The DeGraaf Nature Center is an 18 acre nature preserve that is free and open to the public. The property is owned by the City of Holland in Ottawa County. The site consists of several habitats including meadow, upland forest, lowland forest, marsh and pond. Trails consist of gravel and boardwalk and are approximately 3/4 mile in total. Many of the trails on the property are wheel-chair, stroller and wagon-friendly.

Our staff offer a variety of programs to schools and the community that help foster the concepts of wildlife management, conservation, outdoor education and preservation. The Helen O Brower Visitors Center provides many opportunities to experience wildlife. There are a number of native animals including reptiles and amphibians and a host of native animal taxidermy. There are also two resident captive screech owls that have been injured and are no longer able to survive on their own in the wild. Highlights for many visitors include viewing the live animals in the visitors center, watching birds at the feeders, or sitting quietly by the stream watching for wildlife. Loaner snowshoes are available for a small fee at the Visitors Center during business hours when there is at least four inches of snow on the ground.

Though the property is owned by the City of Holland and is managed by the Parks and Recreation Department, day-to-day operation of the Helen O Brower Visitors Center and all education opportunities offered through it were assumed by the ODC Network in partnership in 2018. See below for more information about the ODC Network.

What is the ODC Network?

The ODC Network is a registered 501 (c)(3)non-profit education and conservation organization that was founded in the year 2000. Our purpose is to connect people with nature through outdoor education for the benefit of wildlife and the conservation of the natural world.

Our Work:

Since 2000, the organization has served more than 1.25 million children and adults through outdoor education and recreation programs. More than 75,000 people annually visit ODC Network sites to walk the trails and view the wildlife. Thanks to the 2009 merger of the Outdoor Discovery Center and Macatawa Greenway Partnership the organization now protects over 1,200 acres along the Macatawa River in Ottawa County and a 150 acre nature preserve in Fillmore Township. We also operate the DeGraaf Nature Center for the City of Holland including day-to-day management and the coordination of all its education programs.

The Macatawa River Greenway and Kalamazoo River Greenway projects are efforts to protect the banks, floodplain forest, marsh, meadows and wetlands along the Macatawa River and lower Kalamazoo River. By protecting these continuous corridors for wildlife and plant habitat, the Greenways also significantly improves the quality of the waters flowing into Lake Michigan.

The Outdoor Discovery Center and DeGraaf Nature Center are free and open to the public. Both sites over a number of different programs that help foster the concepts of wildlife management, conservation, outdoor education and preservation. Programs include: snowshoeing, live birds of prey, Michigan hunter’s safety, fishing, sensory nature walks, bird watching, ecosystem studies, archery, pond studies, summer camps, wildlife studies and exploring Michigan’s cultural past. Our inquiry-based style of programming allows students to learn about and experience nature and culture in a hands-on manner.

We believe that:

  • We are the caretakers of our natural world
  • Unique natural places to experience the beauty and wonder of the environment are valuable resources to the community
  • There is value in restoring, protecting and connecting natural environments
  • Increased emphasis on the environment will improve the community’s quality of life
  • All people should engage in active and integrated learning to understand our environment and how to preserve it
  • People are happier, healthier and more satisfied if they have the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors
  • Promoting conservation and wildlife management will improve our ecosystems
  • We can influence current and future generations to make environmentally responsible decisions
  • Collaboration is the pathway to connecting and protecting our natural resources
  • Historical cultures and their interactions with the environment provide a perspective for life today. We support efforts to protect native resources and sites.