Land Conservancy of West Michigan announces completion of Phase One campaign for The Highlands
With support from the community, The Highlands property acquisition and initial restoration projects have been funded.
GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. (May 15, 2019) — The Land Conservancy of West Michigan has successfully completed the Phase One campaign for The Highlands. The future of the former golf course as a premier space for learning, recreation and conservation is now secure.
“We are incredibly grateful to the community and donors who have made Phase One of The Highlands project a success,” said Joe Engel, executive director at the Land Conservancy of West Michigan. “We are looking forward to a bright – and green – future for this vibrant natural space here in Grand Rapids.”
The Highlands is a partnership between the Land Conservancy of West Michigan and Blandford Nature Center. Both organizations share a passion for preservation, education and making natural spaces available to everyone in the Grand Rapids community. When the 121-acre Highlands Golf Club went up for sale, the two organizations saw it as an opportunity to join forces in a long-term collaboration to transform the land into an accessible urban refuge.
In January 2017, Blandford Nature Center acquired The Highlands with a loan from The Conservation Fund. The Conservation Fund is a national nonprofit organization that helps local communities achieve their conservation goals.
“Had Blandford Nature Center not been able to step in with the Land Conservancy of West Michigan and acquire this property, it would be turning into a housing development right now,” said Jason Meyer, president and CEO of Blandford Nature Center. “We are grateful to the Land Conservancy for their hard work on the Phase One campaign to secure the future of The Highlands.”
The Land Conservancy of West Michigan spearheaded the campaign to raise over $5 million to cover the purchase of the property, a long-term restoration and management fund, miscellaneous campaign costs and the master plan for Phase Two.
“We asked the community to show their support for this project that will provide Grand Rapids families opportunities to engage in healthy outdoor activities and environmental education,” said campaign co-chair David Morgenstern. “They responded resoundingly.”
The completion of the campaign opens the doors for Phase Two, which will focus on implementing the master plan for the property—including installing trails, building a pavilion, adding wetlands and wildlife habitat and opening up a stream long-buried beneath the east end of the property.
“We’re excited that the foundation has now been laid for Phase Two, where the community’s collective vision for The Highlands will come to life,” said campaign co-chair Marti O’Brien.
The Highlands is the first and only neighborhood-based natural space in northwest Grand Rapids that is completely free and open to the public. Its main entrance on Leonard Street is right on The Rapid bus line. With restoration managed by the Land Conservancy of West Michigan, The Highlands will once again become home to native plants and wildlife for all of Grand Rapids to discover.
“For years, expanding Blandford Nature Center to include the 121 acres that made up the former Highlands Golf Club was a pipe dream,” said Mary Jane Dockeray, founder of Blandford Nature Center and campaign co-chair. “To see it transform into a natural area to be appreciated and used by all Grand Rapids citizens is a gift.”
There will be a public celebration of the milestone achievement at The Highlands on the eve of the summer solstice. The event will feature guided hikes, music by AnDro, ice cream and more. It will take place on Thursday, June 20 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Learn more about the event on the Land Conservancy’s website at www.naturenearby.org/events/highlands-celebration.
Phase One of The Highlands project was 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.
The Highlands Community Celebration
When: Thursday, June 20, 2019, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Where: The Highlands, 2715 Leonard St. NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504
About the Land Conservancy of West Michigan
With roots reaching back to 1976, the Land Conservancy of West Michigan is dedicated to helping people protect, enjoy and care for natural land. The Land Conservancy is a nationally accredited land trust that has protected 147 natural areas covering over 11,400 acres in Kent, Ottawa, Allegan, Newaygo, Oceana, Mason and Lake counties. Among other projects, the Land Conservancy partnered with the city of Saugatuck to permanently protect the 300-acre Saugatuck Harbor Natural Area. More information can be found at naturenearby.org.
About Blandford Nature Center
Blandford Nature Center is dedicated to engaging and empowering the community through enriching experiences in nature. It is an independent, charitable non-profit that believes children and adults learn best through personal experience. Their job, and their passion, is to invite the community to get their hands dirty in nature! More information can be found at blandfordnaturecenter.org.