Food Service & Agriculture and Real Estate

Ottawa County acquires land next to North Ottawa Dunes

Additional 80 acres will increase park to 593 acres.

September 16, 2016
| By Pat Evans |
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Ottawa County is adding property to further establish its “green infrastructure.”

The Ottawa County Parks Board of Commissioners approved an agreement last week to acquire 80 acres of the privately owned “Brill Property,” as an addition to the North Ottawa Dunes. The property is surrounded by the North Ottawa Dunes on three sides and is located at the eastern edge of the property.

The new property could add approximately two miles of trails to the eight-mile trail system at the dunes park.

“The property looks like it’s cut right out of the park,” Ottawa County Parks Director John Scholtz said. “Avoiding those 80 acres, the trails get really steep and challenging, immediately. It’s the natural way to want to go, and yet, we don’t have that.”

Ottawa County Parks’ agreement is to contribute $360,000 to the property deal, in an exchange between Spring Lake Township and David C. Bos Homes. The acquisition should be finalized in about a month.

Spring Lake Township Supervisor John Nash led the negotiation efforts, Scholtz said. The deal also includes a swap of 100 acres from Spring Lake Township to the developer, Scholtz said. The developer would provide infrastructure to the park as part of the deal.

“It’s essentially a land swap with some money thrown in,” Scholtz said.

The 80 acres will increase North Ottawa Dunes to 593 acres and is part of a freshwater dune system, ranging along Lake Michigan from the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore to Wilderness State Park, near the Mackinac Bridge. Brill Property largely is a “back dune forest” made up of sugar maple, American beech, eastern hemlock and red oak trees.

Both Ottawa County and Spring Lake Township have viewed the Brill Property as a key asset because of the property’s geography. Some of the dunes in Brill Property are more than 175 feet tall, with a few more than 750 feet.

Future plans for the park likely don’t include additional land acquisition, Scholtz said, but would include a new entrance on the north side of the park and a paved path on the eastern edge of the park linking to North Shore Drive, without “penetrating into the natural, wild feel” of the rest of North Ottawa Dunes.

Scholtz said North Ottawa Dunes was started in 2005 when the county purchased the land from Spring Lake Township, which had planned the first phase of a development for the site. The site was previously owned by a sand mining company.

“They really had been defeated by the township in terms of being able to sand mine there, because the people didn’t want them to destroy the natural character,” Scholtz said. “They threw up a ton of roadblocks, won that battle and looked at developing it and went a long way with detailed plans.

“Then, for whatever reason, came to us with a shot at buying it up if we could move quickly.”

Ottawa County Parks acted quickly, purchased the 500 acres of land in 2005 and master planned the site by 2007. The first portions of the park opened in 2009 to the public.

Scholtz said he’s excited about the North Ottawa Dunes as a piece of “green infrastructure” that connects Hoffmaster Park with North Beach Park and Ferrysburg’s Coast Guard Park.

“We always talk about trying to put in place properties that connect green spaces with other green spaces to make sure wildlife can move and people can use trails,” Scholtz said. “That’s pretty fun to do, and it makes for quite an asset.”

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