Donor Spotlight: Kathryn Remlinger and Robert Bell
Parks for Life provides lasting support for the Ottawa County Parks through donations to the Parks Foundation. With gifts such as bequests, appreciated stock, retirement accounts, and life insurance, Parks for Life donors not only financially support the Foundation in its mission, “bridging community to nature”, and its vision, “the joy of nature woven into everyone’s lives”, but also ensure that future generations will be able to enjoy the Parks and all that the Ottawa County Parks have to offer.
“Bridging community to nature” and helping to make possible “the joy of nature woven into everyone’s lives” are at the heart of why Kate Remlinger and Rob Bell have included Parks for Life in their living trust. It’s also a way for them to continue to support the Parks and build community for residents and visitors alike for lifetimes to come.
The Parks define Ottawa County as a place where nature can be woven into everyone’s lives. Kate and Rob weave the joy of nature into their lives by exploring the Parks by bike, kayak, on foot, and with their yellow lab, Greta, who especially enjoys the Parks’ open spaces where she can run off leash. The Parks are vital to their maintaining a healthy lifestyle, connecting with nature for solace and solitude, meeting with friends, and for participating in Parks programs like wildflower walks, native gardening workshops, star gazing, and naturalist-guided hikes. In addition to their financial support of the Parks, Kate volunteers as a gardener at Hemlock Crossing and serves on the Parks Foundation Board. In these ways, Kate and Rob give back to both the community and Ottawa County Parks.
Kate and Rob donate to the Parks Foundation knowing that financial support is essential to maintaining the Parks and its role in bridging community to nature. Support helps provide continued public access to the lakes, rivers, woods, dunes, and flood plains that make up West Michigan’s unique environment. The Parks protect and preserve these spaces, and with Parks for Life donors, the Parks will continue to protect and maintain our community’s natural environment for generations to come.
Spring is a time of hopefulness and renewal. This year especially, we are gradually emerging from the shadow of a lingering pandemic, not unlike the fresh shoots of spring bulbs peeking out of the soil. This rebirth and renewal feels even more welcome this year. It’s an affirmation that life will go on, and at some point everything will feel more normal.
In the past two years, we are tickled pink that so many of you have happily discovered more of our wonderful county parks. Attendance at all the parks dramatically increased. Outside is a safe place to be, and nature is healing.
And that is exactly why all of us volunteers at the Parks Foundation do what we do. We want everyone to be able to connect to nature, to be able to see what natural ecosystems look like, to learn why it’s so important to preserve and protect our natural areas. We want every kid to see Lake Michigan and to discover the delight in acorns, hummingbirds, cool rocks, and great spreading trees with owls peeking out. We want every adult to be able to stand on the deck at the Ravines and exclaim at the amazing views up and down the Grand River. We want kayakers to paddle the Water Trail, see undisturbed natural forests on both sides of the river, and learn about our rich history.
This year we’ll be helping to fund nature education programs in the parks, and we also hope to kick off a pilot program to make sure every fourth grader in Ottawa County gets to visit a park near them, with a naturalist guide. We hope to eventually build an endowment to perpetually support this program. Stay tuned for more info!
You’ve supported us in the past, and we hope you agree we are on the right track. Will you continue to help our efforts? Volunteer, or serve on a committee or the Board, or – even easier – donate.
Featured Plant: Skunk Cabbage
by Bobbi Jones Sabine
One of the very first plants to bloom in the spring is one you might not think of right away: skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus), found throughout Michigan in wet areas.
A perennial relative of calla lily and peace lily, this stinky but unique plant actually creates heat and melts the frozen soil and snow around it, a process known as thermogenesis (literally, “heat creation”). The early flower collects as much sunlight as possible before the tree canopy leafs out.
The flower is followed by large leaves, which also smell bad when bruised. By mid-summer, the plant is outgrown by taller wetland plants and the leaves are quick to decay. The late fall fruit is black, knobby, and sort of resembles a small pineapple.
Skunk cabbage has contractile roots that pull its long, trunk-like rhizome into the ground as growth proceeds. The lower portion gradually rots away as the plant ages. Plants appear to reach great age.
So why would smelling bad give a plant a competitive advantage? The unique and clustered flowers of skunk cabbage, borne on a ball-like spadix, are pollinated primarily by flies and carrion beetles. Such insects love stinky scents and actively seek out dead things.
Historically, people have used roots and rhizomes of skunk cabbage for many conditions, including asthma, cough, whooping cough, joint and muscle pain, headache, toothache, nervous system disorders, and infections, though there is no scientific evidence to support these uses.
As a food, the young leaves, roots, and stalks can be boiled and eaten. However, it contains oxalate, which may contribute to the formation of kidney stones.
Park supporters who include the Ottawa County Parks Foundation in their planned and estate giving are members of Parks for Life. Gifts can include wills and bequests, appreciated stock, bond and mutual funds, charitable trusts, retirement accounts and life insurance. Parks for Life members are ensuring that future generations will be able to enjoy our wonderful parks!
Featured Park: North Ottawa Dunes
18201 North Shore Drive (approx.)
Ferrysburg, MI 49409
North Ottawa Dunes offers 593 acres of wooded dunes located just off the Lake Michigan shoreline and uniquely situated between state, county and city parks. Ten miles of hiking trails link North Ottawa Dunes to North Beach Park and PJ Hoffmaster State Park. The property features tremendous topography with an elevation change of 185 feet in the parabolic dune formations. Eight distinct dunes in the rugged landscape exceed 750 feet in height for spectacular, scenic views of the surroundings.
To access North Ottawa Dunes enter Coast Guard Park and look for the North Ottawa Dunes trail head.