Ottawa County Parks and Recreation purchase makes future Macatawa Greenway Trail connectivity possible

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The property includes nearly 500 feet of river frontage and about 2.5 acres of floodplain, including some wooded area. Courtesy Ottawa County Parks and Recreation

The Ottawa County Parks and Recreation Commission purchased a 5.5-acre parcel on Black River Court adjacent to Holland Township’s Hawthorn Pond Park, as well as to Macatawa Greenway property that connects along the Macatawa River to 96th Avenue.

The property includes nearly 500 feet of river frontage and about 2.5 acres of floodplain, including some wooded area.

“Though not a large property, this parcel is a critical and exciting addition for the long-term Macatawa Greenway project,” said Kelly Rice, Ottawa County Parks and Recreation Commission president. “It provides the final connection needed from Hawthorn Pond to 96th Avenue, making any future trail connection much more feasible.”

A group of partners, including Ottawa County Parks and Recreation, Holland Charter Township, ODC Network and other local municipalities, have been working for several decades to protect and connect land along the Macatawa River to create the Macatawa Greenway.

In 2019, a signed pedestrian/bicycle route the Macatawa Greenway Trail 1.0 was established, which stretches from Zeeland Township to Lake Michigan (with routes on the north and south side of Lake Macatawa). The route features several Ottawa County parks properties, including the Historic Ottawa Beach Parks, Paw Park and the scenic 2-mile route from the north to the south end of the Upper Macatawa Natural Area and connection to Kent County via the Fred Meijer Kenowa Trail.

“We were able to identify connections for the initial route along existing multiuse pathways and sidewalks, but our long-term goal is to provide trail connectivity along as much of the Macatawa River as possible,” said Travis Williams, CEO of ODC Network. “This purchase locks up the land needed for the Greenway east of I-196 and provides important connectivity to our Middle Macatawa and Poppen Woods properties.”

Now that the core land acquisitions for this section of the Greenway are completed, the collaborative team is reviewing the best options for providing public access for this section, and some obstacles remain.

“While we would like to construct a paved route from Upper Macatawa to Hawthorn Pond right away, that will take more time and resources,” Ottawa County Parks and Recreation Director Jason Shamblin. “We are examining if there is a way to open access through this area in phases.”

The first phase could be a mostly natural surface pathway from Poppen Woods to Hawthorn Pond, though expensive infrastructure is still needed to make this a reality, including a bridge crossing over the Macatawa River. Once the acquisition of the Black River Court property is completed, additional planning will be initiated to determine the most suitable plan for the new property and the greenway as a whole.

The new purchase may also offer new opportunities for Hawthorn Pond.

“This property provides expanded access along Black River Court from Hawthorn Pond and usable upland acreage,” said Terry Neinhuis, Holland Township supervisor. “This may allow for locating park amenities that would otherwise be challenging to construct in the floodplain. We will be analyzing the next steps, but this is an important acquisition for Holland Township and for the Macatawa Greenway.”

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