Hello to all Crane lovers everywhere!

I have made many notes lately writing down interesting blog topics. I would love to hear any one else's suggestions by the way. As I look down the list of possible topics I see a theme. Hmmm, Lake Michigan, sunsets, campfires and the food that goes along with them, sounds of the beach. You must see it too. These are all things dear to me this time of the year. I can’t get enough of them and I dream of them in the depths of winter.

So, I am going to try and tie them all together in one place. That place is right here in Allegan County and it’s called Westside County Park, it’s on Lakeshore Drive otherwise known as 70th street here in Fennville. This county park sits on 11 acres with 630 feet of beach frontage and is the county’s oldest park established in 1921. When I was a little girl it was just plain old County Park and I am not sure when they officially named it the Westside County Park and that really doesn’t matter. It has always been a place to gather the family for a cookout, frisbee tourney, and let the kids run around the playground. It once had the most amazing slide that started at the top of the sand dune by the lake and curved down toward the park. If you remembered to ask Mom for a piece of waxed paper, you were really in business. By the time you got to the bottom of the slide you were wishing that Dad or big brother were there to catch you because if not, you were going to FLY off of the end of that slide. I know, because I was four when I biffed it on the end and had to have stitches in my head. Alas, the slide and old fashioned merry-go-round are gone and probably for good reason. They were kind of dangerous and not for the faint of heart! Another thing that was a huge draw for me was this wooden structure that was at the entrance to the park. There were all kinds of picnic supplies such as charcoal, paper plates and cups, bug spray and best of all, the biggest wall of penny candy I had ever seen. Hard candy root beer barrels, candy cigarettes (I know, not politically correct but hey, we looked so cool!) and ropes of licorice. For 50 cents we could load up on enough sugar to keep us bouncing all day! That store is gone too in favor of more parking.

A few years ago as Allegan County struggled with the downturn in the economy the Parks and Recreation Department in the county thought that to maintain the park they would charge a fee per car during the summer and fall months. This would help keep up the parking lots, keep the bathrooms clean and the lawns mowed. That decision made it hard for many families to try and meet for a family reunion at the park and have to pay $5 or $6 per car to enter. Usage of the park dwindled and people grumbled.

Then came June of 2015. Unbeknownst to me, the Allegan County Commissioners had decided to go after a $300,000 Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund Grant and set to match $100,000 of county money to get the job done. Along with the picturesque gazebo at the lake entrance it features picnic tables and grills, 2 covered pavilions, ball diamond, 2 restrooms, and a fenced in playground and much parking. But best of all is the ramp and decking all the way to the sand. This means that so many more people have access to our greatest natural resource which is of course, Lake Michigan. Wheel chairs, walkers, babies in strollers, small kids all have easier than ever access to the sand and waters edge. There are strategically placed benches along the way to the water for resting and feasting your eyes on the magnificent scenery.

So go to West Side County Park and enjoy the lake and play in the water. Build a sand castle and get some sand in that bathing suit. Listen to the sounds of our beautiful lake and surrounding shores. Picnic with your families. Drink in a sunset. And count yourself lucky!

So along with the other great things about where we live, we now have an accessible, clean and beautiful park called West Side County Park! Come and check it out before or after you make a pie stop here at Crane’s. You won’t be sorry you did!