Ottawa Sands Dedication Event October 15th

Ottawa County Parks and the Land Conservancy of West Michigan is celebrating the monumental acquisition of Ottawa Sands (Ferrysburg, MI) 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.
  • Guests are invited to try their luck with a lure on the shore of the inland lake. Dan O’Keefe from MSU Extension will provide fishing tips.
  • 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.

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.

Future Development

Since the addition of Ottawa Sands to the county parks system was unexpected, funds are not available for its immediate development. Minor improvements were made prior to the park opening to the public in 2018, including the addition of a small parking area and 3.5 miles of designated trails.

Ottawa County Parks applied for a grant from the Coastal Zone Management program to initiate a master plan for the site, including an inventory and analysis of the site’s natural features. This plan would determine the feasibility of the site for recreation facilities, including lake and riverfront access and camping. Public input is a crucial component of the master program and there will be several opportunities for public comment. To be notified of opportunities for public comment, please sign up here.

Ottawa Sands Acquisition Information/Timeline

Initial Purchase / Phase 1:

Opportunity to purchase the 345-acre property arose in fall 2017. The property was valued over $11 million. The previous owner, Gaylen Byker, donated 25% of the land value to serve as grant match.

$8.2 million was needed to purchase Ottawa Sands

  • Ottawa County Parks applied for a MNRTF grant in 2017, half of the funding was recommended at their annual meeting in December 2017.
  • The Land Conservancy of West Michigan secured a low-interest loan from the Conservation Fund in spring 2018.
  • The property was purchased in July of 2018
    • $4.2 million – paid with a MNRTF grant
    • $4 million – paid with a loan secured by the Land Conservancy of West Michigan

Ottawa County Parks submitted an application for a second MNRTF grant in the spring of 2018

Land Conservancy of West Michigan began a fundraising campaign for costs related to the loan and to offset the grant funds needed

Land Conservancy leased their half of the site to Ottawa County Parks and a parking lot was developed and 3.5 miles of trails were marked in the fall of 2018

Ottawa Sands opened to the public in October 2018

Securing Ottawa Sands / Phase 2:

$4 million required to repay The Conservation Fund loan

  • $3.817 million grant recommended by the MNRTF board to repay the majority of the loan in December 2018
  • $200,000 private dollars raised by the Land Conservancy of West Michigan to repay the loan
  • State legislature must approve funding for all MNRTF projects
  • Loan to be repaid and property transferred to Ottawa County Parks

About the property

The 345-acre property sits between green space owned by the cities of Grand Haven and Ferrysburg and North Ottawa Dunes. The site was previously used for sand mining, but has been inactive in recent years. The property includes forested dunes, an 80-acre inland lake, and riverfront land with wetlands. Since it opened to the public in October of this year, hundreds of residents and visitors have enjoyed the trails, views, and wildlife sightings.

Ottawa Sands is the “final piece of a puzzle” of a corridor of publicly owned land stretching from Muskegon County to Grand Haven.

ottawa sands

Photo contributed by Bob Walma, Walma Compositions