A major attraction is coming to West Michigan! A plan is in place to transform an area along the Grand River close to Lake Michigan into a unique camping experience with treehouses and yurts.

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Massive Renovation Project Planned for Ottawa Sands County Park

Ottawa County Parks and Recreation announced Friday that upgrades are coming to Ottawa Sands County Park that will create unique, low impact overnight accommodations to the Grand River Greenway and 2,479-acre corridor of connected dune lands.

Ottawa County Parks and Rec
Ottawa County Parks and Rec
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According to the Ottawa Co. Parks and Rec. Department:

Ottawa Sands is the western-most property managed by Ottawa County Parks along the Grand River Greenway and serves as a logical endpoint for anyone enjoying an extended adventure along the Idema Explorers Trail or the Grand River Heritage Water Trail. It is also a gateway to the stretch of contiguous publicly owned duneland that is comparable in scale to larger state parks such as Silver Lake or Warren Dunes.

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The Ottawa Sands Master Plan

The new campground is part of the Ottawa Sands Master Plan which began with the acquisition of the 345-acre park in 2019.

Kelly Rice, Ottawa County Parks Commission President said,

The acquisition of the 345-acre Ottawa Sands County Park in 2019 was a whirlwind process made possible only through the coordinated efforts of many residents, donors, and stakeholders. Our opportunity to purchase the $11.2 million sand mining site quickly emerged in the latter half of 2017 and was entirely unanticipated.

The Ottawa Sands Master Plan proposed site improvements and ecological restoration, reclamation, and enhancements of $23.3 million to the recently decommissioned sand mine over several phases. The improvements include:

  • Constructed dunal wet prairie and marsh, improving wildlife habitat
  • A 1.6-mile paved loop around the 80-acre inland lake
  • Day-use parking area near the current entrance
  • Outfitted camping experience for the Grand River with an accessible kayak launch
  • A beach on the lake
  • Dune overlook tower with views of Lake Michigan
  • Riverfront recreational area with docks
Ottawa County Parks and Rec
Ottawa County Parks and Rec
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Idema Explorers Camp to Provide Overnight Accommodations

The next phase, the Idema Explorers Camp, was made possible by a $2.5 million gift from the Bill and Bea Idema Foundation.

The campground will be located in a hidden bowl along the Grand River, which is a manmade feature that resulted from dredging activities related to the mining operation. It is planned to be accessible by bike and kayak.

Ottawa County Parks and Recreation Director Jason Shamblin said,

Several studies of the Greenway and the water trails have highlighted the need for overnight accommodations to allow for 24-hour experiences of the river. Knowing that Grand Rapids Whitewater will draw visitors from all over the country to this river, we want to ensure that welcoming public amenities and accommodations exist all along the river in West Michigan. Building the Idema Explorers Camp is a major step forward in supporting our local economy.

Shamblin tells Fox 17,

It's an incredibly exciting opportunity to  provide this benefit to the public. We see this as a regional attraction for the whole Greenway. So when I say 'the Greenway,' the Grand River connects from Lake Michigan all the way into Grand Rapids.

Ottawa County Parks and Rec
Ottawa County Parks and Rec
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Plans for Idema Explorers Camp include:

  • Tent pads
  • Yurt Village
  • Tent Village
  • Entry drive
  • Idema Explorers Trail extension
  • Utilities
  • Non-motorized universally accessible kayak launch
  • Welcome Center
Ottawa County Parks and Rec
Treehouse Village, Ottawa County Parks and Rec
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Yurt Village, Ottawa County Parks and Rec
Yurt Village, Ottawa County Parks and Rec
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According to Fox 17, Ottawa County Parks and Recreation plans to break ground on the new campground in fall 2022.

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