Environment Picture

Detroit River: Ruin and recovery

MEC-initiated historical marker first of many planned statewide

The incredible story of the Detroit River’s decline and resurgence was commemorated Sept. 1 with the placement of the first historical marker on Michigan’s Conservation Trail at the gateway to the Detroit International Wildlife Refuge in Trenton.

The project, piloted by the Michigan Environmental Council with the state Department of History, Arts and Libraries, will eventually include numerous markers throughout the state to celebrate Michigan’s conservation heritage.

The Michigan Conservation Trail emphasizes three themes: citizen activism, Michigan’s special place globally, and bold leadership. When complete, the Michigan Conservation Trail will be a series of linked historical sites and associated educational materials.

Clearly, Michigan has a very rich conservation history and the recovery of the Detroit River is significant. For example, the Detroit River has a long history of sewage, oil, phosphorus, and mercury pollution because it is located within a major metropolitan and manufacturing area. In recent years, however, the Detroit River has experienced substantial environmental improvements that have resulted in a return of bald eagles, peregrine falcons, lake sturgeon, and lake whitefish. This recovery is now receiving international acclaim.

The Refuge Gateway will include the future visitor center for the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge, trails, wildlife viewing stations, natural prairie gardens, a kayak landing, a fishing pier, school ship dock, and more. It is strategically located adjacent to the 410-acre Humbug Marsh Unit, the last mile of natural shoreline on the U.S. mainland of the Detroit River. Humbug Marsh is an important part of our conservation history and is now preserved in perpetuity as part of North America’s only International Wildlife Refuge.

“The recovery of the Detroit River is truly an amazing story of international significance,” notes Congressman John D. Dingell. “This historical marker will forever commemorate this unique conservation history and encourage future generations to be good stewards.”

“We are honored to have the first historical marker for Michigan’s Conservation Trail located in Wayne County on the banks of the Detroit River,” noted Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano. “The ecological recovery of the Detroit River is not only an important part of our history, but an important element in maintaining and enhancing quality of life for future generations.”

For more information on Michigan’s Conservation Trail, visit http://www.mecprotects.org/MiConservationTrail.pdf.

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