bridge to development

Ada, MI- A Bridge to Development

In Community, Lifestyle, Parks, Recreation, Travel, Villageby My Town TodayLeave a Comment

My Town Destination: Ada, MI-Kent County

Trip Type: Day Trip

Date of Visit: 1/25/19

Town Ambassador/Contact: George Haga, Phone: (616) 676-9191

Walking through Ada, Michigan you grasp a sense of community. A very distinct, unique village that has developed outside of Grand Rapids, rooted in rural planning for its residents. A seven-mile area, and a population of a little over 13,000 make up the village of Ada. The village is not incorporated, but is a general law township. The village has a distinct symbol for the community- a historical Covered Bridge in Ada Park, and programs for the community that make up the village’s identity.

It Takes a Village

The unique make up of Ada in its business district, is a mix of old favorites and brand new development. The village has embraced its historical aspects, while also building new establishments to populate the growing area. Places like Gravel Bottom Brewery, Jam N Bean Coffee House, Schnitz Ada Grill, and Peacock Alley are examples of local favorites that are housed in the old and the new developments on Ada Drive.  In addition, the village strip is doing so well that local investors are currently building a boutique hotel.

Local Investment

Within a short walk you can also get to the Ada Village General Store located on the Thornapple River. The store is housed in an iconic schoolhouse well- known in the area, established in 1859. A very unique stop year-round to buy gifts, get snacks, get a dose of local history, and even ice cream!

The charm and size of Ada at first glance do not do justice to its community planning. In the last fifteen years they have spent over eighty million dollars to enhance old and create new infrastructure for the village. A public-private partnership with Amway Global is a part of this planning, lending support for continued growth.

Rural Community Development

Open Space Preservation

The Grand River Corridor is very important to Ada in its rural development. It is a distinct piece in planning for the Village’s Open Space Preservation Concept. Open Space Preservation is rural planning based on enhancing an area’s natural beauty. In Ada, planning committees invest dollars into building plans that will keep Ada a unique, non-clustered, rural community, thus preserving its open spaces and environmental assets.

The Grand and Thornapple Rivers are a major part of the villages’ planning. The Grand River Corridor has become a central focus for the community with investment starting with events like “Beers at the Bridge” and “Brats and Bonfires“. These events bring thousands of people to enjoy what the village can offer each year. A Riverwalk will also be part of the new investment plans, making a more enhanced usage of the current corridor for residents and visitors.

Parks of Importance

Open Space Preservation goes further than building and business planning; it is also directed into Ada’s beloved parks. Ada does not invest in places like recreation centers, they invest in natural recreation areas for its residents. For example, Roselle Park offers cross country skiing as one of its amenities. And Ada Park, offers several programs to the community as well as functioning as a traditional park for the community to enjoy. The community of Ada continues to support investments in parks and recreation projects, because needs studies were conducted before any investments were made. Including the community in these decisions has had great benefits of continued support.

History Utilized Today

The branding of Ada is based on its historical covered bridge. It is the most beloved and well-known historic landmark in Ada crossing over the Thornapple River. “The community has been defined by its rivers as the village is located where the Grand and Thornapple Rivers meet.  The covered bridge was originally built in 1867 and has been both functional and sentimental for 150 years.  From farmers crossing into the village with wagons loaded with grain to baseball games on the adjacent ball field and generations carving their initials on the wooden beams; the covered bridge has long been at the heart of the Ada community.”(

Riverside Park

Ada’s Historical bridge is not the only part of history utilized today. “The choice of placement for the new Riverside Park is significant. From the 1880s-1920s, the biggest event every year was the Old Settlers Picnic.  People came in from all over on the train to parade, attend a carnival, listen to speeches about early settlers, eat and drink, have a dance and celebrate.  In 1905 for example, a team of white Belgian horses pulled a wagon loaded with wooden beer kegs into town from the Grand Rapids Brewing Company for the event.  The location of all this revelry was “The Grove,” the same stretch along the river as today’s developing Riverside Park.” (

With all the new development happening in Ada, its unique history is still a part of its development and fabric. Several elements for visitors and residents alike are important historically and being used for today, such as: the Ada Drive Historic Block, the historic church now used as township offices, the covered bridge, the old schoolhouse, and riverside corridor. “All help residents and visitors to retain a familiar sense of place in the midst of change.” (

MTT Antique and Market Finds

Great Antique Shops and Farmers Markets are familiar sights in small towns. This can also include Thrift Shops, Local Eats, and the like! Here are some great MTT Antique and Market Finds from Ada:

Heather Lane Pottery
Georgie’s Consignment
Nonna’s Pantry
Ted’s Sports Cards

MTT Referral

My Town Today has started a referral section of each article. It’s based on the fun of visiting a town, and finding out what town the majority of its citizens would recommend for My Town to visit next.

The referral for this entry is: Frankenmuth, MI. Stay tuned for My Town Today to pop up there soon.

Ada Photo Gallery:

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