GEORGETOWN TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — The new trail that leads along Cottonwood Drive and turns north on 10th Avenue in Jenison doesn’t look like much. But in reality, it is part of a bigger picture that will open up parks along the Grand River from Grand Haven to Grand Rapids.

Among those is Grand Ravines Park, where Skip Ruhe is a daily visitor.

“Ottawa (County) Parks does a fantastic job,” Ruhe said. “I just like to come out. I’m retired. I like to come out and walk and take pictures.”

“We have more sites … along the way that are really special places,” Ottawa County Parks and Recreation Planning and Development Coordinator Curt TerHaar said.

The more than $40 million Grand River Greenway project promises to open up those places to more public access. The latest section helping link them together is the Idema Explorers Trail along Cottonwood. It’s one of 12 eventual trail segments that will stretch from Grand Haven to Kent County’s Millennium Park.

“It really is meant to connect all of the parks and amenities that are already along the river together so people can enjoy them,” TerHaar said. “I think we’ve realized for a while, and maybe even more lately, how important the Grand River is to West Michigan. It really is a focal point and is becoming more so as more people get to enjoy it.”

The bulk of phase one, $20 million in land acquisition for the trails, is complete.

Another $21 million will be used mostly to build the trails. That includes an anticipated $ 7 million in private donations. In 2018, the Bill and Bea Idema Foundation pledged $2 million toward the project and the Wege Foundation pledged another $860,000. So far, about $6 million has been raised.  

TerHaar said the projects will be years in the making and there’s plenty of time to raise the money.   

“But we have funds now that we can keep rolling, keep implementing different sections, and we hope the rest will come in soon, so we’ll be all set,” TerHaar said.

Details about the Greenway and Idema Trail projects can be found on the Ottawa County Parks & Recreation website, and information about how to donate can be found on the Ottawa County Parks Foundation website.