GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — As recently as five years ago the Highlands, a nature preserve in Grand Rapids, was a golf course. Several entities came together to bring it back to nature.
On Monday, ground was broken on the last big project in the preserve.
In 1989, John Paul Cain won the Greater Grand Rapids Open, a stop on the Senior PGA tour, at the Highlands. Thirty-three years later, nearly to the day, ground was broken on the last big project in the transformation of the Highlands from a private golf club to a nature preserve to be enjoyed by all.
“We’re bringing a stream that has been underground in a pipe to the surface,” said Kim Karn, the executive director of the Land Conservancy of West Michigan.
For the last five years, the 121-acre piece of land has been getting back to its roots thanks to partnerships including the Land Conservancy of West Michigan, Blandford Nature Center, the city of Grand Rapids and several other partners.
Part of that is unearthing a stream that was buried more than a hundred years ago.
“Right now, it’s in a pipe about eight or ten feet underground. It’s a big 48-inch pipe underground and it’s primarily a storm drain system. So when it rains like we just had here, there’s water flowing through it,” said Justin Heslinga, the conservation director at the Land Conservancy of West Michigan.
Heslinga says the benefits are three-fold: bringing wildlife back to the area, water quality improvement and the stream will serve as a classroom of sorts.
“People love water, there’s an inspiring nature about water. When I think about kids and families coming out and playing in the water and touching it and learning about where our water comes from and where it goes, I think that’s a great thing,” said Heslinga.
“There’s a natural course where the stream used to be many, many years ago and so it will flow that direction,” said Karn.
Alongside Blandford Nature Center President and CEO Jack Woller, Karn wants everyone to know there’s something special on the city’s westside.
“The addition of the 121 acres makes Blandford Nature Center now 264 acres and one of the nature preserves in the United States to exist fully within city limits,” said Woller.
The daylighting of the stream is expected to be complete by this fall.