Eastern Lake Michigan

Audubon Great Lakes Launches Shoreline Restoration and Interdunal Wetland Restoration Project with Ottawa County Parks & Recreation

New restoration project will conserve wetlands for vulnerable marsh birds and wildlife in the Eastern Lake Michigan region


MICHIGAN – Audubon Great Lakes, a regional leader in conservation, in collaboration with Ottawa County Parks and Recreation and Michigan Department of Natural Resources, announces a transformative wetland restoration project aimed at revitalizing Ottawa Sands County Park in Ferrysburg, in the Eastern Lake Michigan region. This ambitious endeavor encompasses two key components: shoreline restoration and interdunal wetland creation.

The Ottawa Sands property, once marred by historic mining operations, is now poised for renewal. The shoreline, characterized by irregularities and steep slopes, will undergo selective grading to create a more gradual slope conducive to wetland vegetation growth. Approximately 3,300 linear feet of shoreline will be restored, fostering habitat for diverse wildlife and birds.

"Restoring the shoreline is crucial for enhancing habitat diversity and ecological resilience. Communities throughout the Eastern Lake Michigan region have lost up to 90 percent of their historic wetlands, important natural areas that birds and other wildlife rely on to thrive," said Andy Hinickle, Senior Manager, Wetland Conservation for Audubon Great Lakes. "By implementing restoration that includes native vegetation establishment and placement of large coarse woody debris, we aim to enrich the wetlands and shoreline, fostering a thriving ecosystem and restored wetland habitat for the benefit of birds and local communities."

In addition to shoreline restoration, the project includes the creation of interdunal wetlands spanning approximately 6 acres. These wetlands, historically vital yet imperiled, serve as habitats for a myriad of wildlife, including birds, like the Marsh Wren, Swamp Sparrow and Blue-winged Teal. Drawing inspiration from nearby reference ecosystems, such as the Kitchel-Lindquist Dunes Preserve, the restoration incorporates tiered wetlands, shallow swales, and diverse vegetation.

"We are committed to preserving and restoring critical habitats for wildlife," stated Nealy Molhoek, representing Ottawa County Parks & Recreation. "Interdunal wetlands play a pivotal role in supporting biodiversity, and this project exemplifies our dedication to conservation efforts."

The restoration plans prioritize ecological integrity, refraining from the introduction of new topsoil to preserve existing seedbanks and prevent the proliferation of invasive species. Through meticulous design and implementation, the project aims to revitalize Ottawa Sands County Park, fostering a harmonious balance between nature and community.

“The region’s wetlands offer unique opportunities to connect these wildlife habitats to increase the ability of birds and other wildlife to move and access the resources they need,” added Hinickle. “This work will also help improve water quality and increase climate resiliency for local communities that have suffered from flooding in recent years.”

This region has critical habitat for breeding and migratory birds and provides tremendous water quality and coastal protection services as well as recreational opportunities for the people of Western Michigan.

In the coming years Audubon will continue to work with partners in the region to advance wetland conservation protection as well as provide additional monitoring to inform conservation actions and revise habitat management planning efforts.

Since 2018, Audubon Great Lakes has directly restored 2,000 acres of wetlands across the region and has helped guide partners in the restoration of an additional 8,000 acres.

In 2021, Audubon Great Lakes worked with Ottawa County Parks & Recreation and over 20 stakeholders to undertake an assessment and develop conservation recommendations for the Grand River Coastal Corridor, an ecologically significant area that is well-positioned to connect people and wildlife across Grand Haven, Muskegon, and Grand Rapids through landscape-scale natural area restoration and inclusive recreational access. In 2024, Audubon Great Lakes in partnership with Lower Grand River Organization of Watersheds and West Michigan Environmental Council, will continue to bring stakeholders together as part of a larger-scale landscape conservation planning effort that extends north into Muskegon County.

This project is funded by The Sustain Our Great Lakes Program of National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, with partner support through the Wege Foundation and support from the MDNR Fisheries Habitat Program.


About Audubon Great Lakes

The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow. Audubon works throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education and on-the-ground conservation. State programs, nature centers, chapters and partners give Audubon an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire and unite diverse communities in conservation action. A nonprofit conservation organization since 1905, Audubon believes in a world in which people and wildlife thrive. Audubon Great Lakes is a regional office of Audubon, learn more at gl.audubon.org.

About Ottawa County Parks & Recreation

The Ottawa County Parks & Recreation Commission manages over 7,400 acres of parkland in West Michigan, encompassing diverse natural habitats and recreational opportunities. Committed to conservation and education, Ottawa County Parks & Recreation strives to enrich the lives of residents and visitors through stewardship and engagement.

Media Contact: Nicole Minadeo; nicole.minadeo@audubon.org ; 419-308-4846

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