What to See
In its first seasons as a natural area, the grass at The Highlands has grown high and wildlife has moved in, including turtles, fox, deer, muskrat and a multitude of birds and insects. The Land Conservancy has planted a variety of native wildflowers and grasses, which blossomed after just one season. With help from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Ducks Unlimited, the Land Conservancy installed a wetland in 2017. Ducks, herons, frogs, turtles and more have flocked to it, making it one of the most lively parts of the property. More wetlands are slated to be installed in 2019.
It is rare for a piece of manicured or developed urban land to return to nature. For over a century, the land had been heavily watered and fertilized. The long-term restoration of this landscape will bring about substantial improvements to water and air quality in the city and will help in the city’s goal to increase forest canopy. The project also offers educational opportunities and will be a model for large-scale urban restoration in the region.
The Phase One campaign to secure The Highlands is complete. Our dream to transform the former golf course into a premier space for learning, recreation and conservation is now a reality.
Blandford Nature Center and the Land Conservancy of West Michigan collaborated on the purchase of the 121-acre Highlands Golf Club in Grand Rapids in the winter of 2017 with a vision to transform the property into a natural area for community recreation and education.
The property was acquired with a loan from The Conservation Fund. The Conservation Fund is a national nonprofit organization that helps local communities achieve their conservation goals.
As the property begins its transformation, Blandford and the Land Conservancy will be working with the community to implement a master plan and make improvements on the property.
The Highlands project is made possible with support from the Judy & Kenneth Betz Family, CDV5 Foundation, Consumers Energy Foundation, Peter C. and Emajean Cook Foundation, Frey Foundation Fund of the Grand Rapids Community Foundation, Grand Rapids Community Foundation, REI, The Conservation Fund, Third Coast Development, Wege Foundation, Wolverine Worldwide Foundation and many more.