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Michigan County's park designed with hikers in mind
By Terry Judd
Muskegon Chronicle
04/08/04


A 15-year dream to develop Rosy Mound into a preserve and park has become a reality.

With little fanfare, the Ottawa County Parks and Recreation Commission opened the Rosy Mound Natural Area to the public late last week after almost a year of construction.

Rosy Mound is now the county's fourth park with Lake Michigan frontage. But unlike Ottawa County's Tunnel, Kirk and North Beach parks -- which offer a variety of recreational activities on Lake Michigan -- Rosy Mound focuses primarily on preservation, education and nature-oriented activities.

Rosy Mound Natural Area is located off of Lakeshore Avenue, south of Rosy Mound Drive, in Grand Haven Township.

Chip Francke, naturalist and information specialist for the county parks and recreation commission, said minor construction will continue, but work has progressed to the point where the park can be opened to the public.

He said visitors should be prepared to do a lot of hiking.

"It's pretty strenuous out there," he said. "The trail leading to the beach is seven-tenths of a mile long, with two-tenths of it being stairs. That means a round-trip involves four-tenths of a mile of stairs. This is a park geared toward the person who wants to do a little hiking, enjoy the scenery and beach."

Francke said the 160-acre park has an extensive network of trails. A trail head near the parking lot orients visitors to two miles of improved trails designed to protect the fragile dunes in the park. The Acorn Trail is a new hard-surfaced path that loops through open dunes, mature woods, a pine plantation and along the base of a large, wooded dune.

The Lake Michigan Trail is almost a mile long, running from the trail head to the shade canopy near the beach. It includes interpretive signs and several scenic overlooks of forest, dunes and Lake Michigan.

Francke said the Acorn Trail and a portion of the Lake Michigan Trail are handicapped accessible. The trail network also offers observation areas and interpretive displays, a shade structure and composting toilets near the beach.

The trail network was part of $1.1 million in improvements to the park, funded by a $500,000 improvement grant from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund, with the remainder coming from the county parks millage, a 10-year millage approved by Ottawa County residents in 1996 for developing parks.

The project also included a new entrance drive and parallel bicycle path off Lakeshore Drive, a 50-space parking lot, a full restroom building, a small picnic area and access to 3,450 feet of Lake Michigan frontage.

Parks officials describe Rosy Mound as a "classic Great Lakes dune system," with extensive forest, open dune areas and a parabolic dune, known as a blowout.

More than 15 years ago, county officials began dreaming of ways to preserve Rosy Mound. At the time, the area was listed as the No. 1 priority by the Ottawa County parks master plan. The property was owned by the sand-mining company Construction Aggregates Corp. of Michigan. The company had owned the parcel since 1978, and had a permit to mine a 90-acre area on the northeastern portion of the property.

But after extensive negotiations involving the county and the state, the company agreed to sell the property for $3.75 million in 1994. The state, through the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund, paid about $3.35 million and the county $400,000.

Under an agreement, the state was the purchasing agent for the property. The county eventually was to retain ownership of Rosy Mound by transferring to the state approximately 58 county-owned acres in Park Township, adjacent to Holland State Park. The property in Park Township included 12 parcels the county designated as park areas in the late 1880s, when the West Michigan Park Association cottages were established. The parks include frontage along Lake Macatawa and Lake Michigan.

But the transfer never occurred after a long-standing dispute between the county and cottage owners spilled over into the courts, with cottage owners challenging the right of the county to dispose of the park properties. Ottawa County's 20th Circuit Court ruled in the county's favor, but the state lost interest in the Park Township park areas during the delays.

About a year ago, the state agreed to transfer ownership of Rosy Mound to the county without obtaining the Park Township property. That ownership transfer was finalized 13 months ago, clearing the way for $1.1 million in improvements to Rosy Mound.

Rosy Mound hours are from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. through October. From November through March, the park opens at 7 a.m. and closes at 8 p.m.

Francke said park fees, similar to the county's other three Lake Michigan parks, will be required later this year. Daily per vehicle fees are $3 for county residents and $5 for nonresidents. Annual fees are $10 for county residents and $20 for nonresidents. Fees are charged May 21 through Labor Day.

Officials said the official dedication of the park will be in early summer.

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