GRAND HAVEN, Mich. — A children's museum is coming to the lakeshore. Plans for the Grand Haven Children's Museum are still in their infancy, but the board of directors met for the first time Monday night to get the ball rolling.
The idea all started with mother-of-three Rachel Dody, who lives in Spring Lake. She's spent the last few years at home with her kids, who are three, five, and seven years old. Dody says she always felt like distance was an obstacle to get to a fun learning environment with her family.
"It felt to me that anytime we wanted to go someplace indoors that was educational and enriching for kids, we'd have to drive a half an hour," she said, "And when you have three little kids, that's a barrier."
"It felt like we weren't doing a lot of the things I wanted to do as often as I would like to with them because of that distance barrier," she added.
That's when she thought she'd create her own space right on the lakeshore.
"So, I started having conversations with friends and family, and then I started talking to different groups around the community, and after doing that, I knew this was something that a lot of people were interested in," Dody said.
"There's been so much support and excitement over it, and when I talk to young moms that I know, to see their eyes just light up to think that we could have something here. It made me feel like, yeah, we're on to something," she said.
Dody collaborated and formed a board of directors for the Grand Haven Children's Museum, and they all met for the first time Monday evening to start the planning process.
"It's a group of community members, parents and leaders," Dody said. "It's like the dream team of people to make this happen."
"They're all just super passionate about investing in young kids and families to provide a children's museum that really enriches people and provides lifelong learning and well being," she added.
Dody explained that some ideas they have for the museum are to have a community space, a programming space and of course, all the facets of a children's museum like play areas and tons of hands-on activities.
"I want the to be like all other children's museums that are places that are designed just for kids," Dody said. "Usually they have an exhibit space for hands-on play and learning, there's usually a makerspace so they can get their hands in on projects and make stuff, because hands-on learning is so good for learning retention and creativity."
Dody said she's visited several other children's museums in the past few months and she's excited to bring together everything she's seen and learned.
"The board is going to come together and actually decide on a lot of the things and really bring this dream to reality," Dody said.
People within the city leadership seem just as excited about the museum.
"A lot of studies have shown that a sign of a healthy downtown is one that has kids and activities for children," said Ryan Cummins, Mayor Pro Tem for the City of Grand Haven. "And to have a children's museum in Grand Haven along the lakeshore, I think would be huge, especially to help the off-seasons, and have a year-round opportunity for children and families is really exciting for us."
Dody said they plan to build the museum, but no location has been determined yet.
"We have some ideas on that, but we're working with the city on what makes sense for them and the master plan," Dody explained. "We think it would be a wonderful place to have a real centerpiece in the downtown area, but we're working with the city planner, and we've talked to the city manager."
"We'll have to do a feasibility study and then a capital campaign," she said, "so, hopefully we'll be ready to open by 2024 or 2025."
"But it's just so nice when random people message you asking what they can do to make this dream happen. It's overwhelming, and I feel like that tells me that we're on the right track."
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