Kent County eyes buy of 272-acre Cannonsburg ski hill, out of doors recreation space


GRAND RAPIDS, MI β€” Kent County leadership is considering purchasing a 272-acre ski slope and outdoor recreation area.

To date, discussions for a sale between the county and the owners of Cannonsburg Recreation and Ski Area at 6800 Cannonsburg Road NE in the township of Cannonsburg have been informal.

But there was enough interest to warrant the county to seek funding for the potential purchase, Kent County Administrator Al Vanderberg said.

On Thursday, March 24, the Kent County Board of Commissioners approved the submission of a $7.5 million grant application to the Department of Natural Resources to be used to fund the potential land purchase.

The county has valued the property at $10 million, but that’s mostly just a working number from an informal estimate, Vanderberg said. All formal assessments and negotiations come later.

If purchased, the county would turn the property into a public park and likely contract out ski hill operations.

The Cannonsburg Recreation and Ski Area is the only operating downhill ski facility in Kent County, according to the county. It has been open since 1965.

A county purchase of the property is not a sure thing and will not happen soon, Vanderberg said. The purchase depends on whether the owners ultimately want to sell, whether the state approves the subsidy and whether the district and ski facility owners achieve an acceptable purchase price.

Nevertheless, the efforts are important to preserve the recreational facilities and the natural environment for future generations, said the district administrator. The ski facility is in an area that will eventually become “intensive residential development,” he said.

β€œIt’s important because it’s unique; it’s a place enjoyed by the public; It’s a place that has emotional meaning,” Vanderberg said. “I’ve heard a lot of people say, ‘Yeah, I just took my kids out there to learn to ski, and my parents took me there to learn to ski.’

“I just think it’s one of those places in the county that holds special meaning for our residents and is worth preserving for future generations.”

The Cannonsburg Recreation and Ski Area has nine lifts and 21 runs ranging from beginner to advanced. Used by school ski teams in the area, the facility offers adaptive skiing, winter racing, snow hill tubing, winter biking and more. It also has a performance venue, hiking trails, summer concerts, and zip lines.

If the county eventually buys the property, the public would have an opportunity to consider other desired improvements to the property, Vanderberg said.

The district will be notified in December 2022 if the state approves the $7.5 million grant application. The county would seek appropriate funding for the remainder of the purchase, potentially from local government, community groups, private and non-profit philanthropists, and federal dollars received by the county.

A final purchase price for the property will be determined using the DNR’s valuation process.

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