Forest Beach Migratory Preserve:

A Flyway Replaces the Fairway

Turning a 116-acre golf course into a nature preserve has allowed migratory birds a place to shelter along the coast of Lake Michigan.


A former golf course near the shore of Lake Michigan has been turned into a migratory preserve for the many birds that use the Lake Michigan Flyway. The Forest Beach Migratory Preserve is 116 acres, with a mix of hardwood forest with seasonal ponds, prairie, and constructed wetlands. The land trust that owns the site has removed invasive species and is encouraging native plants to thrive. Besides restoring natural habitat to the former golf course, the preserve aims to introduce vegetation to protect the water quality of Lake Michigan through natural filtration. Wetlands and space for ephemeral ponds absorb stormwater, filter pollutants, and provide other vital services. They also are a habitat for migratory birds, reptiles, and insects. Educational facilities and a trail system encourage people to learn more about migratory birds and the importance of their habitats. The site of the former golf course has been returned to a more natural state—benefiting both people and wildlife.

Resource Challenges Addressed

  • Nutrient pollution and runoff
  • Excessive water use
  • Lake of habitat

Results and Accomplishments

The project will be completed by the end of 2017 and the U.S. Army Corps estimates that more than 115 private industry jobs will have been created. In the process, more than $1 million will have been spent on plants alone. More than 200,000 cubic yards of soil have already been shifted to create small hills and valleys needed for the lower marshes and upland woodlands. The project will benefit migratory birds and native reptiles, amphibians, and fish. State threatened fish, including the banded killfish and the mudpuppy will both benefit from the marsh ecosystem.


A person holds a large snapping turtle

A summer intern helps relocate a snapping turtle as part of a pond restoration effort. Amphibians and reptiles were relocated temporarily while a pond was drained and reconstructed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Photo credit: Ozaukee Washington Land Trust.