Foundation gives $2M to trail project


The Aldrink Ravines Overlook on Idema Explorers Trail in Grand Ravines Park. Courtesy Ottawa County Parks Foundation

A trail project in the region has been given a $2-million donation by a local foundation.

The Ottawa County Parks Foundation said last week it received the gift from the Grand Rapids-based Bill and Bea Idema Foundation for the development of the Grand River Greenway.

In recognition of this gift and support, the central feature of the Grand River Greenway — the Explorers Trail — will be named in honor of Bill and Bea Idema.

“We are proud to re-name the trail the Idema Explorers Trail,” said Samantha Verplank, co-chair, Grand River Greenway Campaign. “Bea and her family have done so much for the West Michigan community, for Grand Valley State University and for Ottawa County Parks. The Idema family also has deep ties to the Greenway lands. That is why we feel the name is a perfect fit.”

The Grand River Greenway Campaign is a $41-million, 30-year-plus project, detailing 30 miles of public trails along the Grand River. The Parks Foundation is seeking $7.2 million in philanthropic gifts to leverage anticipated public funding.

So far, about $22 million in public funds has been invested in the project to preserve more than 2,400 acres of land and create 13 parks and open spaces along the greenway.

When complete, the trails will connect 8,500 acres of land and provide links between Grand Rapids, Grandville, Jenison, Grand Valley State University’s campuses and the lakeshore in Grand Haven.

In addition to land acquisition and trail construction, an important component of the Greenway plan is to create a distinctive trail “experience” through wayfinding, interpretive displays and possibly artwork in appropriate locations.

The planned interpretive experience was an important factor for the Bill and Bea Idema Foundation supporting the Greenway project.

“Bea Idema is a dear friend of mine,” said Peter Secchia, co-chair, Grand River Greenway Campaign. “She’s a special person with a generous heart. Through this gift, the Greenway Campaign has turned a corner — we are now much closer to achieving our goal of raising $7.2 million to expand access to the thousands of acres of land along the Grand River, protect additional land and complete a trail connection between Millennium Park and the Grand Haven beach.”

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