An aerial view of the Little Hawks Preschool on the Outdoor Discovery Center campus. Courtesy
The ODC Network’s largest land acquisition ever will help preserve almost 300 acres of natural habitat in Allegan County.
The nonprofit, which advances outdoor education and conservation throughout West Michigan, has announced it has acquired and will begin managing the River Junction Preserve. The preserve should be publicly accessible in fall 2023.
The acquisition permanently protects 295 acres of riparian, floodplain, and upland habitat at the intersection of the Kalamazoo and Rabbit Rivers, safeguarding fish, terrestrial, and aquatic wildlife. The conservation land management services of the ODC Network will protect the property’s biodiversity and increase its ecological value.
The preserve is adjacent to the Allegan State Game Area.
Settlement funds paid for purchase
The acquisition was supported with natural resource damages settlement funds administered by 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,” says John Riley, Water Resources Division trustee representative of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy.
“The funds are intended to compensate the public for the loss of ecological services, human use, and enjoyment the [Kalamazoo River] provides. Permanently protecting large, ecologically valuable property is one way the trustees can [compensate the public].”
Open to public in fall
The River Junction Preserve will have public access and recreational uses consistent with the ODC Network’s mission and the property’s conservation easement terms. Though the site currently is not open to the public, public access is expected this fall.
“(ODC Network) staff are currently developing interpretive signage and defining trails and property lines to ensure the preserve is safe for public use,” says Dave Nyitray, ODC Network President/COO. “We are grateful to the Kalamazoo River Natural Resource Trustees for their partnership and trust in the (ODC Network) to properly preserve and protect the River Junction Preserve.”
The ODC Network advances outdoor education and conservation throughout West Michigan. It operates a diversified platform of business divisions to impact how schools, families, businesses, nonprofit organizations, and municipalities understand, interact with, and connect to local ecosystems.
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