Detroit Zoo plans $10M nature center in Macomb County

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Mount Clemens — Detroit Zoological Society executive director Ron Kagan and Macomb County officials announced plans Tuesday for a $10 million Great Lakes Nature Center in Macomb County.

The envisioned 20,000-square foot center, to be built on a waterfront location in Macomb County, will focus on water and wildlife of the Great Lakes, Kagan told a press conference at the Macomb County Administration Building in downtown Mount Clemens.

Kagan said the zoological society’s board is fully committed to the project, which will likely be initially financed by private donations. The center is expected to be sustained through admission fees collected from an anticipated 150,000 to 200,000 visitors a year, officials said.

“Macomb County, with 32 miles of coastline along Lake St. Clair and 31 miles on the Clinton River, is the ideal location for a major waterfront nature center devoted to the natural wonders of the Great Lakes,” said Kagan. “… It will be one of the largest nature attractions of its kind dedicated entirely to the Great Lakes.”

It is the zoo’s first foray into Macomb County. County Executive Mark Hackel said several locations are under consideration and construction is expected to begin in the spring.

“We were thrilled to be approached by the zoo for this project,” said Hackel, speaking in front of a backdrop of Macomb County resources and a “Make Macomb Your Home” sign.

Other postings showed examples of wildlife that will likely be part of the nature center, including sandhill cranes, lake sturgeon, monarch butterfly, and blanding turtle. Habitats for native amphibians, reptiles, turtles, small mammals and shorebirds will be included, along with a native butterfly garden.

Officials noted that while there are several waterfront nature centers around Michigan, the one in Macomb County will take a broader approach to wildlife, ecosystems and water quality. It is expected to include programs on birding, astronomy and environmental protection.

Macomb Public Works director Candice Miller, who is also on the zoological society board, said the center “will be a natural jewel and other Great Lakes states will come here to see what we are doing …”

Kagan said the center will be operated by the Zoological Society, which oversees the Detroit Zoo and Belle Isle Nature Center. About 20 employees and more than 100 volunteers are expected to be needed, he said.

The center is to be partially powered by hydro and solar energy and will employ computers and video projectors to display six-foot holograms of the globe.

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