Haworth Donates 70 Acres to Improve Lake Macatawa Water Quality

Posted in: United States Water News, Water quality
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Plans call for adding wetlands to Macatawa watershed to improve water quality. (Photo credit: art)

Article courtesy of Shandra Martinez | June 23, 2015 | mlive | Shared as educational material

HOLLAND, MI — Haworth is donating 70 acres of land to improve the water of Lake Macatawa. Most of the the acreage will be turned into swampland so it can work as a natural filter for the 1,700-acre lake.

The Holland office furniture manufacturer is the first company to make a significant donation toward Project Clarity Initiative, a program being organized by the Outdoor Discovery Center Macatawa Greenway.

The $12 million project aims to fix the popular lake’s long-standing water quality issues by restoring wetlands in the Macatawa Watershed to prevent runoff that contributes to sediment, nutrient and bacterial pollution in the lake.

The first phase of the project begins next month and will be completed in the fall.

“We are glad to be a significant part of this,” said Dick Haworth, chairman emeritus at a groundbreaking ceremony at Haworth headquarters to kick off the project.

“I’m a big fan of getting the whole system into the room to analyze problems and I’m also a big fan of looking at problems from a systems standpoint, which is what Project Clarity is doing in finding solutions for all parties involved.”

Haworth was approached about the project by fellow philanthropists Jim Brooks and Dick and Betsy Devos, who own homes on Lake Macatawa.

The lake’s water quality issues were set in motion in the mid-1800s when the land was first settled by Dutch immigrants, says Travis Williams, executive director of Outdoor Discovery, the group overseeing the project.

The area’s founders clear cut native forests, drained natural wetlands and straightened tributaries to build the Holland-Zeeland region that is now home to more than 120,000 residents.

The trade off was a nearly 87 percent lost of the historic Holland area wetlands to development, Williams said.

The result of the settling is chronic widespread surface runoff into Lake Macatawa, which has increased sedimentation and vegetation such as algae blooms.

The lake is catch basin for the region’s 175-mile Macatawa watershed.

“In order to fix it, we need to restore some of those natural features back into our watershed,” Williams said.

The donated land is south of Haworth headquarters. The company bought the property in the 1980s in anticipation of building more manufacturing facilities.

Turning the acreage into marshland will drop its value to $400,000 to $500,000, about one-third of what the acreage could fetch on the market, said Steven Kooy, Haworth’s global sustainability manager.

Haworth also made a cash donation to the Outdoor Discovery that will be used to restore 42 acres of the ares into a four cell wetland. Two cells will hold water from the North Branch of the Macatawa River, while the other two will take in water runoff from the farmland.

The wetland cells are designed to slow water and hold for weeks to allow sediment and nutrients to be taken up by native plantings.

Another 70 acres of adjacent Haworth land that is being leased to Cal Schipper, owner of Schipper Eggs, will be farmed using agricultural best management practices.

This farm is expected to become an educational tool for farmers and agricultural students on water quality practices.

Doing an environmental good deed hasn’t been easy, Haworth told the crowd.

“I thought we would be here six months ago,” said Haworth. “The paperwork and regulations that needed to be dealt with are I think behind us.”

Haworth initially envisioned a Millennium park-like setting with ponds and lakes that residents could use for swimming and fishing, but that plan didn’t fly with the Federal Aviation Administration because of the site’s proximity to Tulip City Airport.

The FAA worried that permanent bodies of water would have created a habitat for waterfowl that might fly in the path of airplanes coming or leaving the airport, Kooy said.

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