The community is invited to share ideas about sharing access to the treasures of the Kalamazoo River Greenway Wednesday, Aug. 15, at Saugatuck Brewing Co., 2948 Blue Star Hwy., Douglas, from 6 to 7:30 p.m.
The Outdoor Discovery Center Network will host it as part of a series of community meetings to help it develop a 5-year master plan for a greenway corridor of the lower river running through Allegan County.
The hoped-for result will provide a roadmap for protecting and enhancing natural lands, streams and open spaces within the watershed for public enjoyment while preserving plant and wildlife habitat.
Where appropriate, the greenway would create parks and open spaces for recreation, conservation, water quality improvement and preservation.
“Because of the river’s unique assets to each area, the input will be different for each community,” said Tracey Nally, ODCN development and communications manager.
The Network has been the lead nonprofit partner in the Macatawa Greenway along the Macatawa River from East Zeeland to Holland since 1994. Since then, there have been 19 miles of preserved river corridor, more than $15 million in public and private investment, 1,387 protected areas and 20 miles of pedestrian trails there.
“Because of that work, we were approached by a group from the state department led by state Rep. Mary Whiteford (R-Casco),” said Network CEO Travis Williams.
“It included DNR and DEQ staff who asked us to consider developing a greenway project on the Kalamazoo River,” he continued.
“We’re not here to solve the whole pollution problem in the Kalamazoo River — that is well beyond the scope of our organization. What we’re aiming to do is align all our interests to put together a plan that will help find funding, prioritize projects and implement them.”
Working alongside architects and engineers to synthesize the plan, the Network has held meetings over the past seven months with local governments, conservation districts, chambers of commerce, community foundations, development authorities, businesses and more.
The ODC Network has also become a repository for data collection of contamination hotspots including brownfield sites, ecological areas of concern, erosion and sedimentation issues and potential disposal areas for contaminated sediment.
Now in the community engagement portion of the project, the master plan is to be completed by December.