MANILUS TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — The ODC Network, a nonprofit organization working to expand environmental education and conservation projects across West Michigan, has acquired a 295-acre parcel of land along the Kalamazoo River.

Called the River Junction Preserve, it will butt up to the Allegan State Game Area in Manilus Township north of Fennville, covering the intersection where the Kalamazoo River and the Rabbit River meet.

With the acquisition, ODC Network says it will help protect more of the habitats along the river and floodplains in Allegan County.

The Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy says funding for the deal comes from the Kalamazoo River Natural Resource Trustees.

“The funding came from settlements with parties responsible for releasing hazardous substances, specifically toxic chemicals into the (Kalamazoo River) environment,” John Riley, EGLE Water Resources Division trustee representative, said in a statement. “The funds are intended to compensate the public for the loss of ecological services, human use and enjoyment that the (Kalamazoo River) provides. Permanently protecting large, ecologically valuable property is one way the trustees can (compensate the public).”

ODC Network President Dave Nyitray says the River Junction Preserve will provide more recreational opportunities and public access to West Michigan’s natural space. For now, the site is closed to the public while work is done to make the space visitor friendly.

“The (ODC Network) staff are currently developing interpretive signage and defining trails and property lines to ensure the Preserve is safe for public use,” Nyitray said.

The River Junction Preserve is expected to open to the public this fall.