Transformation of an Industrial Brownfield into an Ecological Buffer for Michigan’s Only Ramsar Wetland of International Importance
1.1. History of the Refuge
In ten years the lower Detroit River ecosystem will be an international conservation region where the health and diversity of wildlife and fish are sustained through protection of existing significant habitats and rehabilitation of degraded ones, and where the resulting ecological, recreational, economic, educational, and “quality of life” benefits are sustained for present and future generations.
The Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge, including the Detroit River and western Lake Erie basin, will be a conservation region where a clean environment fosters the health and diversity of wildlife, fish, and plant resources through protection, creation of new habitats, management, and restoration of natural communities and habitats on public and private lands. Through effective management and partnering, the Refuge will provide outstanding opportunities for “quality of life” benefits such as hunting, fishing, wildlife observation and environmental education, as well as ecological, economic, and cultural benefits, for present and future generations.
to support the first International Wildlife Refuge in North America by working through partnerships to protect, conserve and manage the refuge’s wildlife and habitats, and to create exceptional conservation, recreational and educational experiences to develop the next generation of conservation stewards.
1.2. Industrial History of the Refuge Gateway
|1946–1990||● Chrysler operated this facility as an automotive component manufacturing plant, including production of brakes, associated adhesives, oils, and sealers|
|1990||● Chrysler facility closed and remediated to industrial standards|
|1994||● Consent Decree signed, with restrictive covenants|
|2001||● Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge Establishment Act signed into law|
|2002||● Chrysler property purchased by Wayne County with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration funding to become the Refuge Gateway for the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge|
● Consent Decree modified to allow for the construction of a Visitor Center on site for the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge
|2004||● Wayne County completes site Master Plan for Refuge Gateway, with input from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other partners|
|2005||● Comprehensive Conservation Plan completed and approved by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, identifying Wayne County’s Refuge Gateway as the proposed site of a future Refuge headquarters and visitor center|
|2006||● Schematic Plan for Refuge Gateway completed, providing more detailed information for restoration efforts and visitor center design, and integrating the Refuge Gateway property with Humbug Marsh Unit of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service|
|2006–2007||● Kresge Foundation grant for planning for green site features at Refuge Gateway and LEED-certified visitor center|
|2007||● State of Michigan unveils historical marker at Refuge Gateway, identifying it as the first location on the Michigan Conservation Trail that commemorates and promotes knowledge of conservation history in Michigan|
|2008||● Trails, environmental education shelter, and wetland boardwalk constructed in Humbug Marsh Unit and pedestrian stream crossing completed, linking Humbug Marsh Unit and Refuge Gateway|
|2009||● Daylighting Monguagon Creek completed and capping and final grade achieved on 40% of the Refuge Gateway|
● First loop of access road completed at the Refuge Gateway
|2010||● Perimeter greenway trail completed at Humbug Marsh, linking Refuge’s Lake Erie Metropark Unit with Humbug Marsh Unit and the Refuge Gateway|
● Entry garden completed at Refuge Gateway by volunteers from Ford Motor Company, Grosse Ile Garden Club, and International Wildlife Refuge Alliance
|2011||● Construction of a natural shoreline at Refuge Gateway and final grade achieved on another 30% of the Refuge Gateway|
● Construction of a shoreline access road to provide accessibility for the future boat dock and fishing pier
● Creation of a kayak landing
|2012||● Complete all capping on site, consistent with Master Plan|
● Achieve final grade on remaining 30% of the Refuge Gateway consistent with Master Plan
● Complete plantings consistent with habitat elements identified in the Master Plan
- Any soils removed from the site must be tested for contaminants;
- On-site groundwater may not be used as drinking water;
- Uses of the property must be restricted, consistent with the remediation performed (future uses may require reevaluation by the State of Michigan);
- The State of Michigan must have access to determine compliance, including the rights to take samples, inspect records, and inspect remedial actions; and
- In five restricted areas, future owners must restrict activities that might interfere with a response activity, operation and maintenance, monitoring, or other measures necessary to assure the effectiveness and integrity of the remedial actions.
1.3. Preservation of Humbug Marsh
|Importance to Threatened, Endangered and Vulnerable Species, and Ecological Communities||The wetlands within Humbug Marsh are classified as Great Lakes marsh, a natural community that has been ranked as a globally imperiled community by the Michigan Natural Features Inventory. As the shorelines of the Great Lakes were developed for industrial, commercial, residential, and recreational use, the marsh habitat essential for many Great Lakes species rapidly declined.|
|Importance for Maintaining Biological Diversity||Because Humbug Marsh represents a significant portion of the last unaltered wetlands in the Detroit River corridor and the last mile of natural shoreline on the river’s U.S. mainland, it serves as a vital habitat for a large variety of endemic fish, birds, and plants that are regionally rare and may otherwise be extirpated from the area. Surveys have documented 51 species of native fish, over 90 native plant species, at least a 154 native bird species from 39 different families, more than 25 species of reptiles and amphibians, and 12 species of damselflies and 25 species of dragonflies.|
|Importance as Habitat for Plants or Animals in Critical Stages of their Lifecycles||Humbug Marsh and the lower Detroit River are located at the intersection of two important migratory bird flyways (i.e., Atlantic and Mississippi Flyways), making it prime stopover habitat during fall and spring migrations. Humbug Marsh is also a critical corridor along the Detroit River for herpetofauna and serves as an important breeding, nesting, and developmental site for a number of amphibian and reptile species.|
|Importance to Indigenous Fish Biodiversity||The variety of habitats existing within Humbug Marsh allows fish with diverse life histories to thrive. In a fish survey that included Humbug Marsh and surrounding areas, 51 indigenous fish species were identified, representing 15 different families.|
|Importance as a Food Source, Spawning, Nursery or Migration Area on which Fish Depend on||Each year, over 3 million walleye (Stizostedion vitreum), approximately 10% of the population of Lake Erie, run the Detroit River. Once the walleye spawn on rocky substrate within the river, larval fish travel to the marsh and use it as an essential nursery habitat. The wetlands provide spawning and nursery areas for yellow perch (Perca flavescens), muskellunge (Esox masquinongy), brown bullhead (Ameiurus nebulosus) and many other fishes. In addition, Humbug Marsh serves as one of the only remaining spawning and nursery areas for forage fishes, which rely on the significant cover of emergent and submergent vegetation for their survival.|
2. Transformation of the Refuge Gateway
2.1. Environmental Education and a Visitor Center
2.2. Daylighting Monguagon Creek
2.3. Shoreline Restoration
2.4. Additional Unexpected Discoveries
2.5. Sustainability and Stewardship
If design is the signal of human intention, then we must continually ask ourselves—What are our intentions for our children, for the children of all species, for all time? How do we profitably and boldly manifest the best of those intentions?
3. Public Access, Use, and Partnerships
4. Concluding Thoughts and Lessons Learned
- reach broad-based agreement on a long-term sustainability vision founded on a sense of place (i.e., a characteristic held by people that makes a place special or unique and that fosters a sense of authentic human attachment and belonging);
- identify a key champion who is well recognized throughout the region, is trusted, and can open doors, help bring in partners, and build capacity;
- establish a core project delivery team;
- ensure all regulatory agencies are involved up front in the process to ensure buy-in, support for project, and timely review and approval of permits;
- recruit and inspire partners to get involved in all aspects of the project (e.g., building a native plant entry garden, planting trees, removing invasive species, etc.), founded on cooperative learning and action;
- expect the unexpected and keep focused on the long-term vision;
- use an adaptive management process that assesses problems and opportunities, sets priorities, and takes actions in an iterative fashion for continuous improvement is essential;
- place a priority on sound science-based decision making that can result in more cost- and ecosystem effective actions;
- ensure transparency in the decision-making process;
- measure and celebrate successes throughout the process to sustain project momentum;
- quantify benefits and manifest them to attract new partners and help retain existing ones; and
- place a high priority on education and outreach to help develop the next generation of conservationists and sustainability entrepreneurs.
Conflict of Interest
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Comprehensive Conservation Plan and Environmental Assessment for the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: Grosse Ile, MI, USA, 2005. Available online: www.fws.gov/midwest/planning/detroitriver/ (accessed on 27 January 2012).
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and International Wildlife Refuge Alliance, Building Our Refuge: Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and International Wildlife Refuge Alliance: Grosse Ile, MI, USA, 2008.
- Ramsar Convention Secretariat. The Ramsar Convention Manual: A guide to the Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, Iran, 1971); Ramsar Convention Secretariat: Gland, Switzerland, 2011, 5th ed. Available online: http://www.ramsar.org/cda/en/ramsar-pubs-manual-manual5/main/ramsar/1-30-35%5E25489_4000_0__ (accessed on 27 January 2012).
- Metropolitan Affairs Coalition. A Conservation Vision for the Lower Detroit River Ecosystem; Metropolitan Affairs Coalition: Detroit, Michigan, USA, 2001. Available online: www.fws.gov/midwest/detroitriver/documents/ahrconservation.pdf (accessed on 27 January 2012).
- Stell, C. Administrative Order of Consent, Covenants Not to Sue and Contribution Protection; Michigan Circuit Court of the County of Ingham: Lansing, MI, USA, 1994. [Google Scholar]
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and International Wildlife Refuge Alliance, Building Our International Wildlife Refuge in the Industrial Heartland; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and International Wildlife Refuge Alliance: Grosse Ile, MI, USA, 2005.
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Why Humbug Marsh? U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: Grosse Ile, MI, USA, 2011. Available online: http://www.fws.gov/midwest/detroitriver/HumbugWhy.html (accessed on 27 January 2012).
- Hamilton Anderson Associates, Refuge Gateway Master Plan; Hamilton Anderson Associates: Detroit, MI, USA, 2004.
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Photographs of Refuge Gateway Before and After Daylighting; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: Grosse Ile, MI, USA, 2011.
- Council on Environmental Quality. Proceedings of the White House Conference on Cooperative Conservation; Council on Environmental Quality: St. Louis, Missouri, USA, 2005. Available online: http://cooperativeconservation.gov/contact.html (accessed on 27 January 2012).
- Downriver Linked Greenways Initiative. Available online: www.downrivergreenways.org (accessed on 27 January 2012).
- Metropolitan Affairs Coalition. Detroit Heritage River Water Trail; Metropolitan Affairs Coalition: Detroit, Michigan, USA, 2006. Available online: www.mac-web.org/Projects/HeritageWaterTrail.htm (accessed on 27 January 2012).
- Outdoor Industry Foundation. The Active Outdoor Recreation Economy; Outdoor Industry Foundation: Boulder, Colorado, USA, 2006. Available online: www.outdoorfoundation.org/pdf/ResearchRecreationEconomy.pdf (accessed on 27 January 2012).
- Metropolitan Affairs Coalition. Byways to Flyways: A Driving Tour of Featured Birding Locations in the Windsor-Detroit Metropolitan Area; Metropolitan Affairs Coalition: Detroit, Michigan, USA, 2007. Available online: www.mac-web.org/Projects/DiscoverOurWildSide/BywaysToFlyways.htm (accessed on 27 January 2012).
- U.S. Department of the InteriorFish and Wildlife ServiceU.S. Department of Commerce2006 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation; U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service, and U.S. Department of Commerce: Washington, DC, USA, 2006.
© 2012 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open-access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/).
Hartig, J.H.; Krueger, A.; Rice, K.; Niswander, S.F.; Jenkins, B.; Norwood, G. Transformation of an Industrial Brownfield into an Ecological Buffer for Michigan’s Only Ramsar Wetland of International Importance. Sustainability 2012, 4, 1043-1058. https://doi.org/10.3390/su4051043
Hartig JH, Krueger A, Rice K, Niswander SF, Jenkins B, Norwood G. Transformation of an Industrial Brownfield into an Ecological Buffer for Michigan’s Only Ramsar Wetland of International Importance. Sustainability. 2012; 4(5):1043-1058. https://doi.org/10.3390/su4051043Chicago/Turabian Style
Hartig, John H., Allison Krueger, Kelly Rice, Steven F. Niswander, Burke Jenkins, and Greg Norwood. 2012. "Transformation of an Industrial Brownfield into an Ecological Buffer for Michigan’s Only Ramsar Wetland of International Importance" Sustainability 4, no. 5: 1043-1058. https://doi.org/10.3390/su4051043