“Ottawa Sands is the “missing puzzle piece” that creates a 2,000-acre corridor of public green space, stretching from P.J. Hoffmaster State Park all the way to the Grand River,” said Marie Orttenburger, Communications Specialist at the Land Conservancy of West Michigan (LCWM). “Without protection, it would be lost to development or continued sand mining.”

The 345-acre former Ottawa Sands property in Ferrysburg, which is located on the north bank of the Grand River, includes 219 acres of critical dunes that provide habitat for wildlife and migratory birds, an 80-acre lake, and over one mile of Grand River frontage. The Land Conservancy partnered with Ottawa County Parks (OCP) to purchase it for permanent protection as a public park. A grant from the GHACF to the LCWM helped with the purchase of the land, which will eventually transfer to OCP.

According to the Ottawa Sands website: “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.”

“We’re a big supporter of greenways, corridors of land along rivers and other waterways. This was a huge win for the Lake Michigan coastal greenway. [This land] was saved from development and it would have slipped away without the support of so many others.” —Jessica VanGinhoven, Communications Specialist at Ottawa County Parks

By turning the former sand mine into a park, the LCWM and OCP will help preserve the shoreline dune habitat and its natural resources, create a new area for community activity in nature, and support the local economy.

“The Ottawa Sands project opened to the public a beautiful parcel of natural land that would have otherwise remained private. Now, visitors to Ottawa Sands can explore the land and catch glimpses of a family of bald eagles, threatened Pitcher’s thistle, and stunning dune and water views. Ottawa Sands significantly enhances the scenic appeal of the community and creates new opportunities for healthy outdoor recreation.” —Marie Orttenburger, Communications Specialist at the Land Conservancy of West Michigan

“We plan for future acquisitions as well as we can, but this was truly a surprise purchase,” said VanGinhoven. “We are lucky our community recognizes the value of our natural resources and that this is a special place. It’s why people move here and like to work here. We operate with a 10-year millage, and the recent support of the millage shows that the community supports investment in our parks. We’re so grateful that the community stepped up to provide additional support of Ottawa Sands.”

Orttenburger added, “The GHACF has been an essential partner in helping to protect natural lands in the Grand Haven area. In addition to the Ottawa Sands project grant, the GHACF helped leverage additional funding from other donors and foundations and encouraged others to step up to save this remarkable property.”

The GHACF has also supported the North Ottawa Dunes and the Minnie Skwarek Nature Preserve in Spring Lake. Together with the LCWM, we have permanently protected over 850 acres of scenic and natural land in the Northwest Ottawa County for public enjoyment.  

The Land Conservancy of West Michigan is a nationally accredited land trust and 501(c)(3) nonprofit. For over 40 years, they have worked with individuals, families, and communities to protect and care for the land. To date, they have helped to protect nearly 150 properties in our eight-county West Michigan service area.

The Ottawa County Parks and Recreation Commission was created in 1987 to oversee the management and operation of the county parks system. The Commission is dedicated to providing Ottawa County residents and visitors with park facilities as well as recreational and educational opportunities that enhance the quality and enjoyment of their lives.

Photos courtesy of Mike Lozon.

For more information about our Grants & Program, visit ghacf.org/grants/ or email Director of Grants & Program, Holly Cole, at hcole@ghacg.org.