Eastmanville Farm – Explore the Trails, Wildflowers, and History at this Ottawa County Park
Ottawa County Parks manages more than 40 parks, trails, boat launches, and open space land. These sites offer everything from sandy Lake Michigan beaches to plentiful wildlife viewing opportunities, challenging trails, and historic information. One of our 21 Michigan travel goals for 2021 was to finish visiting all of the Ottawa County Parks, and we kicked off this year’s exploration with a March visit to Eastmanville Farm. This park is home to miles of trails for hiking and equestrian use, a historic barn and farm (complete with goats), and the Poor Farm Cemetery. Below we will share some pictures from our visit, and give you something to look forward to when you check out this family-friendly (and FREE) park for yourself!
The trails at Eastmanville Farm start near either one of the parking lots. We parked near the old barn and picked up the trail right behind it. The main trail make a loop, covering several miles that go through and around fields that are used an Agricultural Education Lease Area. Trails are wide and well taken care of, and almost all of them are open to both hikers and horses. Dogs are also allowed, as long as they are on a leash and are cleaned up after.
There are a few plaques by the main entrance in the “Memory Grove” area that give more background on the farm’s history. “This rolling 229-acre property in north central Ottawa County was the site of the last working poor farm in Michigan. The Ottawa County Poor Farm operated with the goal of providing suitable lodging for its needy residents while defraying the cost of their care with production of agricultural products for consumption on the farm, for market, and for retail sale at a small store near the front of the property. Once a common social service practice, the practice was replaced by a comprehensive public welfare system initiated by the 1935 federal social security act. Residential services and farm operations at this site ceased in 2000.”
Before our visit to this park, I had only seen pictures of the barn and knew there were trails. When we got there and looked at the map, I was surprised to see that there was a historic cemetery on the grounds as well and we made sure to stop by and learn a little bit more.
“The poor farm cemetery is the final resting place of 64 poor farm residents who were interred there between 1897 and 1931. Largely forgotten for over 70 years, the cemetery was restored and rededicated in 2010 through the efforts of Eldon Kramer, a descendent of one of those buried there, and a dedicated group of local citizens led by Marjie Viveen. Located on a high point on the western edge of this property, the peaceful setting with scenic views of the farm is accessible by a 0.3 mile hiking trail starting at the trailhead near the barn.” What a great effort to preserve Michigan history by these local citizens and the Ottawa County Parks system!
The trails have some elevation changes, but should be easy enough to navigate for most able-bodied adults. Spring melt and recent rains could make some areas quite muddy, so make sure you have proper footwear with you.
Families with younger kids will want to be sure and stop by the goat area near the barns. We enjoyed everything about our visit to Eastmanville Farm and look forward to visiting again in warmer weather – now our quest to visit all of the Ottawa County Parks continues!