10 ways to enjoy the outdoors in Ottawa County Parks this month

Ottawa County parks offer a vast variety of terrain and activities to explore — from kayaking to geology to birding. 

Some programs even offer special opportunities that wouldn’t otherwise be available to the public on their own. Each program, regardless of age group, is designed to spark curiosity and connect participants to the nature that is all around them.

“One of the best parts of working in parks is seeing the variety of ways our community enjoys the outdoors,” says Jessica VanGinhoven, coordinator of interpretive services with Ottawa County Parks and Recreation. “Strengthening the connection to place and nature helps us not only to better understand how it all works (which is incredible on its own), but also why we should care about it. It is our home after all.”

Here are 10 ways to enjoy the outdoors with Ottawa County Parks Department programs this month.

1. Discover elusive wildflowers
Woodland flowers called spring ephemerals bloom briefly each year as the area comes back to life. Join Ottawa County Parks and Recreation guides to look for these spring beauties.

May 14, 2-3 p.m. - Rosy Mound Natural Area, 13925 Lakeshore Drive, Grand Haven

May 22, 2-3 p.m. - Grand Ravines (North), 3991 Fillmore St, Jenison

May 28, 2-3 p.m. - Grand River Park, 9473 28th Ave., Jenison


2. Walk with the eagles at Grand Ravines
*Registration required, $5/person

Take advantage of this experience — available to the public only through this special program. Bald Eagles frequent areas along the Grand River and have nested at Grand Ravines (North), , 3991 Fillmore St, Jenison, for a number of years. Join the Ottawa County Parks and Recreation guides on this hike to learn the story of the park’s resident eagles and view their nesting activities. For more details or to register, visit miottawa.org/Parks/programs.htm.

May 8, 1-2:30 p.m./ 2-3:30 p.m./ 3-4:30 p.m./ 4-5:30 p.m.


3. See the stars
Join the Shoreline Amateur Astronomical Association at Hemlock Crossing, 8115 W Olive Road, West Olive, for programs and, later in the summer, stargazing.

May 14, 7-8 p.m. — The Summer Sky (presentation)

Jun 11, 9 p.m.-midnight — Public star gazing

4. Discover kayaking
*Registration required for each event.

Try kayaking on Hawthorn Pond (9876 Black River Court, Holland) to gain confidence before you go out on a river trip. Learn some basic kayak handling skills and paddle around the pond during this open house style program. For more details or to register, visit miottawa.org/Parks/programs.htm.
  • May 21, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.* 
    *Register for your preferred time
 
  • Pigeon River Kayaking Trip ($10; $20 for rental)
Enjoy the sights and sounds of the Pigeon River by kayak as you paddle          through the park with a guide. Each trip includes a basic kayaking lesson. No experience needed. For more details or to register, visit miottawa.org/Parks/programs.htm. Both programs are at Hemlock Crossing, 8115 W. Olive Road, West Olive.

May 29, 12-4 p.m.

Jun 4, 9:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.


5. Let’s go...Build a campfire!
Fire has captivated people from the beginning. Join a naturalist and other adults for this 60-minute campfire-style program. Try your hand at three methods of fire-starting, explore the fire triangle, and warm up with a tasty fire-roasted snack. 
Jun 4, 10-11 a.m. — Pigeon Creek (Group Camp), 12524 Stanton St., West Olive

6. Discover that beeches are more than just sand
Beech trees have captured the attention of people throughout the centuries in Europe and North America. What makes a Beech tree so special? Join this 60 minute walk to find out! 

Jun 5, 10-11 a.m. - Stearns Creek, 13594 136th Ave., Grand Haven

7. Hear the whistle of the Whip-poor-will
*Registration required, $5/person

Learn about the unique natural history of this often misunderstood bird. Afterward, caravan to a local Whip-poor-will hotspot to experience this bird first-hand. For more details or to register, visit miottawa.org/Parks/programs.htm.

Jun 10, 9-10:30 p.m. - Hemlock Crossing, 8115 W. Olive Road, West Olive

8. Encounter Earth: Michigan Minerals
Michigan’s mineral riches have provided the raw materials to drive industry in our state. You’ll look at the most well known of these mineral resources and learn to recognize them using their physical properties.

Jun 11, 3-4:30 p.m. - Hemlock Crossing, 8115 W. Olive Road, West Olive

9. Immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of spring bird migration

Bird walks with guides from Ottawa County Parks and Recreation

May 11, 8-10 a.m. — Grand River Park, 9473 28th Ave., Jenison

May 15, 2-3:30 p.m. — Grand Ravines (North), 3991 Fillmore St, Jenison (Geared toward beginners)

May 18, 8-10 a.m. — Hemlock Crossing, 8115 W. Olive Road, West Olive

May 25, 8-10 a.m. — Paw Paw Park (West), 11030 Paw Paw Dr., Holland


Big Day Birding Field Trip
*Registration required, $20/person

How many bird species can we find in Ottawa County in one day? Teams will search several county parks, as well as other locations, for waterbirds, raptors, songbirds, and more. For more details or to register, visit miottawa.org/Parks/programs.htm.

May 20, 7 a.m.-4 p.m. — Various locations

Greenway Birding Blitz
Celebrate migration by birding along the Macatawa Greenway. Join the Ottawa County Parks and Recreation Department at one or more locations throughout the day.

May 28, 7-9 a.m. - Black Lake Boardwalk (East), Ottawa Beach Road, Holland

May 28, 10-11:30 a.m. - Paw Paw Park (West), 11030 Paw Paw Dr., Holland

May 28, noon-1:30 p.m. - Paw Paw Park (East), 11030 Paw Paw Dr., Holland

May 28, 2-4 p.m. - Upper Macatawa Natural Area (West), 1300 84th Ave., Zeeland

10. Take the kids!

Twilight Hike for Kids & Families!
*Registration required

Experience the park as it turns from day to night. You’ll listen to frog calls and search for all types of nocturnal creatures. Afterward we’ll spend some time relaxing around a campfire. For more details or to register, visit miottawa.org/Parks/programs.htm.

May 13, 8:30-10 p.m. — Ottawa Sands, 18153 N. Shore Drive, Ferrysburg

Encounter wildlife
The Wildlife Encounter - Kids! series introduces children to wildlife found in their yards, parks, and region; includes activities, walk, and craft. Program is geared for children ages 5-12 years. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Both events are at Hemlock Crossing, 8115 W Olive Road, West Olive.

May 15, 3-4:30 p.m. — Bird migration 

Jun 12, 3-4:30 p.m. — Piping Plover 

StoryWalks
Pages from these picture books will be posted on signs along the path for your family to read together — along with ideas for things to look for and do as you walk! Storywalks are available from dawn to dusk at each location.

May 2-15, Spring Grove Park, 1800 Greenly St. SW, Grandville — When Spring Comes

May 2-15, Paw Paw (East), 11030 Paw Paw Dr., Holland — Lola Plants A Garden/Lola Planta un Jardin

May 16-31, Tunnel Park, 66 Lakeshore Drive N,, Holland — Senorita Mariposa 

May 22-31, Grand Ravines (South), 3991 Fillmore St., Jenison — Dog's Colorful Day

Read more articles by Andrea Goodell.