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Blandford Nature Center expands, buys former Highlands Golf Club

The Highlands Golf Course is getting a new purpose.

The Highlands Golf Course is getting a new purpose.

"When you think about a golf course and the open rolling hills, this really gives kids the chance to go out and chase butterflies, watch the stars at night do all of those fun things," President and CEO of Blandford Nature Center Jason Meyer said.

Initially, there was a suggestion to build condominiums on the 121-acre property.

"I think everybody quickly realized that housing wasn't the best use of that property, and that's how we entered into the discussions of expanding Blandford Nature Center," Meyer said. "It'll be a natural area where it's habitat for wildlife trails for the public and an opportunity for kids to get dirty."

The Land Conservancy of West Michigan has partnered with Blandford to make this project the centerpiece of urban restoration, with the help of a $3 million loan.

"One of the things we want to do is to create a quality of life in West Michigan that draws people in and this is one of those things that people are naturally going to gravitate to," Executive Director of Land Conservancy of West Michigan Joe Engel said.

After a thorough safety inspection of the property, it'll be time to get to work.

"Wetlands restoration, reestablishing some native forests that used to be here many many years ago, back in the 1870's and 80's and establishing an ability for the urban population to use it," Engel said.

The two are also going to speak to the locals about their opinions for the land.

"Over the course of the next 12 to 18 months, holding some community focus groups, reaching out to the neighbors and getting their input on what this property could be because really it's for all of us," Meyer said.

The plan is to add some trails and pavilions to the area, and it'll be entirely free. Blandford executives anticipate the area to be open for the public by the end of the year.