not guarantee your household enrollment in EBB. If a household has a pending EBB Program application after EBB Program enrollments cease, that household’s application will be used for eligibility determination and enrollment in the ACP.

Do I qualify for EBB or ACP?

Visit to learn if your household qualifies for EBB. Once ACP is enacted, eligibility information will be posted on the Federal Communication Commission website. To learn more and watch for updates, please visit periodically.

Van Allsburg Receives Prestigious Marilyn J. Kelly Award

The State Bar of Michigan recognized Ottawa County’s 20th Circuit Court Chief Judge Jon Van Allsburg with the Marilyn J. Kelly Award for Outstanding Judicial Service in Family Law.

Former Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Marilyn J. Kelly was well respected for her keen knowledge of family law and her advocacy for youth and families engaged with the justice system. In 2015, the State Bar of Michigan established this Award in her honor, to recognize judges for significant contributions to family law in Michigan.


Since his election to the 20th Circuit Court, Chief Judge Van Allsburg has handled a very busy Family Division docket and has been appointed by the Michigan Supreme Court to serve as Business Court Judge and Chief Judge. In addition to his scheduled courtroom cases, Judge Van Allsburg authors numerous family law opinions, is active with the Family Law Section of the State Bar of Michigan and is a frequent lecturer and presenter for judicial and attorney continuing education programs.

“Assisting families as they navigate complicated and often divisive legal situations is an extremely rewarding part of my service as a Circuit Court Judge,” said Judge Van Allsburg. “Promoting the rule of law with respect, compassion and patience for the litigants and attorneys appearing in Court is how we provide excellent public service while administering justice and resolving these often-complex court cases.”

Van Allsburg is an honors graduate of the Michigan State University College of Law and joined the Circuit Court in 2005 after a 25-year career in the practice of law, during which he served as chairman of the board of the Michigan West Coast (formerly Holland Area) Chamber of Commerce. He is Immediate Past-President of the Michigan Judges Association and will continue serving in the Family Division of the Circuit Court.

A Home for the Holidays: Ottawa Celebrates Adoption Day

20th Circuit Court, Ottawa County, hosted Adoption Day Celebration on November 23

The holiday season is a time filled with joy and gratitude for family. Many Michigan children, however, spend the holidays without a family to call their own. On November 23, the 20th Circuit Court celebrated Adoption Day, giving several families more to be grateful for as they head into the Thanksgiving holiday.

The ceremony began at 9:00am followed by confirmation hearings with Chief Probate Court Judge, Mark A. Feyen. The in-person event was limited in capacity due to social distancing; however, the public was invited to celebrate alongside the families and county staff via live streamed Adoption Day events on YouTube.

  • In fiscal year 2021, more than over 1,600 Michigan children were adopted through the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services or private agencies.
  • At any given time, there are approximately 11,000 children in Michigan’s foster care system and of those, nearly 200 lack an identified adoptive family.
  • People can adopt whether they are single or married. They do not have to be wealthy or own their own home but must have adequate financial resources to provide for a family.
  • Children in the foster care system become eligible for adoption following termination of parental rights due to abuse or neglect. The goal for most children in the foster care system is reunification with their families.
  • There is support for families who want to adopt. In fact, approximately 95 percent of children who are available for adoption qualify for assistance to help families with some of the costs of bringing children into their homes. More information is available at the Michigan Adoption Resource Exchange website:

Typically, adoptions are finalized in private, but on Adoption Day, more than 30 courts statewide were expected to host virtual or in-person events, inviting communities to join in celebrating the families who choose to open their hearts to these children and provide them with their forever home. Our hope is that some others might be inspired to consider foster care and adoption.

Farm Planning and Networking Event – November 10th

‘Cultivating Connections’ to bring new and experienced farmers together for day of learning and networking

An aerial view of the DeHaan farm in Blendon Township. (Courtesy image)

WEST OLIVE The DeHaan family knows to make hay while the sun’s shining. With help from a Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) grant, their 37-acre Blendon Township farm has joined the list of preserved Ottawa County farms.

For Carson DeHaan, part owner and patriarch of the property, it was important to preserve. “The farm has been in the family since 1883,” he said. “I had to do something to preserve it.”

The DeHaans were able to protect their row crop and beef cattle farm from development through the county’s Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) program. This program uses a combination of state and/or federal grant funding, private donations, and landowner contributions to purchase the development rights to farmland, creating a permanent agricultural conservation easement. The DeHaan property is the fifth Ottawa County operation to utilize the PDR program, bringing the total number of acres protected to 443. In the DeHaans’ case, a $157,500 MDARD grant made preservation possible.


“My grandson works with me on the farm,” said DeHaan. “I want to pass down these acres to him and my son when I retire.”

When looking to the future and retirement, many farmers face hurdles. For the DeHaans, it was helpful they had heirs in mind when they applied for the PDR program.

“Carson was concerned about the future. Having family members interested in taking the reins helps a lot,” said Ottawa County Economic Development Coordinator Becky Huttenga. “Some farmers aren’t that lucky.”

Almost a third of farmers in Ottawa County are over age 65, and less than 10% are under 35. It can be difficult for a child to take over for aging parents. Factor in the cost of purchasing property and outfitting and operating a farm, and it becomes exponentially harder for someone without a farming background to break into the business. Combine these factors with the allure of making quick retirement cash by selling to a developer, and it’s no surprise Ottawa County lost 17% of its farms from 2012-2017.

Ottawa County is challenging this trend with the MiFarmLink Project – a public-private partnership that aims to shepherd prime farmland from its current stewards into the hands of the next generation, and help these new farmers fill this vital role and be successful. MiFarmLink is jumpstarting this initiative with Cultivating Connections, an educational and networking event, on Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021, at the Holland Fish and Game Club.

“We’ve already gathered a slew of resources on our new website,,” said Huttenga. “But it’s important that we get would-be, current, and experienced farmers under the same roof to learn, network, and build mentoring relationships.”

Besides introducing people to the MiFarmLink Project, this day of learning will offer workshops on how to use succession planning and mentorship.


The event kicks off with a succession planning workshop led by award-winning speaker, author, and agriculture champion Jolene Brown. An active farmer in eastern Iowa, Brown has written two books, is a regular contributor to Successful Farming Magazine, and is an inductee in the Council of Peers Award for Excellence (CPAE) Speaker Hall of Fame. Her morning session is more than a speech — it will be filled with relevant content and a 21-page workbook full of take-home solutions for farmers at all stages of their careers.

“Wow – wouldn’t this be something if it (succession planning) truly could be a positive experience?” said Brown in a prepared video message. “That we could make sure that senior generation is secure? That we could make sure we have the right people in the right place to continue the legacy of the land that means so much to us? Those are the issues that I want to address while I’m with you.”

Following Jolene Brown’s workshop and a networking lunch, separate educational breakout sessions for both experienced and new farmers will begin, and run through 4 p.m.

The day will wrap up with a networking happy hour sponsored by De Boer, Baumann & Company, PLC. Here attendees can talk with each other and with service providers who can help finance land, plan succession, and much more. Other event sponsors include Consumers Energy; Greenstone Farm Credit Services; the Ottawa County Farm Bureau; and AgriStrategies LLC.

Tickets are $15; visit to register. Check out the official invitation and agenda here. To learn more about the program, visit

The MiFarmLink Project is a collaborative effort spearheaded by a USDA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Grant administered through Ottawa County. This public-private partnership aims to help shepherd prime farmland from its current stewards into the hands of the next generation, and help these new farmers fill this vital role and be successful. To learn more, visit, or email

About the Farmland Preservation Program

With area farmers producing more than $506 million in products annually (2017 Ag Census), Ottawa County is an agricultural powerhouse. Ottawa is also the fastest growing county in the state and has a low unemployment rate. But this positive growth comes at a cost to agriculture: between 2012 and 2017, Ottawa County lost 8% of its farmed acreage and 17% of its farms. Ottawa County’s Farmland Preservation Program seeks to protect this vital industry and slow the loss of farms and farmland through programmatic efforts, including the Purchase of Development Rights Program.

Funded through a combination of private donations and state and federal grants, the PDR program preserves farmland through the purchase and donation of development rights for actively farmed property. This voluntary program allows participating landowners to receive compensation for the development potential of their land, yet still retain ownership and other rights associated with it through a permanent easement.

To learn more, visit

The Farmhouse of Zeeland Wins Farms are the Tapas Chefs Competition

Nearly $20,000 raised for farmland preservation

Close to 100 people showed their support for farmland preservation on Thursday, Sept. 30, at Ottawa County’s fifth-annual Farms are the Tapas fundraising dinner and silent auction at Terra Square in Hudsonville, Mich. 

This year, chefs representing five area restaurants all created unique small plate dishes with locally raised ingredients for a chance at the coveted Harvest Knife award.

A chef from The Farmhouse of Zeeland (left) and Julie Lamer pose with the Harvest Knife award at the end of the event.

Competitors served up strong entries, including: pulled bacon sliders from Waverly Stone; steak baja cups from CityVu Events; braised beef tongue on a toasted baguette from Field & Fire; beef tenderloin braciloi street taco from StrEATs Taco Kitchen; and pulled pork egg rolls from The Farmhouse of Zeeland. It was a close contest, and it came down to the last few minutes of voting, but ultimately Farmhouse was the victor for the second-consecutive year.

“With unique ingredients such as beef tongue, our competing chefs served up variety,” said Ottawa County Farmland Preservation Specialist and event organizer Julie Lamer. “We are grateful such talented people prepare these signature dishes in the name of farmland preservation.”

To extend the reach of Farms are the Tapas and offer a remote option for supporting farmland preservation, Ottawa County ran the auction virtually.

“Virtual bidding proved to be popular again this year,” said Lamer. “Because we opened the silent auction three days ahead of time, we had aggressive bidding before the event even started!”

This year, the Farms are the Tapas silent auction featured 15 items, including perennial favorites such as a sunset cruise, 50 pound beef packages, as well as more unique items such as cookbooks and fine art by local creative talent. All together the silent auction raised nearly $3,000.

Guests enjoy sampling tapas during the Farms are the Tapas event on Sept. 30, 2021, at Terra Square in Hudsonville.

Including the auction items, sponsor support, and ticket sales, almost $20,000 was raised for Farmland Preservation. But Farms are the Tapas isn’t just about fundraising.

“It’s all about visibility. Events like Farms are the Tapas put the Farmland Preservation Program on the public radar,” said Economic Development Coordinator Becky Huttenga. “Many people don’t realize how much farmland is being lost year-over-year in this County, or that there is a mechanism in place to protect it.”

About the Ottawa County Farmland Preservation Program

With area farmers producing more than $506 million in products annually (2017 Ag Census), Ottawa County is an agricultural powerhouse. Ottawa is also the fastest growing county in the state and has a low unemployment rate. But this positive growth comes at a cost to agriculture: between 2012 and 2017, Ottawa County lost 8% of its farmed acreage and 17% of its farms. Ottawa County’s Farmland Preservation Program seeks to protect this vital industry and slow the loss of farms and farmland through programmatic efforts, including the Purchase of Development Rights Program.

Funded through a combination of private donations and state and federal grants, the PDR program preserves farmland through the purchase and donation of development rights for actively farmed property. This voluntary program allows participating landowners to receive compensation for the development potential of their land, yet still retain ownership and other rights associated with it through a permanent easement.

To learn more, visit

231 River Run Registration and Shirts


Time is running out to secure your personalized bib and the shirt size you prefer. Shirt details are below and have changed recently.

If you haven’t already, register now for the 231 River Run on October 30. The 10K run and 4 mile run/walk make the event attainable for every fitness level. Space is limited.

If you don’t recall if you registered, you can check that here.

The purposes of the 231 River Run are to raise funds for and promote Ottawa County paved trails; advocate for wellness; build community; and showcase West Michigan as a healthy, active, growing and thriving region.

Photo from 2018


While it is true that real men wear pink, the dreaded supply chain has forced us to alter our shirt color. It will still be a long sleeve, soft combed and ring spun 52/48 cotton/poly unisex tee from Bella + Canvas. It just might not be mauve.  We’re rolling with it and have the shirt pictured in b/w until we know more. We apologize if you had your heart set on mauve like we did.

Choosing the correct shirt size is always a conundrum. To help, the size chart from the manufacturer is below. To keep the budget on track and more money going to the cause (trails), we do not over order shirts or have any to exchange for an alternate size.


Get Social

While you are training, use the hashtag #231RiverRun. You can also tag Ottawa County – we’re on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. Be sure to also mark “going” on our Facebook Event and share it with your friends.

Shirt & Bib Pick Up

You can pick up your race shirt and bib on Thursday, October 28 from 3 to 7PM at the Ottawa County Administration Building or before the run on October 30 in the Connor Bayou Lodge Garage no earlier than 7AM.

Please thank our sponsors with your business!

This event would not happen without these amazing and generous businesses. Their gifts speak volumes about how much they care about the people in West Michigan.

Please make an effort to thank a few of them personally or with some love on social media. Use the hashtag #231RiverRun or tag Ottawa County so we can participate in your post and share it.


Enterprise Fleet Management | United Dairy Industry of Michigan | Nichols | Consumers Energy | Delta Dental | Priority Health | GCSI

Support Farmland Preservation and Eat Well on 9.30.21


Farms are the Tapas chefs competition and local farms showcase raises funds for Ottawa County Farmland Preservation Program

West Michigan is in the midst of a growth spurt. Recently released 2020 Census data shows Ottawa County’s population is up 12.3 percent over 2010, making it the fastest-growing county in the state. With its strong economy, natural beauty, and access to fresh, locally produced food, it’s an attractive place to live. But with growth comes growing pains.

“Things have changed so much just in my 30-some years of adulthood,” said lifelong farmer and former Ottawa County Commissioner Matt Hehl. “I struggle to think if you can find a full 80 (uninterrupted acres of farmland) between Allendale and Hudsonville.”

What Hehl has noticed isn’t just anecdotal: from 2012-2017, the county lost 8 percent of its farmed acreage and 17 percent of its farms. These changes haven’t gone unnoticed. Ottawa County works to temper these losses with its Farmland Preservation Program, a program that in part was spearheaded by Matt Hehl during his time as a county commissioner. “For years we worked on farmland preservation. Eventually, we got the county board to take up (the issue) … We got it voted on, and it passed unanimously.”

Hehlden Farms owner and operator Matt Hehl walks past the ‘Centennial Farm’ sign on his 35-acre property in Polkton Township. During his time as an Ottawa County commissioner, Hehl spearheaded creation of the Farmland Preservation Program.

Since the program’s inception in 2008, more than 400 acres have been preserved. And with applications seeking to preserve and protect over 1,350 acres of farmland so far in 2021, it’s clear the Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) program is gaining traction. But interest far outpaces funding. That’s where fundraising and advocacy events like Farms are the Tapas, set for 6 p.m. Sept. 30 at Terra Square in Hudsonville, come in.

“Programs like Farms are the Tapas benefit farmland preservation, just by getting the word out and getting it some exposure,” said Hehl. “It is a great preservation tool.”

Now in its fifth year, Farms are Tapas features a chef cooking competition; locally sourced small-plate creations; and a virtual silent auction, which will open Sept. 27. Once the auction opens, registered participants will be able to bid on items via a smartphone or other web-connected device. The auction closes at 7:45 p.m. Sept. 30, at the end of the live event. And, just like last year, you don’t need to buy a ticket to participate. Anyone can bid in the auction simply by registering online at Event.Gives/Tapas2021. Once registered, you can buy tickets, view event updates, peruse auction packages, and virtually bid on silent auction items.


“Pivoting to a completely virtual registration and auction process last year worked out well,” said Economic Development Coordinator Becky Huttenga. “We were able to get the message out to more people. Despite the challenges of COVID-19, we raised more in 2020 than in 2019.”

“Pivoting to a completely virtual registration and auction process last year worked out well,” said Economic Development Coordinator Becky Huttenga. “We were able to get the message out to more people. Despite the challenges of COVID-19, we raised more in 2020 than in 2019.”

Sponsorship opportunities for Farms are the Tapas are still available. Proceeds support farmland preservation in Ottawa County. To register for the silent auction or buy tickets, visit, and click on the ‘Tickets’ tab, or go directly to Event.Gives/Tapas2021.

“Farms are the Tapas is more than just an appeal for financial support,” said Farmland Preservation Specialist Julie Lamer. “It’s a showcase of the local agriculture industry.”

For more information on sponsoring Farms are the Tapas, to learn more about the PDR program, or how you can protect your fields, visit, or contact a farmland preservation specialist at or 616-738-4852.

COVID-19 notice

Your health and safety is of the utmost importance to Ottawa County. All recommended Ottawa County Health Department, state and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines will be followed.

We will adjust the format as necessary to ensure a safe event. We have structured this event so that we can be flexible. Please continue to check and Event.Gives/Tapas2021 for any updates.

About the Farmland Preservation Program
Ottawa County’s Farmland Preservation Program is about more than just permanently protecting acreage through the purchase and donation of development rights for actively farmed property. The County’s farmland preservation specialists strengthen the program by addressing beginner farmer needs, increasing succession planning efforts, and numerous other programmatic efforts, including the MiFarmLink Project, a new public-private local support system for new and experienced farmers. For more information, visit

Ottawa County Administrator’s Exit is ‘Bittersweet’

Al Vanderberg, Ottawa County Administrator, submitted an official letter of resignation on July 27.

On August 27, 2021, Al Vanderberg will serve his final day as Ottawa County Administrator. Vanderberg began his tenure in 2003 and is the longest serving Administrator in Ottawa County history.


“This decision was bittersweet,” said Vanderberg. “My family and I love Ottawa County. It has been an honor and a privilege to serve as County Administrator. Ottawa County is in a very strong and stable condition. I felt I could leave and accept one more major challenge in my career.”

Vanderberg accepted the position as Kent County Administrator/Controller and will begin duties there on August 30.

“From the County’s elected officials and judges through department heads and down through the employee ranks, Ottawa County is blessed with an exceptionally competent, dedicated and collegial workforce,” adds Vanderberg. “I am confident that Ottawa County will continue to provide top notch governmental services and be a leader among Michigan’s counties.”

“We will miss Al a lot,” commented Board Chairperson, Roger Bergman. “Al exemplified the best of Ottawa County’s values and did innumerable things to springboard Ottawa County Government into the 21st Century. We know our neighbor to the east will find his services extremely valuable as we have for the past 18 years. We wish them well. We will take our time to find the best replacement to open the next chapter in Ottawa County Government.”

The County is engaging in a national search to replace Mr. Vanderberg.

Ottawa County Begins Citizen Survey This Evening, August 3 at 5PM.

Telephone calls will be made through August to residents’ landlines and mobile phones. Help make Ottawa County a better place by taking 15 minutes to answer the call and provide valuable feedback. 

Starting this week, Ottawa County adults will have the opportunity to give input on their satisfaction with local government services, priorities, tax burden, communication preferences and more. Ottawa County will begin its citizen survey on August 3. The survey was initiated in 2006 to monitor citizen satisfaction. The survey, originally planned for 2020, was delayed for one year due to the pandemic.

A total of 400 residents will be randomly selected and surveyed via phone by Lansing-based EPIC ▪ MRA. The telephone calls will be made through August to residents’ landlines and mobile phones. Participation is voluntary and anonymous. The survey will take less than 15 minutes to complete. If selected and called, resident participation is very important to the County. The information from the survey will help County leaders improve services, develop strategic plans, prioritize programs, allocate funds, and improve communication. Results are expected to be available early in the fall and will be reported at an Ottawa County Board of Commissioners meeting. Reports from surveys completed in 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2014, 2016 and 2018 are available at

“Information from this survey is an excellent gauge of whether or not our residents are satisfied. Are we meeting their needs? Are our priorities aligned with their priorities? And, are we doing this all within a financially acceptable means?” said Shannon Felgner, Ottawa County Communications Manager. “Our hard data shows we are doing things well. We have top credit ratings. We can boast one of the lowest tax rates among Michigan’s 83 counties. Our crime rates are low. We rank well in health behaviors and outcomes. Our population is growing. But we also want to hear from our people. That’s why we’re asking residents who receive a call to please contribute 15 minutes of their time. The answers help make Ottawa County a better place for all of us,” added Felgner.

Sample questions: 

  • Overall, do you think Ottawa County is headed in the right direction, or, do you think things are pretty seriously off on the wrong track?
  • What is the single most important issue facing your community that the county government must address?
  • How would you rate the job that Ottawa County does in managing county finances?
  • How would you rate the quality of the Ottawa County website?

For statistical purposes, the surveyors will also ask demographic questions such as year of birth, the number of children the home, educational attainment, race/ethnicity, and household income.