Ottawa County Parks Foundation – December Newsletter
Let’s work together to bridge community to nature
As we reflect on another year filled with uncertainty, it is thanks to YOUR support, that Ottawa County Parks were able to provide a refuge from stress and anxiety. YOU have helped grow Ottawa County Parks and their services, providing even more opportunities to enjoy nature and its immense benefits.
Our parks and trails provide many opportunities for physical activity, from biking and hiking to kayaking and swimming, or simply walking through the woods. This not only promotes our physical health, but also benefits our emotional health and wellness.
Studies have shown that more time spent in green spaces and parks can help us better manage stress, depression, and anxiety. Spending at least 120 minutes a week in nature is associated with good health and well-being. The Parks Foundation works actively to support expansion of natural spaces and access for everyone.
“We know that our Parks and Trails are so vital for connecting with nature and exercising, but we are also finding that they are essential for overall well-being. Ottawa County Parks are places where I love to reflect and recharge mentally, with friends, with my kids, or just by myself for some time to think and simply be in nature. I support the Foundation so we can expand the opportunities for all community members to experience those health benefits and increased well-being.” – Monica Verplank
With your support, we can help Ottawa County Parks provide opportunities for all people to enjoy the benefits of nature! Let’s work together to connect our community to nature.
Foundation Board Vice President: Brian Stauffer
The Ottawa County Parks Foundation would like to thank Brian Stauffer for his service to the Foundation as a founding Board member and current Vice President of the Board. Brian’s service on the Board will end at the end of this year. Brian was recently interviewed about his time with the Ottawa County Parks Foundation and here are his responses:
When asked, “Why the parks?”
Brian said it must have started with his parents always taking (and sending) his brother, sister, and him outside to parks of all kinds… local, State, and National. He grew up across from a very nice Downers Grove, Illinois park with a creek running through it that provided plenty of opportunities to get muddy in nature. In the winter, the creek was dammed and flooded making a beautiful skating rink with sledding and other snow play all around. He believes being outdoors in God’s beautiful creation in the sunshine and fresh air is one of the most healthful things one can do.
This upbringing and involvement in a great variety of sports led him to racing in triathlons and all sorts of multi-sport events including road and mountain biking, trail running, cross-country and downhill skiing, ice skating, kayaking, snowshoeing, and more. To do well in these races (he’s won more than 130 of them overall) it’s important to train for them and this brings him outdoors daily into the fresh air and sunshine. And yes, he says, the sun is still shining even on a cloudy day. One of his favorite quotes comes from the Norwegians saying, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.” So, dress right and get out there. The beauty of Ottawa County Parks is hard to beat and they provide great places to exercise and play.
When asked, “What’s your favorite park?”
He said that’s too hard a question since they’re all so outstanding, however, he narrowed it down to three favorites: Riley Trails since all those great trails are practically in his backyard on the north side of Holland; Pigeon Creek with all the beautiful, groomed trails for skate and classical cross-country skiing as well as snowshoeing (he loves teaching ski lessons there); Upper Macatawa Natural Area with the great mountain bike trails that he has the honor of designing, building, and maintaining with friends and volunteers.
When asked, “Why the Foundation Board? Why were you a part of the formation of the Foundation?”
He had worked extensively on parks and trails with the original parks director, John Scholtz, and when John asked him to consider joining this board and what the cause would be, it was an easy decision. To help found an organization whose purpose is to develop additional funding for growing and enhancing parks and education in them, something he loves so much, has been very rewarding for almost seven years now.
When asked, “Anything memorable from your time on the Foundation Board?’
He said, not a particular moment, but just generally being with and working with the people from the board and the public who also have a strong love for our parks and nature. The times spent with the board and public in this position were often in some of the most beautiful places in the county and state.
When asked, “How do you plan to stay involved with the County Parks and Foundation?”
There are a few things that will keep him connected: Directing a snowshoe and cross-country ski Biathlon at Pigeon Creek Park (January 22); teaching cross-country ski lessons for the County at Pigeon Creek; becoming more involved with the Michigan Edge Mountain Biking Association (MEMBA) and their work together with Ottawa County Parks on trails throughout the county; he plans to continue to be with the Foundation and Parks and Recreation in working on the long-planned Macatawa Greenway in the Holland/Zeeland area. He considers the parks of Ottawa County a lifetime cause worth continuing to devote himself to.
As other plants fade to browns and greys, we suddenly become aware of sprays of bright red fruits dotting the edges of low-lying areas. Winterberry (Ilex verticillata) provides a cheery note to offset the shorter days and fading greenery of late fall.
Winterberry is a deciduous shrub that is native to eastern North America. It typically is found in swamps, damp thickets, low woods, and along streams and ponds. It can also occur on dry sand dunes and in grasslands. It is found in nearly every county in Michigan.
A species of holly, it is also known as Michigan holly, Canada holly, coralberry, fever bush, black alder, and winterberry holly (ah, the freedom of common names!).
The berries are an important food source for robins and other birds, though they can cause nausea and low blood pressure in humans if ingested. The fruit is a globose red drupe (a fleshy fruit with a single pit) persisting long into winter. Generally 6-10 feet, the shrub may reach up 15 feet under happy circumstances.
Like most hollies, it is dioecious (separate male and female plants) and at least one male is needed to pollenize females in order to bear fruit. There are numerous cultivars available for ornamental planting, with showy fruits ranging from red to orange.
Looking for gift ideas this holiday season?
The Ottawa County Parks Foundation is happy to help you out. Make a donation to the Foundation in someone’s honor, and the honoree will receive a thank letter from the Foundation letting the recipient know that you made a generous donation in their honor. Put a note in the comments section of the online form with the person’s name and contact information.
Featured Park: Pigeon Creek
12524 Stanton St.
Pigeon Creek Park is 282 acres with another 130 adjacent acres of County Open Space land. Over ten miles of ski trails wind through old pine plantations, mature deciduous forests and through bottomland forests along the Pigeon River (off-trail snowshoeing is allowed).