Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Progress on HMANA's new home

by Will Weber

HMANA will find a permanent home in the Visitor Center of the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge in southeast Michigan. Now under construction, the visitor center is expected to be completed in the spring of 2017.

The Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge includes 48 miles of shoreline along the lower Detroit River and western Lake Erie. Nearly seven million people live within a 45-minute drive. The watershed supports a great diversity of wildlife and habitats which provide many world-class outdoor recreational opportunities. The count site of the Detroit River Hawk Watch is included in the refuge area and Holiday Beach Migration Observatory is within sight of the refuge.

For 44 years, beginning in 1946, automobile component manufacturing occurred on the gateway to North America’s only international wildlife refuge, a 44-acre tract of waterfront property in Trenton, Michigan. By 1990, automotive facilities were closed and the land had been remediated to industry standards, leaving an industrial brownfield behind to sit vacant for the next 12 years. In 2002, Wayne County purchased the land to become the gateway to the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge. The property is now known as the Refuge Gateway. A master plan for the site, including a large visitor center, was then developed by Wayne County, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and many partners to serve as a blueprint for the cleanup and restoration work at the Refuge Gateway necessary to establish the site as an ecological buffer for Humbug Marsh, Michigan’s only “Wetland of International Importance.”

Since the adoption of the Refuge Gateway Master Plan in 2006, much work has been accomplished, including: capping of brownfield lands, daylighting Monguagon Creek and constructing a retention pond and emergent wetland to treat storm water prior to discharge to the Detroit River, a shoreline and riparian restoration, completion of all public access roads, and construction of two wildlife observation decks and an education shelter in Humbug Marsh. In 2011, the Refuge Gateway received $1.39 million in funding to complete all cleanup and restoration work in 2012. This “Extreme Makeover” of the Refuge Gateway landscape will restore over 41 acres of land for wildlife habitat and outdoor education and recreational experiences. At this time, HMANA is the only non-profit environmental organization invited to find a home in the visitor center. In part, this is a recognition of the importance of the annual raptor  passage over the refuge as an opportunity for public environmental education.

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