Parks Update - August News, Events, and More!

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Ottawa County Parks & Recreation offers programming and volunteer opportunities year-round! Visit the Program and Events Calendar for details and registration. Call our Nature Center at Hemlock Crossing Park for more information: 616-786-4847.



Scroll down to find information about ways to get outside this summer, as well as upcoming programs and events and much more. Thank you for reading!

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Construction at Grand Ravines North

Trail construction will begin for the Bill Idema Moraine Nature Segment at Grand Ravines North Park on August 1.

As a result, the lower trails, including the covered bridge by the river at Grand Ravines Park, will be closed to the public. The lower parking lot at Grand Ravines North will be blocked off as well for construction vehicles and equipment from 8/1/22 - 11/1/22.

To accommodate paid reservation holders, the main parking lot next to the Grand Ravines Lodge will be an exclusive lot for the event holder and their guests only. We will have suggestions for any overflow parking needs. If there is no reservation, the lot will be open to the public. 

Map of parking lots.

231 River Run


The River Run event on October 29, 2022 at Connor Bayou has been cancelled.  

Zee Bus at Upper Macatawa Natural Area

August 4, 11, 10:30 am - 12:30 pm 

The end of summer celebration will be August 12 at Lawrence Street Park, with free lunch for all from 11:30 am - 1 pm!

Enjoy some summer reading on the Zee Bus! The Zee Bus is a traveling library that will be rolling through the Zeeland area this summer. Parks Naturalists will provide nature activities and a story at 11 am on Thursdays at Upper Macatawa Natural Area (84th Ave entrance). For more information, follow the Zee Bus page on Facebook: @ZeeBus2013

Grand Lady Riverboat Cruise

August 9

Departure times: 1:30 pm and 4 pm

Enjoy watching for eagles, herons, and other wildlife from the shaded comfort of the upper deck or lower main cabin. The boat’s main cabin is handicap accessible. We suggest you bring jackets, a camera, and binoculars (for close views of birds, turtles, and more). Each round-trip excursion will take approximately an hour and a half. 

Tickets are $15/person, click here to print a reservation form to mail with your check to the address provided on the form. 

Grand Lady Cruise

Macatawa Water Festival

August 13, 9am - 1pm

Windmill Island Gardens 

Attend the Macatawa Water Festival for a family fun day of learning the importance of the Macatawa Watershed. Hands on water-related activities are available for people of all ages.

Come visit Ottawa County Parks for a ride in the Gabagouache canoe!

Gabagouache Canoe Trip at Macatawa Water Festival

Families riding in the Gabagouache canoe at the Macatawa Water Festival.

Open Houses

The Lodge at Grand Ravines North - August 21 from 1-3 pm

Weaver House at Pine Bend - August 21 from 1-4 pm

The Friends of Ottawa County Parks are kindly hosting an open house for the Lodge and Weaver House. Both events start at 1.  Stop by and take a look around! There will be a program offered during the Weaver House open house called A History Walk at Pine Bend. For more information, see the program section.  

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Red Pine Management at Pigeon Creek Park

Red Pines

Red pine (Pinus resinosa) is one of the most common pine trees in Michigan. There are over 1.6 million acres of red pine forests in our state, and despite being at the very southern range of this northern pine, Ottawa County hosts its fair share.

Why were red pines planted here?

Much of the red pine found in Michigan was planted plantation-style by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s. The CCC was part of the New Deal, a series of public works programs and legislation that was designed to pull the country out of the Depression.

Planting red pines also helped to stabilize soil that had been disturbed by a century of irresponsible logging. As the US became industrialized, red pines were used to re-forest abandoned farmland. They were planted because of their relatively fast growth and value as timber products.

The resulting pine stands produced large amounts of timber, but because of the lack of forest diversity, formed what we refer to as monocultures. These pine monocultures grew in areas that once supported a variety of ecosystem types. 

What about the pines now?

As time has gone on, red pine populations in Ottawa County have become less healthy. Red pine plantations were planted similarly to other crops meant to be harvested – as densely as possible. Periodic harvesting of this crop at Pigeon Creek Park did allow for continued healthy growth and transition to a native deciduous forest. Unfortunately with summers trending hotter and drier, the remaining trees have become stressed and more prone to disease. As a result, many red pines are dead and dying. 

Dead and dying pines present safety hazards to park visitors and removal can be extremely costly. These factors led to our decision to embark on the final removal of red pines at Pigeon Creek. A benefit to removing this crop plant is a more diverse forest waiting in the seedbank. As this diverse forest grows, it has the potential to bring many new species to Pigeon Creek Park.

For more information on this project, visit:

OR, attend the Redefining Red Pines program at Pigeon Creek Park on September 10 from 10-11 am. This program will also be offered on Zoom and Facebook Live! Stay tuned for more information and links to the program in the September email. 


Don't get tick(ed) off this summer

What is a tick?

Ticks are parasitic arachnids that attach themselves to a host and have the ability to transmit diseases. They are external parasites and survive by feeding on the blood of other organisms. They have oval-like bodies and four pairs of legs.

Michigan TIck ID card

Are they dangerous?

Not all ticks are dangerous, but you should remain cautious and vigilant in removing them from your body because they have the potential to carry diseases.

Avoiding Ticks

Tick exposure can occur year-round, but they are most active in the summer, warm months.

According to the CDC, before you go outdoors you should:

  1. Know where to expect ticks. They live in grassy, brushy, or wooded areas.
  2. Use EPA-registered insect repellent containing DEET, permethrin, etc.
  3. Avoid contact by walking in the center of trails and limiting off-trail exploration.

After you come indoors you should:

  1. Immediately check your body. Conduct a full body check.
    1. Under the arms
    2. In and around the ears
    3. Behind the knees
    4. In and around the hair
    5. Between the legs
  2. Check clothing for ticks. Putting your clothes in the dryer on high heat after being in a high-risk area can help to kill any ticks on your clothing.
  3. Shower soon after being outdoors. This is shown to reduce your risk of getting Lyme disease.

Oh no! There's a tick on me...what do I do?

If you find a tick on you that is not embedded or engorged, it has most likely not been there for 24 hours or longer. There will be minimal risk for tick-borne disease transmission and you should remove the tick from your body/skin immediately. If the tick is embedded:

  1. Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to skin's surface as possible.
  2. Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Do not twist or jerk the tick.
  3. After removal, clean the bite area with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.

If you find an engorged tick and/or believe the tick has been embedded for more than 24 hours, call your doctor. Watch for any symptoms that develop, which may include: fevers, chills, joint/muscle pain, headaches, or neck stiffness. Another common sign of Lyme disease is an expanding red rash, often called bullseye rash. For more information, visit this link

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Click on a program date to be redirected to our registration page for that program! 

NEW! Yoga in the Parks  

Registration required, $5

This summer, practice yoga in a variety of our many scenic county parks! Each session is 60 minutes.

NEW! Intro to Nature Journaling

Registration required, $5

Many of us seek ways to better connect with nature. We want to learn its secrets, protect its inhabitants, and better understand our place within it. Nature journaling helps us do this!

Wildlife Encounters: Hummingbirds

Unique to the Western Hemisphere, Hummingbirds are tiny flying jewels to behold! Come find out more, including how to attract and feed them in your own backyard.

Fern Hike

Registration not required, but appreciated

Ferns are unique as they produce neither flower nor seed, yet they continue from generation to generation. Find out how as you are introduced to the diversity of species found in our parks.

Themed Walks

Registration not required, but appreciated 

Further explore our parks and learn about a variety of topics. 

Evening sessions: 7-8 pm 

Discover the Dunes 

Registration not required, but appreciated

Hike through geological history as you wander the backdune forest of Rosy Mound and out to the shores of Lake Michigan.

NEW! Wonder Walk

Registration not required, but appreciated

Practice your nature journaling skills as we slowly meander the trails and follow what catches our eyes. We’ll be pausing to sit and draw, write, ask questions, and record our observations.


Join the Shoreline Amateur Astronomical Association (SAAA) at Hemlock Crossing for programs. For more information, click here. 

A History Walk at Pine Bend

Registration not required, but appreciated

Before Pine Bend was a park, it had a rich history full of hunting and fishing, lumbering and tanneries, resorts and dance halls, and a family simply enjoying their life on the land. While many of the buildings are now gone, we can look at the land and the clues left behind to fill in the story.

Kayak Trips

Registration required, $10 + $20 for rental

Enjoy the sights and sounds of the Grand River and Crockery Creek by kayak. Launch from Robinson Twp. Boat Launch.

Earth Encounters Geology

Registration required, free ($5 for stone)

Following a short presentation, you will have the chance to polish your own Petoskey Stone while learning some more lore and facts about this unique specimen. Bring your own stone to polish or purchase one for $5. 

Prairie Wildflower Walk

Registration not required, but appreciated 

The dazzling colors of our restored native prairies are a delight to experience! Come through the summer to see how they change and what flowers are in bloom at each park.

On the Lakeshore...

motor vehicle permit reminder

Background photo by: Joshua Bachand, @joshjem20