Michigan County's park designed with hikers
By Terry Judd
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
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
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
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.