Foundation raising money to expand, improve Ottawa County parks

Over the past two decades, a primary focus of the Ottawa County Parks & Recreation Department has been its $41 million Grand River Greenway Initiative. 

The project aims to protect thousands of acres of natural lands, creating green infrastructure, developing new recreational opportunities, and connecting communities. 

The completed system will connect 8,500 acres of public land in Grand Rapids, Grandville, Jenison, and two Grand Valley State University campuses to the Lakeshore in Grand Haven. This pathway will integrate into West Michigan’s regional trail network, with connections to nine regional trails, including the new M-231 Grand River Bridge.

30-mile pathway

Once the trail is complete, the public can explore this 30-mile pathway and the many spectacular parks along the way — by foot, bike, or kayak. 

“When the trail is finally complete, you could actually hike from downtown Grand Rapids to Lake Michigan,” says Angela Miller-Niarhos, Manager of the Ottawa County Parks Foundation.

The foundation — created to provide additional funding for the county parks system beyond what is available with public funds — is spearheading the Grand River Greenway Campaign, a fundraising effort to leverage more than $10 million in anticipated new public funding. 

“We're getting to that point where the parks millage is just going to cover basic maintenance of the parks,” says Miller-Niarhos. “The foundation was created to provide a vehicle for private donors to donate to the parks, to help with purchasing additional land and other fun stuff for the parks.”

Millions raised

The foundation has raised several million dollars since it was launched in 2016. Those donations have come primarily from foundations and private contributors.

The foundation hopes to raise more donations with its upcoming Park It at Home fundraiser. The online event replaces the foundation’s traditional annual springtime fundraiser, Breakfast in the Park, canceled this year because of the pandemic.

The Sept. 24 fundraiser will air first at noon on the Parks Foundation’s Facebook page. The 30-minute event will include fun trivia questions as well as updates on the parks. 

Those who register for the fundraiser will be entered into a drawing for a special Ottawa County Parks group excursion.

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Read more articles by Shandra Martinez.