Walk the trails at Ottawa Sands and you’ll likely spot a family of bald eagles perched overlooking the crystal blue man-made lake. Sandy dunes tower on one side of the property, and a scenic stretch of the Grand River known as “the sag” flows on the other. Visit in late winter and spring to spot migratory birds and waterfowl. Catch and release fishing is allowed from the shoreline with lures only. No boating or swimming in the lake is allowed at this time while park management and use plans are being developed.
Ottawa Sands was the final link in what is now an unbroken corridor of parks and preserved natural areas totaling over 2,000 acres that together include six miles of scenic dunes and stretches of Lake Michigan shoreline. The property contains 219 acres of critical dune habitat and an 80-acre lake, providing much-needed habitat for migratory birds and monarch butterflies, nesting bald eagles and the rare Pitcher’s thistle plant.
For over seven decades, this site had been barred from public access and used for sand mining. In 2017, Ottawa Sand Company approached Ottawa County Parks and offered to sell them the property, creating an opportunity to link together public land in an unbroken corridor spanning from P.J. Hoffmaster State Park to the Grand River. The landowners made a limited-time offer to donate 25 percent of the land value, contingent on a prompt sale of the entire property.
In December 2017, Ottawa County Parks made a special presentation to the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund for project funding. The Trust Fund approved a grant to purchase about half of the property, with the possibility of a second award the following year to complete the purchase. The County needed a partner that would be able to purchase and hold the remaining portion of the land until they could secure another grant. Thanks to a loan from The Conservation Fund, the Land Conservancy was able to purchase the remaining land, and lease it to Ottawa County Parks for their management.
In 2018, Land Conservancy donors raised nearly $400,000 for the project. In December 2018, the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund approved a second grant to Ottawa County and in July 2019, Ottawa County Parks completed its acquisition of the property.
This project would not be possible without the quick action and financial support from The Conservation Fund, a national organization that specializes in conservation loans.
This project made possible in part with support from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund; Ottawa Sand Company; Loutit Foundation; Ottawa County Parks Foundation; J.A. Woollam Foundation; the North Bank Communities Fund, Greatest Needs Fund, Environment Fund and the William T. and Shirley A. Baker Fund of the Grand Haven Community Foundation.