Upper Macatawa Natural Area Case Study

County: Ottawa Established: 2005

In 2005 and 2007, the Land Conservancy helped Ottawa County Department of Parks & Recreation acquire a total of 314 acres along the Macatawa or Black River just east of Zeeland and Interstate I-196 by purchasing conservation easements on the property. One of the primary goals in acquiring the property was to improve the water quality of the Macatawa River and downstream Lake Macatawa that were impaired by the previous owner’s dairy operations.

For decades, dairy cattle grazed the fields and corn was grown in the heavy muck soil along the river. With little or no buffer from the fields, sediments and pollutants inevitably found their way into the river and contributed to the pollution of Lake Macatawa and Lake Michigan. Once protected with a conservation agreement, an effort was made to restore the wetlands on the property and replace the fields with native trees and grasses.

Partnership was key to the success of this project and included the Land Conservancy of West Michigan, Macatawa Greenway Partnership, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, Ducks Unlimited, and the Macatawa Watershed Project.

Project impact

  • The natural area’s wetlands act as a sponge and filter runoff during heavy rains and contribute to water quality improvement for Lake Macatawa and Lake Michigan.
  • Dramatic improvements in wildlife habitat and bird diversity.
  • Access to hiking, cross country skiing, bird watching and other recreational activites.

Special Thanks

A Clean Water Act grant from the Department of Environmental Quality was key to placing a conservation agreement on the property.

Explore Upper Macatawa Natural Area

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