Macatawa River Greenway helps connect people with nature

Upper Macatawa Natural Area
Upper Macatawa Natural Area
Photo: Ashley VanZee

By David Hoekman

Think of the Macatawa River Greenway as a bright green bow on Mother Nature.

What’s more, after a long winter, exploring the greenway will boost your attitude.

The Macatawa River Greenway is a network of permanently protected public and private lands in the heart of the Holland/Zeeland area. The greenway features 24 parks and natural areas designed for wildlife habitat and human recreation.

Community leaders conceived of the greenway in the mid-1990s, said Dan Callam, greenway manager at the Outdoor Discovery Center Network. The greenway was incorporated in 1996 and merged with the Outdoor Discovery Center in 2009.

Water Festival,  Windmill Island Gardens, Holland
Water Festival, Windmill Island Gardens, Holland
Photo: Travis Williams

“The hope was to create a green corridor of recreation and habitat along the Macatawa River, which runs right past downtown Holland,” Callam said. “What was in a lot of ways an underutilized asset could become something to connect Holland and Zeeland to the natural world. While we have a pathway that connects from one end to the other, we continue to work on creating more connections and protecting more habitat where opportunities arise.”

The greenway aims not only to provide opportunities to get from one part of the community to another, but also to offer green spaces for community members and visitors to relax, recreate and get back into nature. 

A wide variety of habitat is found along the greenway, ranging from swamps and open meadows to river corridors and sand dunes overlooking Lake Michigan. 

Black Lake Boardwalk, Holland
Black Lake Boardwalk, Holland
Photo: Dylana Eisaman

Thanks to the Macatawa River Greenway, everyone can experience the natural world, whether it’s something as simple as a short walk or as intense as a 30-mile bike ride.  

“Spending time outside has been shown to have great benefits for people of all ages,” Callam said. “Beyond the physical benefits that many gain simply from exercising, being out in nature can help alleviate stress and inspire curiosity and wonder, which in the past year has become more important than ever. Holland is a great place to experience that with the variety of parks and greenspace.”

Outdoor Discovery Center Network/Macatawa River Greenway

Macatawa River kayakers
Macatawa River kayakers
Photo: Andrea Woody