Former Golf Course Transformed into

Wetlands and Public Green Space

The site of a former golf course has been restored to a wetland ecosystem in order to reduce sediment and nutrients entering water system and provide a space for outdoor public recreation.

Description

The Macatawa River in western Michigan flows into Lake Macatawa and is part of the Lake Michigan watershed. The area is prone to flash floods that cause erosion, sediment build up, and an increase in nutrient pollution in the ecosystem. These nutrients have caused toxic algal blooms in Lake Macatawa in the past. The Ottawa County Parks and Recreation Department is working to combat this by restoring the wetlands and floodplains along the river to their natural conditions. The department recently purchased a golf course adjacent to the river when the parent country club ran into financial difficulties. Thanks to a grant from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and a conservation easement from a local business, the parks department has replaced turf grass with native vegetation throughout the former golf course, which has reduced storm water runoff as well as pesticide and fertilizer use—and has created an outdoor green space for the Holland community to enjoy. Crews converted 53 acres of the 122-acre property into wetlands and restored stream banks and riparian areas. Rocks were placed at the base of the stream banks to provide support and prevent sedimentation. Crews also helped reestablish native vegetation and shrubs, creating a root system that holds soil in place. The river itself was partially restored to its natural course by removing or reconfiguring several bridges that were used as part of the golf cart path system and were affecting stream flow.

Resource Challenges Addressed

  • Flash flooding
  • Severe streambank eroision
  • Harmful algal blooms
  • Polluted sediment in Lake Michigan
  • Inadequate wildlife habitat

MACATAWA RIVER STREAMBANK RESTORATION

A river that runs through a golf course in Michigan during restoration

A section of the Macatawa River shoreline in Holland, MI, following stabilization and re-vegetation. Photo credit: Ottawa County Parks & Recreation Department.

Results and Accomplishments

The project has improved water quality by repairing eroded stream banks and reestablishing riparian areas to reduce sedimentation and pollution. The restored wetlands have also improved the quality of wildlife habitat. There has been a noticeable increase in waterfowl populations, and parks department staff are monitoring other types of wildlife such as amphibians. The restoration project has also increased outdoor recreational opportunities for local residents.

A stream through a golf course in Michigan prior to restoration

A section of the Macatawa River shoreline in Holland, MI, prior to stabilization and re-vegetation. Photo credit: Ottawa County Parks and Recreation Department.

River running through a golf course in Michigan following restoration

A section of the Macatawa River shoreline in Holland, MI, following stabilization and re-vegetation. Photo credit: Ottawa County Parks & Recreation Department.