Ottawa Co. Residents Overwhelmingly Support Sound Expansion of Recreation Boating on the Grand River for All



Poll also finds majority hold favorable view of environmentally sound dredging.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (April 23, 2019) – Findings in a new poll of Ottawa County residents indicates 67 percent said they also have favorable view of environmentally sound partial dredging of the Grand River to allow expanded, safe usage for boating and personal watercraft enthusiasts.

“The poll really tells us what we have believed all along, that there is a significant majority of people who believe that there is value in continuing a study to find if an environmentally sound expansion of recreational boating on the Grand River for all is feasible,” said Dan Hibma, Grand River Waterway Project trustee. “We continue to support the process set forth by the state that we believe will provide answers to the many questions regarding restoring the integrity of the Grand River for safe recreational boating in both Ottawa and Kent Counties.”

The poll, conducted last week in Ottawa County, consistently showed the residents embrace recreational boating and water recreation, with 71 percent saying it is a significant part of the county’s culture and 91 percent saying it has a either a very positive impact, or somewhat positive impact on Ottawa’s economy.

When asked is state-owned resources, such as lakes and rivers, should be used for open and safe recreation for all Michigan residents, 80 percent of Ottawa residents said yes.

Victory Phones is a leader in poll data gathering and analysis, with clients in all 50 states, South America, Europe, and Asia. Their data gathering and analysis services are utilized by over a dozen major national organizations and numerous political party committees.  The hybrid poll was commissioned by the Grand River Waterway Project. 70% of the interviews were conducted via Landline, and 30% were conducted via Cell phone.  The poll has a Margin of Error of +/- 4.00% at a 95% Confidence Interval.”

About Grand River Waterway Project

The Grand River Waterway is a new initiative that would benefit West Michigan by safely linking the Grand River water course from Lake Michigan to downtown Grand Rapids. This effort will result in greater economic vitality for the West Michigan region through enhanced recreational activities and increased tourism. For more information on the Grand River Waterway project go to

Survey of Ottawa County Resident Attitudes and Opinions of the Grand River Date: April 19, 2019

To: Grand River Waterway and Interested Parties
From: Dave Dishaw, Victory Phones

Attached please find the Topline Findings for a Survey of Ottawa County Resident Attitudes and Opinions with regard to the Grand River, and recreational use of public waterways.

We would like to draw your attention to several highlights.

  • Residents see Boating and Water Recreation as a clearly defined component of the Culture of Ottawa County. 71% say it is a Significant part of the Culture, and 20% say it is at least a part, for a total of 91% who see this issue as a component of local culture. Further review of the cross tabulations demonstrate this is not a partisan, geographic, or demographic issue, as boating and water recreation enjoy strong support across all available sub- groups. Interestingly, 90% of Hillary Clinton Voters, and 93% of Donald Trump voters, see it as a significant part of the Culture. There are very few issues that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump voters so closely agree with.
  • Whether Ottawa County residents own a personal watercraft or not, a super majority use the publicly available waterways throughout the year. 46% of all Residents say they use them Frequently, and 31% say Occasionally, for a total of 77% who use, for recreation or sporting purposes, public waterways in Ottawa County.
  • Ottawa County residents see Boating and Water Recreation as having a positive economic impact on the Economy and Quality of Life in Ottawa County. In fact, 62% say it has a Very Positive impact, and 29% say it has a Somewhat Positive impact, for a total of 91% who see Boating and Water Recreation as a Positive for Ottawa County.
  • 80% say State-owned resources, such as lakes and rivers, should be used for open and safe recreation for all (emphasis mine) Michigan residents. This view is held by any permutation of sub-group imaginable in Ottawa County, whether by Gender (Male 81%, Female 79%) Political Party (Republicans 81%, Democrats 74%, Independents 88%) Race, Education, and even County Commission District, with District 2 clocking in the 90th percentile, and the lowest District still at nearly 70%.
  •  67% of residents have a Favorable view of an environmentally sound partial dredging of the Grand River to allow expanded and safe usage for boating and personal watercraft enthusiasts. Here again, we see consistency across Demographic and Geographic lines, with Male and Female (67% and 68% respectively), Race, Party, Age, and Education levels all remarkably consistent, with well over a majority, and in many cases, a super-majority, holding a Favorable view of a project consistent with the characteristics of the Grand River Waterway. Interestingly even among those who do not Boat, or Rarely to Never use public waterways, such a project has an average of 55% support with only 25% opposition. (page 42). Lastly, when looking at interviews by County Commission District, we see an interesting pattern. Much like the support we saw for the general question of waterway use/boating expansion, we see broad support for a specific project consistent with the characteristics of the Grand River Waterway. 5 of the 11 districts had a super-majority support, 5 of the districts had at least a majority support (typically about 60% Favorable view, with about 25% Unfavorable), and only one district had less than a majority. See page 44 for detailed breakdown.

In summary, Residents believe boating and water usage is an integral component of the image that Ottawa County presents, and they believe in its open, safe, expanded use. While they overwhelmingly support environmentally sound expansion of boating and recreational water opportunities in general, they also overwhelmingly support a specific expansion consistent with the Grand River Waterway project. Thus, demonstrating the Grand River Waterway is a good steward of those resources is vital in the messaging equation, as those who oppose sound expansion are clearly in the minority. Furthermore, if correctly defined and positioned, Policy makers are not going out on a limb to support such an expansion. The super- majority of Ottawa County Residents/Voters have a Favorable view of these types of projects.

Methodology Statement: Interviews were conducted April 17 and 18, 2019, using Interactive Voice Response (IVR) technology to achieve interviews via Landline for 70% of the polling sample. Cellular phone interviews were conducted using Live Agent interviews during the same time frame, April 17 and 18, 2019, for 30% of the polling sample. Respondents were randomly dialed, utilizing a list of Ottawa County Registered Voters. The sample of 400 interviews was balanced for Demographic and Geographic purposes, and has a Margin of Error (MoE) of +/- 4.00% at a 95% Confidence Interval.


Survey of Ottawa County Grand River – Attitudes and Opinions

Topline Findings

Conducted: April 17 – 18, 2019

Number of Respondents: 400

MoE: ±4.9%

Q: Thinking specifically now about Ottawa County, is Boating and/or Water Recreation a part of the Culture of Ottawa County?

Yes, it is a Significant Part71%
Yes, it is not Significant, but it is a Part20%
No, it is not a Part3%
Not sure7%


Q: Do you own a Boat, Personal watercraft such as a Kayak or Canoe, or are you a Boating enthusiast, even if you don’t own personally own a boat?



 Q: How frequently do you use State and County waterways (Lake Michigan, Regional Lakes, Rivers, etc) for recreation or sporting purposes?

Frequently, year round16%
Frequently, mostly during the warm weather season30%
Occasionally, year round9%
Occasionally, mostly during the warm weather season22%


Q: In your personal opinion, does Boating and Water Recreation have a Positive or Negative impact on the economy, and quality of life, in Ottawa County? 

Very Positive62%
Somewhat Positive29%
Somewhat Negative3%
Very Negative1%
Not sure5%


Q: Thinking now about State-owned resources, such as state lakes and rivers…should they be used for open and safe recreation for all Michigan residents? 

Not sure14%


Q: Have you seen, read, or heard recently about the “Grand River Waterway” project?

Not sure6%


Q: And does what you have Seen, Read, or Heard make you more or less likely to support the Grand River Waterway project?

More Likely39%
Less Likely36%
No change25%


Q: There is a project that is under consideration that would create additional opportunities for water recreation by dredging a small portion of the Grand River between Grand Haven and Grand Rapids. This would be done in an environmentally sound manner, and allow for boating and personal watercraft enthusiasts of all sizes and stripes (such as pontoons, kayaks, canoes, boats, sport fishers, and others) to enjoy and travel the Grand River safely from Grand Haven to Grand Rapids and back. Do you have a Favorable or Unfavorable view of such a project?

Very Favorable36%
Somewhat Favorable31%
Somewhat Unfavorable11%
Very Unfavorable12%
Not sure9%


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Last modified: April 24, 2019

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