Former Golf Course Transformed into Wetlands and Public Green Space

Project Summary: 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.

 

Project name: Former Golf Course Transformed into Wetlands and Public Green Space

 

Location: Holland, Michigan

 

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

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


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 and sedimentation. Floodwaters threaten the homes built near the river, and as the waters recede they pick up sediments and pollutants from the highly developed floodplain. Sedimentation can decrease the availability of food and habitat for aquatic wildlife. Much of the sediment introduced into the water system is also high in phosphorous, due to the use of fertilizers and other chemicals. During the summer months, excessive phosphorous levels in Lake Macatawa result in intense harmful algal blooms that pose environmental and health risks to people, fish, and wildlife.

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

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

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. The new wetlands increase the ability of the floodplains to absorb and retain stormwater, reducing the threat of floods to adjacent homes. The wetlands also help filter out much of the sediments and pollutants before they can reach Lake

A section of the Macatawa River in Holland, MI, undergoing stream bank stabilization. Photo courtesy of Ottawa County Parks & Recreation Department.

A section of the Macatawa River in Holland, MI, undergoing stream bank stabilization. Photo courtesy of Ottawa County Parks & Recreation Department.

Macatawa. The new park also provides new outdoor recreational opportunities for the local community, thanks to features such as picnic benches, a 3-mile trail system throughout the park, and an 18-hole disc golf course. Since major construction was completed in the fall of 2012, there has been a noticeable increase in the waterfowl populations in the wetlands, and popular activities for residents have included hiking, wildlife viewing, cross country skiing, and of course, disc golfing.

 

Approximate cost of project: $1,419,000. Of this, $646,000 was provided by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, and $73,000 was provided through a conservation easement by Request Foods, Inc. for a wetland mitigation project. The Ottawa County Parks and Recreation Department and the Outdoor Discovery Center Macatawa Greenway provided the remaining funds.

 

Resource challenges addressed: Flash flooding, severe stream bank erosion, harmful algal blooms, the discharge of excess sediment and pollutants into Lake Michigan and its surrounding wetlands, inadequate wildlife habitat, and a need for public recreational green spaces.

 

Key partners (public and private): The Outdoor Discovery Center Macatawa Greenway, The Macatawa Area Coordinating Council, and Request Foods, Inc.

 

Types of jobs created: Wildlife biologists, hydrologists, wetland/stream restoration experts, landscape architects, engineers, administrative and planning staff, park staff, and general laborers.

 

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

A section of the Macatawa River shoreline in Holland, MI, following stabilization and re-vegetation. Photo courtesy of 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.

Website: http://bit.ly/1hx26km

Originally published on April 1, 2014

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