The Outdoor Discovery Center Macatawa Greenway, with which Hope has an on-going research and learning partnership, has received the 2012 Watershed Stakeholder of the Year Award from the Macatawa Watershed Project.

The award, which honors efforts to improve water quality of the Macatawa Watershed, was presented on Thursday, Dec. 6, during the December meeting of the Watershed Advisory Committee, held at the Herrick District Library.

The Outdoor Discovery Center Macatawa Greenway is a non-profit outdoor education organization that reflects the 2009 merger of the Outdoor Discovery Center and the Macatawa Greenway Partnership, and seeks to connect people with nature through outdoor education for the benefit of wildlife and the conservation of the natural world.  The organization protects more than 1,200 acres along the Macatawa River in Ottawa County and a 136-acre nature preserve in Fillmore Township.

Hope and the Outdoor Discovery Center Macatawa Greenway established a formal partnership in 2009 that provides learning experiences and research opportunities for students and faculty, including a field station at the preserve that serves as a classroom, lab facility and research station.  Hope and the center had previously worked together on an informal basis on programs, writing grants and providing educational opportunities to Hope students and for research since the center was founded in 2000.  The center's founding executive director, Travis Williams, is a 1998 Hope graduate.

The research partnership includes the college’s participation in a collaborative study, engaging multiple organizations, supported through a $500,000 grant to the Outdoor Discovery Center Macatawa Greenway in June 2011 to pinpoint the sources of pollution entering Lake Macatawa.  Hope faculty members Dr. Graham Peaslee and Dr. Michael Pikaart have been leading the college’s involvement in the research, focusing on the large quantities of sediment pouring into the lake and the high levels of E. coli bacteria.  Peaslee, who has engaged in research focused on the watershed since the late 1990s, received the Macatawa Watershed Project’s Stakeholder of the Year award in 2005.