Ottawa County Parks Foundation – January Newsletter
Ottawa County Parks Foundation Board of Directors Welcomes Jessica Gregory
by Jessica Gregory
The Ottawa County Parks Foundation welcomes Jessica Gregory to the Foundation’s Board of Directors! Jessica has served on the Foundation’s Communications Committee since 2020.
Jessica is a West Michigan native who from an early age demonstrated a passion for nature. Years of chasing butterflies, raising Monarch caterpillars, and catching frogs in her backyard pond as a child have led to Jessica now serving as an advocate for nature conservation in a variety of ways. After earning degrees in Environmental Biology (B.S.) and Ecology (M.S.), Jessica worked as a naturalist for Ottawa County Parks and Recreation and Ada Township Parks and Recreation for several years while also teaching biology/ecology as an Adjunct Faculty member at Grand Valley State University (GVSU). Jessica has utilized her connections with Ottawa County whenever possible to take her students to area parks for hands-on learning opportunities like invasive species removal workdays with parks staff, or guiding spring wildflower walks at nearby Grand Ravines North County Park.
In 2019 Jessica founded ‘mi EcoBUZZ’ (pronounced ‘MY–eco—buzz’) as a way to reach a wider audience with environmental conservation topics through social media videos. Since its inception, Jessica’s videos have reached thousands of people through partnerships and support from the Ottawa County Parks, Ottawa County Parks Foundation (OCPF), GVSU, Berkley Creation Care, West Michigan Conservation Network (WMCN), Ottawa Area Intermediate School District, and most recently the Kent Conservation District and Rogue River Watershed Partners (RRWP) through grants from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE). Jessica will continue to utilize this experience to promote the Foundation’s invaluable work going forward.
Since being introduced to the Ottawa County Parks in 2013, Jessica has spent many hours walking, hiking, biking, and kayaking diverse areas of the county’s parks and open spaces. Some of her favorite places are Hemlock Crossing, Rosy Mound, and Grand Ravines.
Featured Plant: Winterberry
by Bobbi Jones Sabine
Nearly everyone recognizes the flavor of wintergreen, but most people walk right on by this unassuming little plant, found in nearly every county in Michigan. Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens), also called teaberry, has a leathery oval leaf, heather-like flowers, and a shiny round red berry. Older leaves can take on a reddish hue.
Winterberry thrives in dry savannah and woods, along with oak, pine, birch, aspen, and maple, and is often found in the company of bracken fern and blueberries.
The tender young leaves and berries are edible. Its flavor and aroma are similar to a close relative, creeping-snowberry (Gaultheria hispidula) but stronger. Older leaves still contain a lot of the fragrant oil and make a fine tea when brewed. In manufacturing, wintergreen is used as a flavoring agent in food, candies, teas, root beer, and in pharmaceutical products.
Commercial wintergreen oil is now more likely to be extracted from sweet birch (Betula lenta), if not wholly synthetic. The essential oil of this plant is extracted by steam distillation of its leaves. Methyl salicylate and gaultherilene are the two main components of the oil. Methyl salicylate is an ingredient in almost every anti-arthritic and analgesic balm for muscle and joint pain.
Photo credit: U. of M. Herbarium, L. Mellichamp
Not all loves are romantic, some of our greatest loves are friends, our pets or our community.
Do you have a “love” story that involves an Ottawa County Park? We would love to hear from you for a featured story in our February e-newsletter.
Do you and your dog have a favorite Ottawa County Park to hike?
Do you and a friend have a favorite Ottawa County Park to meet at?
Was your wedding or engagement in an Ottawa County Park?
Do you have a love for nature?
Send your story to firstname.lastname@example.org with a picture. Stories only need to be a few sentences. The top five stories will go in the newsletter. The rest will be shared on this page.
Please share this with anyone you know that may have a “love” that involves Ottawa County Parks.
Deadline is February 10 at 5 PM.
Does your employer have a match program?
Many employers match dollar for dollar the charitable gifts their employees make – some will double or even triple match an employees donation.
Featured Park: Riley Trails
Riley Trails is 300 acres of rolling terrain, beech-maple forest, pine plantations, a small lake and an extensive trail system located in Park Township. The property is enjoyed by hikers, cross-country skiers, mountain bikers and other outdoor enthusiasts. Riley Trails includes 40 acres that was formerly the Southwest Ottawa County Landfill. The landfill cap is closed to the public to protect the cap from damage and because of potentially harmful methane gas venting through the pipes. Since the landfill has been closed and capped for several decades, the gas levels are significantly reduced. The landfill area remains closed to the public, however, until gas emissions are studied and determined to be at safe levels. In the future, the Parks hopes to open the hill to the public for trails, overlooks and sledding. Learn more