Ottawa County

Ottawa County Department of Public Health Annual Report

miOttawa Department of Public Health
“Our Vision – Healthy People”
February 26, 2019  |  Annual Report

Stories to Share Public Health

Annual reports showcase the impact of local public health. We gathered photos, conducted interviews, wrote articles and so much more to create a magazine-style annual report. We compiled stories that link public health issues to people in our community to give you an insight into what we do.

For the latest report, visit www.miOttawa.org/Health2018
or previous reports at www.miOttawa.org/AnnualHealthReports

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Featured Stories

babyHOMEMADE QUILTS FOR BABIES
Quilters from the Grand Haven Lighthouse Quilt Guild donate beautiful, lovingly made pieces of art to moms and babies.

 

manandchildTURNING TRAGEDY INTO AWARENESS AND GIVING TO OTHERS
Medical Examiners Program works with Gif t of Life to help turn tragedies into hope for other people and families.

girlA LOOK AT THE PEOPLE’S HEALTH OF OTTAWA COUNTY
New to the study: Experts identify eight adverse childhood
experiences that affect a person’s health and well-being.

fruitHOW TO DONATE FRESH PRODUCE
Local solutions to the cost of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Active Shooter. What Would You Do?

Though we hope you are never faced with the situation, would you know what to do in the case of an active shooter? Hide? Evacuate?

Doing the right things can increase your odds of getting through alive. Nearly 1,000 residents have attended a “Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events” class held 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 are available on:

April 12  | Register | Share Facebook Event

May 8 | Register | Share Facebook Event

June 15 | Register | Share Facebook Event 

There is no cost for the class, but registration is required. Time of the sessions vary. See the registration page for details. All classes are held at the Ottawa County Fillmore Street Administration Building, 12220 Fillmore, West Olive.

Ottawa County Searching for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Director

The search is on for Ottawa County’s first ever Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Director.  The Ottawa County Board of Commissioners established the office on December 11, 2018, and approved the staffing plan on February 26, 2019.

The County began its Cultural Intelligence initiative in 2013 with the formation of an internal committee tasked with educating employees, hosting an annual forum and getting more involved in community diversity initiatives.

After five years, Ottawa County leaders knew it was time to do more.

“Some of our largest employers in West Michigan expressed to us that attracting global talent is critical to their success. While they can get them here, those who are different from the cultural norm are leaving after a short time on the job,” said Al Vanderberg, Ottawa County Administrator.

The DEI office will lead the development of an equity plan for the entire range of human differences. A key initiative will be identifying implicit bias in internal policies, procedures, practices, and in external service delivery. In addition, the County intends to extend assistance to local units of government that desire to tackle similar objectives.

Funding for the office is a combination of public, private and non-profit dollars. The cost to Ottawa County for the first five years is approximately $630,000.

More information on this position and the skills needed is available in the Recruitment Profile.  To apply, visit http://www.miottawa.org/careers.  The County is accepting applications until March 29, 2019.

Connecting the Idema Explorers Trail to Kent County

The Ottawa County Parks and Recreation Commission and the Ottawa County Parks Foundation announced two key property transactions for the Grand River Greenway Initiative.

These properties are crucial to connect the Idema Explorers Trail to Kent County.

“More work still needs to be done, but we are two steps closer to achieving one of the major goals of the Grand River Greenway Initiative, which is to connect existing Kent Trails in Grandville to the future Idema Explorers Trail,” said Parks Director John Scholtz. “With this connection, users would be able to bike and hike from Jenison to Kent Trails, Millennium Park, and downtown Grand Rapids.”

The property transactions include:

• A purchase agreement to acquire 16.5 acres of land on the Grand River with 651’ of riverfront in Georgetown Township for $100,000; the acquisition is expected to be complete by the end of January.
• Acquisition of a 1,000’-long easement that will connect a parks property on Cottonwood Drive to the riverfront for $10,000.

These purchases would not be possible without assistance from the Ottawa County Parks Foundation, which is providing all the funding for the purchases through the Grand River Greenway Campaign. The Greenway Campaign is co-chaired by Peter Secchia, Monica Verplank, and Samantha Verplank.

“This is not only a win for the development of the Idema Explorers Trail, but also for land preservation,  which is a primary focus of the Parks Foundation,” said Foundation President Bobbi Jones Sabine. “This will protect ecologically important and scenic floodplains and wetlands while also possibly helping to create a future park right in the heart of the Jenison business district.”

East of the Kent County border, there are nearly six miles of publicly owned riverfront on the south side of the Grand River. A multi-use pathway extends through this public land and then connects to Millennium Park on the north side of the River, where separated and on-road pathways lead to downtown Grand Rapids.

At the border with Ottawa County, the City of Grandville owns land where Rush and Buck Creeks flow into the Grand River at the site of the Grandville Clean Water Plant. Ottawa County Parks, in collaboration with Georgetown Township, has worked for years to assemble properties and easements west of the plant (near the Cottonwood Drive/Baldwin Street intersection) with the goal of linking to the public land in Kent County.

Tim Parker Chairs ACRE AgTech, Plans Accelerator Program for 2019

Ottawa County, MI – Over the past decade, accelerators have become an essential part of the new business startup and scale up journey. Michigan is home to several of these accelerators, and later in 2019, ACRE AgTech will become the only Michigan business accelerator dedicated to serving the State’s second largest industry – agriculture.  ACRE AgTech has two key ingredients for success in this new endeavor.  First, Tim Parker, president of the Grand Angels venture group, was elected ACRE AgTech’s Board Chair this month. Parker has tremendous expertise in venture deals and evaluating startups. Under his leadership, ACRE will be well positioned to select the most talented innovators to participate in the new accelerator program. Second, becoming a launch member of GAN will help pave the way for the ACRE AgTech Accelerator to bring innovative solutions from across the country to Michigan’s agriculture industry. GAN is a highly curated community of independent accelerators, partners, and investors. They create opportunities around the world for startups to access the human and financial capital they need to create and grow their businesses, wherever they are.

Over the last ten years, more than 9,400 startups have gone through a GAN accelerator, and GAN data shows that 85% of those startups are still in business today. Among GAN corporate partners are Amazon, Cisco, American Airlines, IBM, Land Rover, Microsoft, Michelin, Mastercard, Universal Music Group, and others. Parker is confident that being a GAN accelerator will be very beneficial. “With this kind of networking and turnkey access to best practices observed globally by accelerators, we will be able to give our innovators a very competitive edge,” Parker commented.

Being a part of the GAN community offers great opportunities for its startups. Being GAN means having access to nearly 30 corporate partners that are excited to engage with startups, and engagement with investors interested in hearing ideas from authentic startup founders – and this is just what the agriculture industry in Michigan needs. The goal of the ACRE AgTech Accelerator program is to accurately and efficiently scout for the right agtechnology to meet today’s challenges in agriculture, then help the innovators behind the technologies launch their businesses.

ACRE AgTech has been providing connections and resources to agtech entrepreneurs across Michigan since December 2014. ACRE, a non-profit entrepreneurial support organization, receives support from GreenStone Farm Credit Services, Watson IP, BizStream, Rehmann, Next Creative, Ottawa County, and the State of Michigan. For more information about ACRE AgTech and the launch of the ACRE AgTech Accelerator, please visit the website at www.acreagtech.com, follow on twitter @ACREAgTech, or contact them at info@acreagtech.com or 616.994.4745.

Ottawa County Courts Receive High Marks from Public

Over the Past Six Years, People are Very Satisfied with  the 20th Circuit and Ottawa County Probate Courts

For several years, the 20th Circuit and Ottawa County Probate Courts have received high marks from the public regarding their experiences with the court. Using a survey that was administered in courts statewide, the local Circuit and Probate Courts asked court users questions about whether Circuit and Probate Courts were accessible, timely, and fair, and if they were treated with courtesy and respect by judges and court staff.

“Our court serves the people, so their views are critically important in helping us make decisions on how to improve court operations,” said Chief Circuit Judge Jon A. Van Allsburg.  Chief Probate Judge Mark A. Feyen also noted, “I am very proud of the hard work put in by our Probate Court employees, and we are committed to being even more efficient and focused on improving service to the public.”

Highlights from the 2018 survey include:

92% of court users said they were treated with courtesy and respect by court staff.
88% of court users said the way the judge or attorney referee handled their case was fair.
84% of court users were able to get their business done in a reasonable amount of time.

“We use the data from this survey to make management decisions that help better serve the public,” said Court Administrator Kevin J. Bowling. “Our goal is for every person who comes through the courthouse doors to be satisfied and treated fairly.”

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 www.miOttawa.org/groundwater. 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.

~

Editor’s Comment:
The problem could be solved by reducing the water use by farmers and commercial. All residential reduction combined will have little effect.

Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office Seeks Senior Volunteers

The Ottawa County Sheriff Office is seeking applicants for the Senior Volunteer Program. Senior volunteers provide important services for Ottawa County:

• conducting home security checks
• enforcing handicapped parking rules
• processing abandoned vehicles
• transferring police vehicles for maintenance
• community events and parades
• and other needed services.

Last year, the volunteers logged 3690 hours of service in Ottawa County.

Senior volunteers should be age 50 or older, must possess a valid driver’s license and pass a criminal background check. Those interested in the Senior Volunteer Program should contact Captain Bob Tease at 616-738-4010 or rtease@miottawa.org.

Sheriff’s Office Seeking Victim Advocate Volunteers

The Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office Victim Advocate Unit is seeking volunteers to join their team.

The Victim Advocate Unit assists law enforcement officers in Ottawa County during traumatic incidents such as fatal traffic crashes and some death investigations. Victim Advocates act as liaisons between family members and law enforcement during initial scene investigation. They also provide emotional support to the families of victims and remain with the  family until their own support system arrives.

Advocates receive training from the Michigan Sheriff’s Association and from the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office. The Advocates work their shift with a partners covering 24 hours of service.

If you are interested in learning more about the volunteer Victim Advocate Unit, please contact Sergeant Christie Wendt at cwendt@miottawa.org.

Working Together to Preserve Working Lands

farmland

The Klein family permanently preserved 55.63 acres of their farm with an agricultural easement on July 2, 2018. They grow corn, wheat, and soybeans as well as raise beef cattle.

With 1,363 farms utilizing 186,154 acres, Ottawa County’s farms generate 534 million dollars in agricultural products (2012 Ag Census). This tremendous output places the County third statewide in the value of agricultural receipts. However, the reality is that farmland loss is happening at an alarming rate of 175 acres every hour all across the U.S., and Ottawa County is also at risk, regardless of its tremendous output and rich agricultural heritage.

We need your help preserving Ottawa County farmland.

One of the ways Ottawa County preserves its farmland is through purchasing development rights of prime agricultural land. The success of this voluntary program is dependent upon raising private donations to cover a portion of the purchase price of those development rights.  The remaining balance is covered by landowner donation and a federal grant that can only be secured if the County raises private donations toward the purchase.

On behalf of the Ottawa County Farmland Preservation Board, I am requesting your financial support toward preserving farmland.  Tax-deductible contributions for this effort can be made online through this link to the Community Foundation Holland/Zeeland.
Donations can also be mailed to: 85 East 8th Street Suite 110, Holland, MI 49423.
Please put “Ottawa County Farmland Preservation Non-endowed Fund” in the memo.

We hope we can count on your support for the County’s farmland preservation efforts.

For more information about farmland preservation efforts, please contact the Ottawa County Planning & Performance Improvement Department via email at plan@miottawa.org, by phone at (616) 738-4852, or visit the website at www.miottawa.org/farmland.

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 www.cdc.gov/chickenpox.

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 www.cdc.gov/chickenpox 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
March 4 | Register | Share Facebook Event

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.

graph

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 www.miOttawa.org/groundwater. 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

map

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: naturenearby.org/ottawasands

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

trailmaphttps://news.miottawa.org/grand-river-park-sensory-trail/

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 miOttawa.org/sheriff

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 www.mydental.org.

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: ocparks@miottawa.org.

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: https://www.miottawa.org/Parks/rules.htm

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

The Commercial Photography/Videography Application & Regulations can be found online: https://www.miottawa.org/Parks/fees_rules.htm. 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 miOttawa.org.

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.

Find us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ottawafarmtofood/
Find us on the web: http://www.farmtofoodexpo.com/

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 www.miOttawa.org/Tapas.

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: www.michigan.gov/InvasiveSpecies

invasivespecies

invasiveplants

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, www.acreagtech.com, or contact us at 616-994-4745 or info@acreagtech.com.

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

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: http://www.ottawacd.org. To learn more about invasive species in Michigan you can visit: http://www.michigan.gov/invasives/. 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 ottawacountyparksfoundation.org.

Policy Champion Award

policychampion

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 http://www.naccho.org/PPHR.

Medication Takeback Day

Saturday, 4/28/18
10am-2pm

Walgreens
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 jirvin@miottawa.org 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:

1-Bella
2-Bailey
3-Lucy
4-Charlie
5-Molly
6-Cooper
7-Buddy
8-Sadie
9-Tucker

“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 www.miottawa.org/DogLicense. More information about licensing dogs in Ottawa County is available on the  https://www.miottawa.org/Departments/Treasurer/dog_licenses.htm  or by calling 616-994-4501.

The top names of 2016 were:

1-Bella
2-Max
3-Lucy
4-Charlie
5-Sadie
6-Buddy
7-Molly
8-Bailey
9-Sophie
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 miOttawa.org.

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 miOttawa.org 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 miOttawa.org and interested applicants can apply online—easily.