In 2000, a local nonprofit Wildlife Unlimited of Allegan and Ottawa Counties formed a partnership with the Ottawa Area Intermediate School District to create an outdoor education center that would serve the Allegan and Ottawa counties schools and community. This entity was the Outdoor Discovery Center (ODC). Nine years later, the ODC merged with the Macatawa Greenway Partnership to leverage and expand their missions. That was the beginning of a significant growth period for the ODC. Today, 10 total business divisions have been developed that drive our goals to redefine education, restore and conserve land and water, and to make our community the best place to live, work, play and learn. Our breadth of services led to a name change to the ODC Network which serves as the parent organization that performs essential, mission specific work to drive community change, growth, and impact in conservation and education.
The ODC Network mission is to advance outdoor education and conservation. The ODC Network operates two Greenway projects, a watershed clean-up initiative, a nature-based preschool, a nature center, multiple wildlife preserves, an eco-tour business, a land conservation and restoration business, and an educational consulting business. The following business divisions have been established to facilitate the programs and projects of the ODC Network. They are registered as assumed names of the ODC Network and are licensed to do business as ODC Network:
Outdoor Discovery Center (ODC) (2000): The ODC provides educational opportunities to the West Michigan community to enhance the knowledge and understanding of our natural and cultural resources. The Outdoor Discovery Center is home to a variety of habitats, walking trails, live animal exhibits, and a wide array of educational facilities. The Outdoor Discovery Center is open free to the public 365 days a year.
Macatawa River Greenway (MRG) (2009): Founded in 1996, it became part of the ODC. Its mission is to protect and enhance natural lands, streams, and open spaces within the Lake Macatawa watershed for public enjoyment and the preservation of plant and wildlife habitat. Where appropriate, the MRG will create parks and open spaces for recreation, conservation, water quality improvement, and preservation.
ODC Explorer Network (2012) It provides nature-based, small group eco-tour excursions with experienced travelers and naturalists from the ODC Network. The ODC Explorer Network connects people with unique ecosystems and experiences aimed at building knowledge and understanding of the unique natural history and cultural history of the world. On average, the ODC Explorer Network facilitates two eco-tour adventures each year.
Little Hawks Discovery Preschool (LHDP) (2013): LHDP is a nature-based preschool that focuses on connecting the indoor classroom to the outdoors. 176 children attend the preschool each year where they are provided a quality early childhood experience that prepares them to be active, independent learners who have knowledge of and an appreciation for the natural world and ensuring a healthier lifestyle.
Project Clarity (PC) (2013): The PC mission is to restore the water quality of Lake Macatawa and the Macatawa Watershed through a multi-phased approach focused on land restoration, Best Management Practices (BMPs), community education, and long-term sustainability. Over the past 4 years over 100 watershed restoration projects have been implemented in the Macatawa Watershed.
ODC Conservation Services (2016): Its purpose is to provide land management and restoration services, invasive species management, and wildlife habitat and conservation improvement to public and private land owners in the Kalamazoo and Macatawa River Watershed region. Currently, ODC Conservation Services provide habitat management services to over 100 customers in West Michigan.
ODC Education Network (2017): It provides a customized set of professional development and nature-based education opportunities to help students, educators and education administrators create a personal relationship with their environment. ODC Education Network has a team of education professionals that work with schools and organizations to build connections between the classroom and the outdoors using project-based learning, environmental education, and customized experiences that build relevance, context and meaning into an educational experience. Currently there are 17 schools working with the ODC Education Network to connect their classrooms, schools and students to the outdoors.
Kalamazoo River Greenway (KRG) (2018): The mission is to protect and enhance natural lands, streams, and open spaces within the Kalamazoo River Watershed in Allegan County for public enjoyment and the preservation of plant and wildlife habitat. Where appropriate, the KRG will create parks and open spaces for recreation, conservation, water quality improvement, and preservation.
DeGraaf Nature Center (2018): Owned by the City of Holland, this 18-acre nature center is located in the heart of the City. The contractual management of the Center was transitioned to the ODC Network with the goal of growing the impact and program opportunities offered at DeGraaf by the ODC Network staff. It serves as an urban nature education site, expanding our ability to serve more people.
Nature-rich Community (2019): A nature-rich community connects people and the environment to create a sustainable, healthy, and vibrant place to live, work, play, and learn.
Today, the ODC Network has…
§ 600 acres of land and manage an additional 2,000+ acres
§ 75,000 children and families participate in ODC programming each year
§ 5-star rated nature-based Little HawksDiscovery Preschool for 176 three and four-year olds
§ Education Network that consults with 17 area schools on using nature in their curriculum
§ Annual operating budget of $4.1 million with 50% earned income from services/programs
§ 47 employees that facilitate programming and projects throughout West Michigan