The Outdoor Discovery Center Macatawa Greenway (ODCMG) is an outdoor educational organization in Holland, Michigan. The non-profit organization was established in the year 2000 to better connect people with nature, and to promote conservation and protection of wildlife through education. The Outdoor Discovery Center operates several programs throughout West Michigan. Their project at the Macatawa River Greenway protects the 1,200 acres surrounding the river, as well as a 150-acre nature preserve.
The Macatawa River Greenway was founded to protect and refurbish the banks of the Macatawa River, its floodplains and surrounding marshes, meadows and forests. The Greenway begins in downtown Holland at the River Avenue Bridge and continues for 10 miles to the city of Hudsonville. The Greenway consists of a one mile-long paved trail, as well as more than four miles of hiking trails. Wildlife viewing platforms are located throughout the trail system.
The Outdoor Discovery Center Nature Preserve spans 150 acres of land, also in Holland. The Preserve includes lowland hardwood forests, ponds and wetlands, meadows and remnant prairies. Over 3 miles of boardwalks and walking trails guide visitors through the different ecosystems. The Founders Hall Visitor Center at the ODC displays an impressive taxidermy collection that represents the wildlife native to the area. Live animals at the Visitor Center include reptiles and amphibians, and two Eastern screech owls. The building is home to a gift shop and classroom space.
The DeWitt Birds of Prey facility is onsite at the ODC. Since 2003, the facility has been housing rescued birds of prey whose injuries prevent them from being released back into the wild. Visitors can view birds in their cages with interpretive signage. Twelve species include hawks, owls, eagles, falcons and vultures. The birds occasionally attend special events at the Outdoor Discovery Center allowing guests to view them up close.
Also on site at the ODC is the Neshnabe Summer Village. This cultural history exhibit displays authentically recreated Native American structures and artifacts, including bent pole wigwams, a traditional wooden cook house, a three pole home, and a historic replica garden.
Trails are free and open to the public from dawn to dusk daily. A variety of programs and events are offered throughout the year.
History: The Macatawa River Greenway project was first conceived of in 1994 as an effort to protect the wildlife habitat surrounding the river, and to improve the quality of water flowing into Lake Macatawa and Lake Michigan. In 1996, the Macatawa Greenway Partnership, a non-profit organization, was formed to bring together stakeholders from the community and the government as well as the private landowners along the river’s corridor. The Outdoor Discovery Center and Macatawa Greenway merged in 2009 to form the ODCMG. Today, over 75,000 people visit the Greenway annually to take advantage of the trails and outdoor recreation opportunities.
Ongoing Programs and Education: Since the Center’s opening in 2000, they have served over 200,000 children and adults through recreation and educational programming. Educational programming is offered year-round. Programs are themed around fishing, pond and wildlife studies, bird watching, hiking, ecosystem studies and natural history education. In the winter, snowshoeing programs allow visitors to view winter wildlife and birds.
Community recreational programs include summer camps, river paddling tours, workshops and guided hikes. Programs are available for all ages, from scout programs and summer camps for children, to adult programming such as Women in Nature and the family-friendly River Encounters. Snowshoes are available for rent, and fit anyone aged 8 and older. An archery facility on site is available for use by those who have completed a certification program with a range master at the Kuipers Archery Education Facility. Recurve and compound bows may be rented on site.
All student programs meet Grade Level Content Expectations for the state of Michigan. A nature-based preschool, Little Hawks Preschool, is located at the ODC and operates in partnership with Hamilton Community Schools.
Annual events include the Macatawa Water Festival, which takes place each July. The day-long event at Holland’s Windmill Island encourages families to engage with Lake Macatawa and to learn about the watershed and the importance of its protection. Activities and educational exhibits include river paddling, crafting with recycled items, and water related games. Treats and Trails is a Halloween-themed family event that offers trick or treating, games and activities, and an up close look at birds-of-prey each October.
4214 56th Street, Holland, MI 49423, Phone: 616-393-9453