The Highlands, Opening to the Public for Nature Discovery
GRAND RAPIDS, MI – July 12th, 2017 – On the west side of Grand Rapids, the former Highlands Golf
Club is beginning its transformation to a natural state and, beginning Thursday, the property will be open to the public
to see the changes first-hand.
In February, Blandford Nature Center and the Land Conservancy of West Michigan collaborated on the purchase of
the 121-acre Highlands Golf Club in Grand Rapids to transform the property into a natural area for community
recreation and education.
The property was acquired by Blandford Nature Center, in partnership with the Land Conservancy of West Michigan,
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 create a plan and make improvements on the property. Once
plans are in place, they will work with the community to complete the necessary funding to repay the loan.
“While there is plenty of work yet to do, we are eager for the community to get their feet on the ground and
experience the benefits of fresh air and the beginnings of a remarkable, open, natural landscape right here in
northwest Grand Rapids,” said Joe Engel, Executive Director of the Land Conservancy. “With community input and
support, the transformation of this property back to nature will benefit young and old alike, and provide inclusive
educational and recreational opportunities that only the outdoors can truly provide.”
This summer, a community input process will be taking place. Neighbors, kids, and community members will be
invited to learn more about the project and contribute ideas for how The Highlands will take shape in the coming
years and even decades.
“The exciting thing about this once-in-a-lifetime project is that The Highlands is going to be different from a manicured
park,” says Jason Meyer, President and CEO of Blandford Nature Center. “This is quickly becoming a natural area
where our entire community can experience the feelings that come with standing in the middle of an expansive urban
greenspace. Whether they are experiencing this for the first time or are outdoors everyday, everyone can be a part of
this changing landscape.”
Once the mortgage is paid off, the Land Conservancy will take ownership of a portion of the property and the two
organizations will implement habitat restoration plans, trail development, and educational programing.
The Highlands will officially open to the public daily from sunrise to sunset starting Thursday, July 13th. The staff of
Blandford and the Land Conservancy will conduct tours at 4 P.M. and 7 P.M. that day. The public is free to hike the
land on its own or join up with the tours on the east end of the Clubhouse. Contact the Land Conservancy at (616)
451-9476 with any questions.
The Highlands project is made possible with support from the Judy & Kenneth Betz Family, Peter C. & Emajean Cook
Foundation, Frey Foundation Fund of the Grand Rapids Community Foundation, Grand Rapids Community
Foundation, Third Coast Development, Wege Foundation and Wolverine Worldwide Foundation.
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 has protected 137 natural areas covering over 10,000 acres
in Kent, Ottawa, Allegan, Ottawa, Newaygo, Muskegon, 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.
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.