Welcoming the new Ottawa County Parks & Recreation Director

shamblinfamilyOttawa County welcomed a new Parks Director to the team in June. Jason Shamblin, his wife Allison and three children, Grayson, Griffin and Madelyn officially relocated to Ferrysburg over the summer.

The Shamblin Family previously vacationed in the area and it was during a visit they decided that West Michigan was a place they could call home. “During my first visit to Ottawa County, I was amazed by diversity of natural resources here, as well as the public support of the parks that is apparent by the quality of the parks.”

Ottawa Sands Acquisition Update

Click to view full-sized image.

This summer, Ottawa County Parks was awarded a $3.82 million grant from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (MNRTF) to complete the acquisition of Ottawa Sands. This grant, along with $200,000 of privately-raised funds by the Land Conservancy of West Michigan, funded the second phase of property acquisition.

The first phase of acquisition was made possible by a $4.2 million grant from the MNRTF in 2018 which was used to purchase just over half of the property. The Land Conservancy purchased the remaining land by securing a loan from The Conservation Fund and leased its 157 acres to Ottawa County Parks for management, so the park could open to the public in 2018.

We are so excited to celebrate the acquisition of this property and invite you to join us for a special event.

Ottawa Beach Marina, Kayak Launch, and Park Township Plaza Dedication Event

marinacrowdThank you to everyone who joined us for the Ottawa Beach Marina, Kayak Launch, and Park Township Plaza dedication event in Holland in August! Many of our grant partners were in attendance and were impressed with the turnout. The marina will be open until October 31, 2019, with transient slips available to reserve online:

Event photos by Mike Lozon; ribbon cutting photo by Linda Anderson

Ottawa Sands Acquisition Update & Celebration Announcement

On July 25, Ottawa County Parks completed the acquisition of the Ottawa Sands property in Ferrysburg, MI

This summer, Ottawa County Parks received a $3.82 million grant from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund Board to complete the acquisition of the Ottawa Sands. This grant, along with $200,000 of privately-raised funds by the Land Conservancy of West Michigan, funded the second phase of property acquisition.

The first phase of acquisition was made possible by a $4.2 million grant from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (MNRTF) in 2018 and allowed Ottawa County Parks to purchase 188 acres of the property. The Land Conservancy purchased the remaining 157 acres in the summer of 2018 by securing a loan from The Conservation Fund, a national organization specializing in low-interest loans for conservation projects. In the year before the second phase of acquisition the Land Conservancy of West Michigan leased its 157 acres to Ottawa County Parks for management, so the park could open to the public.

“Ottawa Sands was an incredible opportunity, and all parties had to act quickly to secure its protection,” said Land Conservancy Executive Director Joe Engel. “We saw the immense value in working with Ottawa County Parks to protect this remarkable piece of property and are very grateful that the community stepped up to make this happen.”

“Being able to close on this property in my first month with Ottawa County Parks was incredibly exciting. Ottawa Sands is clearly special to our community and to the Trust Fund,” said Jason Shamblin, Ottawa County Parks Director. “To receive $8 million in grant funding and over $200,000 in private donations speaks for itself.”

“The Trust Fund grants were critical to the success of this project, and the outstanding support from the community was integral in securing them,” Engel said. “West Michigan stepped up for Ottawa Sands, and we have this stunning new park to show for it.”

Thanks to strong support from the community, The Land Conservancy of West Michigan exceeded its initial fundraising goal, raising nearly $400,000 to secure Ottawa Sands. Half of the funds were used to offset the MNRTF grant and the other half covered expenses related to the loan.

Additional support for this project came from Ottawa Sand Company; Loutit Foundation; Ottawa County Parks Foundation; J.A. Woollam Foundation; the North Bank Communities Fund, Greatest Needs Fund, Environment Fund and the William T. and Shirley A. Baker Fund of the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation; and many generous donors.

Ottawa County Parks and the Land Conservancy of West Michigan is celebrating this monumental acquisition with a special event on Tuesday, October 15 from 4:30-6:30 pm.

The evening will include naturalist-led hikes and property tours beginning at 4:30 pm and 6 pm. A short ceremony will begin at 5:30 pm. Light refreshments will be provided. This is an outdoor event, be sure to dress for the weather.

Pilot Project in Holland Aims to Help get People Outside Using Nature Prescriptions

ocparksPark Rx America is a new platform available to Holland-area doctors used to prescribe patients with time outdoors at a park that is accessible and convenient.

Ottawa County Parks, along with the City of Holland, Holland Charter Township, Park Township, Laketown Township, and the Outdoor Discovery Center are partnering with a non-profit organization, Park Rx America, and the Holland Hospital Physical Hospital Organization (PHO) to bring nature prescriptions to patients. Leading this pilot project is Dr. Beth Peter MD whose background is in family medicine.

streamGo get some fresh air is advice that’s been given for years. Intuitively, many people know that fresh air and sunshine can make you feel better, but in the past there hasn’t been much science to back that up. That is changing.

A number of recent evidentiary studies are uncovering the science behind the healing power of nature. Researchers are finding that time spent outdoors can have many positive, measurable outcomes such as: reduced stress, improved sleep, lower blood pressure, and increased social connectedness. (A full list of findings can be found here:

beachAt the same time humans are spending more time inside and in front of screens and other studies beg the question: Why is our culture so stressed?

“What those researchers are finding is that we were designed to be healthier, to exercise more and to eat more plants,” says Dr. Peter. “Our brains are developed for sunshine and fresh air.”

Park Rx America is a platform physicians can use to get their patients outdoors more often and create healthier habits. It contains a database of area parks that includes information to help doctors prescribe a park that will be the right fit for a patient. “Park Rx America will be helpful to patients and doctors because we don’t always know what’s out there,” said Dr. Peter. “It can also help answer important questions like ‘are there accessible pathways and bathrooms’? Or, ‘are dogs allowed?’”

Once doctors find the right park, they can create a prescription for their patient. Individuals will receive text reminders to visit their prescribed park and are able to check in when they arrive. They can also opt-in to answer questions about how they are feeling after their time outside. After the initial prescription is filled, the hope is that people keep coming back and perhaps begin to explore new places.

“The PHO is always searching for resources we can give our physicians to help them motivate their patients to make important habit changes so they are healthier, feel better, and are less stressed,” said Dr. Peter. “Park Rx America is one we’re really excited about.”

231 River Run • 4MI • 10K • October 26, 2019


If you haven’t already, register now for the 2019 231 River Run on October 26. 📋 The 10K run and 4 mile run/walk make the event attainable for every fitness level. The If you are running a fall half or marathon, this is a great way to take it easy and flush out those legs. Space is limited. Be sure to register before we sell out. You can view how many spaces are left on the registration link. (At this time, about 80 spots remain.) If you prefer, sign up with this Printable Registration form. And, if you forgot whether or not you registered, you can look it up.

Free Walking Program in Ottawa and Allegan Counties

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

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

Participants will be able to track their steps and activity online, as well as monitor their progress throughout the challenge. Each week, participants who track their activity are eligible for incentive prizes.

walkingtrailIn order to help participants stay active throughout the program there are weekly guided walks, with varying pace groups, offered for free in both Ottawa and Allegan County Parks. New this year: group walks in Ottawa County will also include a short, body weight strength training program prior to the walk with the help of Cari Draft from EcoTrek Fitness, the Tri-Cities Family YMCA, and Jessie Riley from the Four Pointes Center for Successful Aging.kayaks

To encourage participants to discover new recreational activities, the program offers opportunities to try kayaking, biking, orienteering, disc golf, and a thru-hike. These activities and necessary equipment are free-of-charge to registered participants who are recording their activity.bottombanner

New Park Property – Stearns Creek


February 26, 2019


The Ottawa County Parks and Recreation Commission and Ottawa County Parks Foundation reached an important landmark today in its effort to create a new ecologically important park along the Grand River Greenway.

Agreements were reached with three landowners to sell 118 acres of land in Robinson Township at the south end of Stearns Bayou. This land includes 6,350 feet of frontage along Stearns Creek and will protect nearly 27 acres of high quality wetland. The acquisition helps accomplish the goal of adding 700 acres of park land to the  Grand River Greenway over the next five years; a donation to the campaign is a key part of the funding for the purchase.

The Grand River Greenway Campaign Committee is part of the Parks Foundation and is co-chaired by Peter Secchia, Monica Verplank, and Samantha Verplank.

The purchases are expected to be completed in March and are funded by a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program (CELCP) grant, a Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grant, and a gift from the estate of John J. Helstrom. In honor of the gift, the new park will feature the Helstrom Family Trail System.

“Land acquisition is a priority for completing the Greenway and for the Parks Foundation,” said Parks Commission President and Foundation Board Member David VanGinhoven.” Donations like the one from the John J. Helstrom estate are so important to helping the County Parks protect critical properties and have an impact that goes well beyond the amount given, because they can leverage other public funding sources. In this case, the impact of the gift was multiplied over tenfold.”