Outdoor Discovery Center

The Outdoor Discovery Center was founded in 1999, by Wildlife Unlimited of Allegan & Ottawa Counties, Inc. (a 20 year-old non-profit organization dedicated to restoring and perpetuating wildlife and habitat conservation and education) and the Ottawa Area Intermediate School District (OAISD). Wildlife Unlimited and the OAISD partnered to create the ODC to service outdoor educational and recreational needs in West Michigan.

The 100 acre parcel of land purchased by Wildlife Unlimited was an ideal site because of its diverse ecosystems. Since the land was in a post-agricultural state, being left fallow for 30 years, one of the first projects the ODC undertook was to restore the land to its pre-agricultural, early pre-settled Michigan condition. Thanks to land acquisitions since 1999, the ODC Nature Preserve has six naturally occurring, distinct ecosystems on its 135 acre site including: ponds, remnant dunes, wetlands, meadows, remnant prairies, and lowland hardwood forest.

The most recent land purchase included a 20 acre parcel with 18 acres of blueberry bushes that is along the northeast border of the property. The ODC Nature Preserve now encompasses 155 acres.

Macatawa Greenway

The Macatawa River Greenway project is an effort to protect the banks, floodplain forest, marsh, meadows, and wetlands along the Macatawa River, the community’s main river. By protecting this continuous corridor for wildlife and plant habitat, the Greenway also significantly improves the quality of the waters flowing into Lake Macatawa and Lake Michigan.

The Macatawa River Greenway is a natural corridor within the heart of our community located along the Macatawa River. Beginning at the River Avenue Bridge and moving upriver to the east, the Greenway permanently protects, connects, and restores 9.8 miles of river edge land. Through public and private partnerships, more than 1,000 acres have been protected along this unique corridor which stretches from downtown Holland to Zeeland Township.

Along the Greenway, visitors can find more than a mile of paved trail and nearly 4 miles of hiking trails providing people with recreational opportunities in the heart of the Holland/Zeeland community. The Greenway also provides a wildlife corridor for animals allowing them access to a variety of ecosystems and protected wildlife areas.

Throughout the Greenway, visitors will find wildlife viewing platforms and overlooks allowing visitors to view and explore the diverse Macatawa River environment. Unique areas along the Greenway include Windmill Island, the Zuidema Farm site, Paw Paw Park, Ridge Point Community Church, Hawthorn Pond Natural Area, Poppen Woods, and the Upper Macatawa Natural Area.

The Macatawa Greenway effort was originally conceived during the 1994 Macatawa Future Search as a local community-wide “environmental protection” project. Since 1994 and to the present, the mission of these greenway efforts is to “protect and enhance natural lands, streams, and open spaces within the Lake Macatawa watershed for public enjoyment and the preservation of plant and wildlife habitat”.

This vision shaped the Macatawa Greenway Network (see map below), a broad web of public and private forests, streams, and other open and undeveloped areas that would provide wildlife habitat corridors and opportunities for people to enjoy these “greenways”. The main project focus has been the Macatawa River Greenway.

These efforts evolved into the Macatawa Greenway Partnership, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization established in 1996. The Partnership brought together key local and county units of government as well as significant private parties to advance the program. These greenway efforts are now being led by the Outdoor Discovery Center Macatawa Greenway which merged operations in August 2009.