- Today there are 40 Ottawa County Parks and Open Spaces. Acquired in 1929, which was the Granddaddy of them all?
A √ Tunnel Park
The Getz Farm, located on the north side of Lake Macatawa Channel, was acquired by the county in 1929 and became the Commission’s first county park, known today as Tunnel Park.
- Officially opened in the summer of 2019, which is the newest Ottawa County Park?
A √ Stearns Creek
Stearns Creek County Park was once home to four generations of the Vollmer family dating to 1896. Patriarch Ludwig Vollmer had long envisioned his beautiful farm becoming a park, and that dream came true on June 27, 2019.
- This open space in Crockery Township was named for an early settler who would lose a leg in the Civil War and later become Nunica’s postmaster.
B √ Jubb Bayou
In 1863, Orange Jubb enlisted in the 7th regiment of the Michigan Volunteer Cavalry and was sent to defend Washington D.C. He was injured the following year. Years later Jubb described his experience, “When the ball struck my leg, it was numb and didn’t pain me for about an hour; after that it pained me fearfully. It does not hurt to be shot, but after-collapse is the terror. My leg was amputated at about midnight, August 25th.”
- Named “The First Lady of Mackinac Island,” fur trader, Madeline LaFramboise, was raised at the Indian village once located at this Ottawa County Park site.
A √ Crockery Creek
Madeline was born in 1780 at Fort St. Joseph, Michigan. When just three months old, her father died and Madeline’s mother resettled at the Ottawa village on Crockery Creek, where her grandfather had been an influential chief. Joseph LaFramboise established a trading post at Crockery, where he met and married Madeline in 1795. The couple established a trading base on Mackinac Island. When Joseph was murdered in 1806, Madeline single-handedly continued the business and dominated the fur trade in West Michigan until retiring in 1821. Rix Robinson then took control of her 20+ posts.
- At one time this Ottawa County Park was a Boy Scout camp. In about 1927, future president Jerry Ford was a counselor.
B √ Kirk Park
Kirk Park was once the site of Camp Shawondossee, where between 1927-1928 a teenaged Jerry Ford served as a camp counselor. Shawondossee would later be relocated to Duck Lake.
- Poet/Judge David Fletcher Hunton died here after outliving four wives.
A √ Eastmanville Farm
David Fletcher Hunton studied law, was admitted to the bar in 1850, and by 1866 had set up a criminal law practice in Grand Haven before becoming a probate judge. His reputation as a lawman was equaled only by his fame as a prolific poet. Having outlived four wives, estranged from his children, and no longer able to live independently, Hunton was admitted to the Ottawa County Poor Farm (now Eastmanville Farm Park), where he died in December 1915. Hunton dispelled the myth that all Poor Farm residents were necessarily poor.
- This “fresh-scented” park was once home to a skunk farm.
C √ Rosy Mound
In May 1862, a feature in the Grand Haven News reminded readers that Rosy Mound had “received its beautiful and significant title from Hon. Timothy Eastman, who, probably, was the first white man that ascended its summit, and found its sides and apex crowned with wild roses in rich profusion, imparting the most pleasing emotion to delight the senses.” Perhaps Eastman was lured to the site by flowery fragrances carried aloft on gentle breezes along the shoreline.
But by spring 1906, to the shock and dismay of Rosy Mound neighbors, the whiff of wild roses had given way to the unforgettably pungent, sulfurous, burnt garlic miasma of fresh skunk…not just a lone waddling woods kitty, but an entire skunkery! On the scent of the story in May 1906, a reporter from the Grand Rapids Press wrote that A. A. Northouse, a young farmer living at Rosy Mound, had “embarked in the business of raising skunks.” Alfred Albert Northouse was the 19-year-old son of Albert Cornelius Northouse. The elder was a well-known horticulturist/beekeeper in the area, and among other public titles, the Director of School District #2, Rosy Mound. The Northouse homestead stood directly across Grandville Road (Lakeshore Drive) from the school, and upon Albert’s death, was occupied by son Alfred. Like his father, Alfred had a nose for farming.
On the heels of his father’s successes, Alfred started his own entrepreneurial enterprise. He first built a secure enclosure and then bought up skunks herded by local farm boys. By fall 1906, the coupling critters had multiplied to nearly 1000. Primarily bred for their fur, pelts were illicitly marketed as black martin or Alaskan sable (giving skunk a more aristocratic air). Skunk body fat rendered to oil was sold for the treatment of rheumatism, while hunters and trappers bought and anointed themselves in stinky discharge to camouflage their less desirable human scent. Choice animals sold as pets brought $12 a pair. Skunk hides fetched 40 cents each. One Ohio skunk farmer claimed to make $5000 annually off his 1000 animals. Alfred hoped for the same. All seemed heaven “scent” until fur coats, like beaver hats before them, faded from fashion. We don’t know if Alfred ever became stinking rich from his short-lived skunkery, clearing the air for the return of roses, but do know that by the 1950s he had retired comfortably in Florida.
- When Ottawa County experienced its own “dust bowl,” the industrious farmer who once lived here turned to fox farming.
A √ Stearns Creek
During the lumber era in Ottawa County, forests were downed and stumps pulled, leaving a shallow layer of topsoil for farming settlers coming to the “promised land.” By 1938, wind and water had completely eroded the soil. Blowing and drifting sand blocked roads, closed schools, and required homes and churches to be boarded up. Large sections of West Michigan had become a desert. When Ludwig Vollmer could no longer raise crops, he turned to fox farming, at one time managing over 800 animals. Pelts were sold to New York furriers. The business began to decline after Russian breeders glutted the market with cheaper furs and later when fur clothing was no longer fashionable.
- While eagles have been sighted at many Ottawa County Parks, “birdies” of a different variety flew here.
C √ Paw Paw Park
What is now Paw Paw County Park was once the Holland County Club where golfers hoped to “shoot birds.”
- Conceived as an arboretum, this park has 4 rentable facilities and “an amazing playground structure” according to TripAdvisor.
B √ Hager Park
This popular 104-acre family park has a full array of recreational opportunities including extensive picnic areas and nature trails. The mature hardwood forest is well known for its spectacular spring wildflowers in April and May. A highlight of the park is the Age of Discovery community-built playground which overlooks a terrain map of the United States. Hager Park is open year ’round. No park entry fee. – Michigan.org