Original West Michigan highway gets new life

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Courtesy Ottawa County Department of Strategic Impact

A former highway along the coast of Lake Michigan will have a tribute to its historical significance.

The Ottawa County Department of Strategic Impact teamed up with Holland-based historian Blaine Knoll to commemorate the West Michigan Pike, a highway that previously ran from Michigan City, Indiana, to Mackinaw City, Michigan.

A new series of signs will be installed along part of the original route to highlight the historical significance of the West Michigan Pike.

“Beginning at the Ottawa-Allegan county line, the newly marked route stays as true to the original route as possible,” Knoll said. “It winds through the southwest side of Holland, follows a series of secondary roads, part of U.S. 31, then heads through Grand Haven and into Ferrysburg.”

The highway was built during the second decade of the 20th century and eventually was replaced by state and U.S. highway systems.

The new project has been years in the making, according to Knoll, who approached Ottawa County years ago with the idea to retrace the route.

Working closely with Knoll, the Tri-Cities Museum in Grand Haven, Michigan Beachtowns and other stakeholders created mockups and then had the signs made. Funds were provided by the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation.

The effort to recognize the historic route doesn’t end with signs. Knoll and county staff also are developing a commemorative plaque to be placed where an original Pike marker from 1916 still stands along 152nd Avenue in Olive Township.

“It’s important that local history like this stays alive,” Knoll said. “I’m thankful to Ottawa County for allowing this project to go forward.”

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