Detroit River wildlife refuge gateway, visitor center to open in May
A visitor center and wildlife refuge gateway years in the making near the Detroit River are set to open to the public next year, officials said Monday.
The Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge Gateway includes restored native habitat on the site of a former factory, a 700-foot fishing pier as well as a state-of-the-art LEED-certified visitor center and offices, according to a statement from U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell's office. The center will open May 9, 2020, the release said.
Co-managed by Wayne County and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the site will provide public access to the river in Trenton and serves as the gateway to hiking trails of the refuge’s Humbug Marsh, a 410-acre parcel considered the last undeveloped mile along the United States side of the river, the release said.
In 2017, the visitor center was named after Dingell's late husband, former U.S. Rep. John Dingell Jr., who championed conservation causes and spent years working to launch as well as expand the refuge.
“This refuge and conservation mattered so much to John. It was his vision for a place to gather, learn and protect the wildlife and natural resources that make our region unique,” said Debbie Dingell, D-Mich. “After decades, and the incredibly hard work of many, I look forward to celebrating the Grand Opening of the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge Gateway and visitor center in May. Being at the refuge truly reinforces one’s appreciation of the outdoors, and I hope everyone can join us for the occasion.”
Created in 2001 through legislation John Dingell wrote, the wildlife refuge is the only international one in North America and stretches along the shoreline of the Detroit River and western Lake Erie.
It now includes more than 6,000 acres of habitats including islands, coastal wetlands, marshes, shoals and waterfront lands within an authorized boundary extending along 48 miles, according to the site's website.
The refuge had nearly 12,000 visitors in 2018, according to an annual report.
The Refuge Gateway property, near the Trenton Channeloff West Jefferson near Vreeland Road, was the site of a Chrysler manufacturing facility between 1946 and 1990. Wayne County bought the land in 2002 and the buildings were removed.
Restoration efforts have included brownfield cap enhancement, installing native seed, and planting large trees, officials said.
The John D. Dingell Jr. Visitor Center, which is still under construction, “ will provide a place for all to develop a love of the great outdoors through education and exploration,” Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt said in a statement.
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Regional Director Charlie Wooley added: “We appreciate our partner’s and the community's patience as we near completion of this beautiful, new facility. This will be a wonderful gathering place and beginning of a new chapter for the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge in the Downriver community."