OTTAWA COUNTY, Mich. — Walking through the newly-dedicated Stearns Creek Park in Robinson Township, Jason Shamblin says "it's all parts and pieces of the puzzle." 

The Ottawa County Parks and Recreation director is one week into the job, chosen among 82 candidates. He now manages nearly 40 properties and more than 7,000 acres of public land. 

"From the parking lots, to signage, to the educational components, you can really tell that people here take pride in what they do and are leaders in the profession," Shamblin said. 

The Ohio native was previously assistant director of MetroParks of Butler County. Shamblin knows he has big shoes to fill after John Scholtz, the director for 32 years, retired. 

He intends to pick up where Scholtz left off by completing the Grand River Greenway, a $41 million initiative that would connect thousands of acres of natural land between Grand Rapids and Grand Haven. 

"It's a major undertaking and a really exciting project to be a part of, and the connection between Grand Rapids and Lake Michigan is a monumental task," Shamblin said. "It's exciting to see how much project they've already made, and there are a lot of moving pieces to accomplish it."

Shamblin's people skills will go a long way to completing the Greenway project, John Shay, the deputy administrator of Ottawa County said. 

"A lot of it entails acquiring property and having the ability to meet with property owners and work with them to acquire that property or at least an easement to put that pathway in," Shay said. "We really believe that [he] has those skills."

There will be an emphasis, both in and out of the office, on building relationships, according to Shamblin. 

"We look for that sense of community," he said. "I'm just one small cog in that bigger wheel. The parks and the land we acquire and manage, the programs we provide, all bring that sense of community to Ottawa County not just not, but for generations and decades to come."

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