- Associated Press - Friday, July 14, 2017

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) - A former golf course in western Michigan has transformed into hilly grassland for hikers to walk through and for nature to thrive.

The Blandford Nature Center officially opened The Highlands to the public in Grand Rapids Thursday. The trail was formerly known as the Highlands Golf Club and is now considered an extension to the nature center, the Grand Rapids Press (https://bit.ly/2taTSMR ) reported.

The nature center acquired the more than 120-acre former golf course in February in partnership with Land Conservancy of West Michigan and has nearly doubled the size of the center.

“With the 264 acres that we currently have, it literally puts us in the top echelon of urban nature centers in the entire country,” said Jason Meyer, president and CEO of the nature center.

Meyer said that The Highlands’ hilly terrain is different from the original nature center and allows for more access to winter activities such as cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

The property has been untouched since it was acquired, said Colin Hoogerwerf, an employee with the Land Conservancy.

“We really didn’t know what to expect. The grass has grown a ton,” he said.

Meyer said The Highlands’ restoration process will take decades.

“The fact that my grandkids can come out and see what we started is pretty amazing,” he said.

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Information from: The Grand Rapids Press, https://www.mlive.com/grand-rapids

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