Project Clarity celebrates a decade of impact within Macatawa watershed

In the last decade, dozens of stakeholders from community groups, nonprofit organizations, businesses, educational institutions, and local governments have collaborated on cleaning up Lake Macatawa.

Many from these groups gathered June 6 at Boatwerks Waterfront Restaurant – which overlooks the Holland lake –  to celebrate 10 years of Project Clarity’s impact within the Macatawa Watershed. 

Project Clarity, one of the nine divisions of the ODC Network, set out 10 years ago to improve the clarity and quality of Lake Macatawa and the Macatawa Watershed. Founded in 2000, ODC Network’s mission is to advance outdoor education and conservation throughout West Michigan. 

Dramatic improvement

“Today, the water clarity and water quality of the Macatawa Watershed and Lake Macatawa are the best we have seen in recorded history,” says Travis Williams, CEO of the ODC Network. “Hundreds of restoration projects in the Watershed have withheld the equivalent of 6,500 dump trucks worth of sediment from Lake Macatawa each year – that’s the entire 20-mile length of the Macatawa River. 

The ODC Network team celebrates the 10th anniversary of Project Clarity. (ODC)

“We were able to accomplish this by engaging with farmers and water quality specialists. As a result, 65 farms committed to best management practices on 36,000-plus acres – nearly 50% of farmland in the watershed. Thanks to this collaborative effort, you can see deeper into Lake Macatawa than ever before.” 

Philanthropists Dick and Betsy DeVos and Jim and Donna Brooks, original investors in Project Clarity, were keynote speakers at the sold-out event. 

“We knew something had to be done to improve Lake Macatawa for our community. So who do we call to get it done? Travis Williams at the ODC Network,” Jim Brooks said. “Today, we celebrate the results of what has been done and what we can look forward to in the future.” 

More work ahead

Project Clarity’s work began by outlining a five-step remediation plan. Identifying land areas for restoration, prioritizing restoration, implementing best management practices, increasing awareness through education, and creating a long-term management plan were all implemented. 

Dick DeVos speaks during the 10th anniversary celebration of Project Clarity. (ODC)

“I’m incredibly grateful for the ODC team and all they have done for our community,” Dick DeVos said. “The state of the world today can often feel like a burden. But today, we all get the privilege to go home tonight and say that what we have learned today is a win. Today was a win for our community. We may not see these investments pay off today, but our children and grandchildren will. We are the ones who get to ensure Lake Macatawa is still here to be enjoyed by generations to come.” 

Project Clarity’s work is ongoing, and improvements will continue as the long-term plan is implemented. 

“There is still work to be done,” Williams said. “Improving the quality of our watershed can only continue as a community-wide effort. Talk to your local decision-makers and share that water quality is important to you.”

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Read more articles by Shandra Martinez.