Ottawa County Parks Foundation – January Newsletter
The Ottawa County Parks Foundation Board of Directors Welcomes Shelly Stephens and Greg Boynton
by Shelly Stephens
Shelly is originally from the West Coast and moved to Michigan 27 years ago. After exploring West Michigan, Shelly found her home in Ottawa County. One of the things that most appealed to her is the extensive park system – and she has explored most of Ottawa County’s parks and open spaces. Shelly is passionate about the benefits of being outdoors and believes that Ottawa County has a park to suit most anyone. Shelly deeply appreciates what Ottawa County Parks and natural areas add to the quality of place in West Michigan. Her favorite parks include Rosy Mound, Grand River, Grand Ravines, Pigeon Creek and Stearns Creek.
Shelly retired from an arts management career in 2023 concluding her tenure with the Grand Rapids Symphony as its Vice President of Finance and Administration. Shelly previously held roles in fund development, endowment management, and human resources and governance.
Shelly was a founding board member of the Ottawa County Parks Foundation board. She served from 2015 to 2018. Now in retirement, Shelly is pleased to rejoin the board.
by Greg Boynton
Greg is an Ottawa County native who grew up along the banks of the Grand River. His childhood experience of playing and camping along the river proved to be foreshadowing. He originally pursued a career in technology and computing, including as an adjunct faculty member at the GVSU School of Communications. In 1994 Greg returned to the river with his father Bill, when they opened the Grand Lady Riverboat cruises. In 2017 they expanded their business and opened Steamboat Park Campground on the river in Georgetown Township.
Over the past three decades Greg has been involved in supporting the Parks through his business connections and his personal interests in local history and environmental preservation. He has been a long-time advocate for restoring and protecting the Grand River. He worked with the Parks Nature Center to offer discounted school cruises and supported the Friends of the Parks through fundraising cruises on the riverboat.
Since 2000, there has been an ongoing effort by the Ottawa County Parks to guide the eventual restoration and public use of former gravel mining properties along the Grand River including adjacent environmentally sensitive wetlands. Greg has been an active participant in those plans and has worked to help make the Park’s Bend Area property acquisitions successful.
An enthusiastic kayaker and hiker, Greg enjoys exploring all the parks, but he has a soft spot for the parks along the Grand River and Lake Michigan.
For more information on the Foundation Board of Directors visit our website.
Featured Plant: Red-osier Dogwood
by Bobbi Sabine
Red-osier dogwood (Cornus sericea or Cornus stolonifera) stands out in the winter because of its deep red stems and branches and white berries. It is typically found in all sorts of moist places, as well as shorelines, but also thrives in sand dunes.
A woody perennial, it has been reported in nearly every county in Michigan, and is very likely present in all of the counties. A popular nursery landscape plant, there are also cultivated varieties with yellow stems and variegated leaves. It is useful for providing color in the winter garden. It’s easily grown and succeeds in any soil of even moderate fertility, in sun or shade.
Native American wove the flexible branches into baskets. A tea made from the bark was used for coughs, colds, fevers, sinus congestion, liver problems, and postpartum bleeding. Externally, the bark tea was used as a wash for rashes, styes, sore eyes, ulcers, skin infections, poison ivy rash, and dandruff. The fruits are bitter and can cause nausea.
Photo credit: Michigan Flora Oline, G.E. Crow
Grand Ravines Treehouse
Thanks to a significant gift to the Ottawa County Parks Foundation from an anonymous foundation, the Grand Ravines Tree House was completed spring of 2023 just off the Idema Explorers Trail route. The Tree House is located high above the edge of a ravine that is across from the lodge. The Tree House is dedicated to Bea Aldrink Idema in recognition of her love for nature, education, and having fun. The north ravines property is deeply connected to Bea and her family.
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: Grand Ravines
North – 9920 42ndv Ave, Jension
South – 3991 Fillmore St, Jenison
Grand Ravines is a 202-acre Ottawa County Park with a half-mile of frontage on the Grand River and can be accessed from the north and south.
Grand Ravines south features a dog park and a 70′ high suspension bridge traversing one of the park’s ravines. The bridge is fully ADA accessible.
Grand Ravines north features access to the Grand River, a lodge available for rentals, the Idema explorers trail, and a treehouse.