Dingell, U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Announces
May 2020 Date for Grand Opening of
Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge Gateway and Visitor Center
GROSSE ILE, MI – On October 7, 2019, Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (D-MI), the U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, announced that on May 9, 2020, there will be an event to mark the Grand Opening of the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge Gateway and visitor center.
The Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge is the first and only international refuge in North America and stretches along the shoreline of the Detroit River and western Lake Erie. The refuge focuses on conserving, protecting, and restoring habitats for 30 species of waterfowl, 117 kinds of fish, and over 300 species of birds, while providing quality opportunities for people to connect with nature. It is home to a variety of ecologically important bird species, including bald eagles, ospreys, peregrine falcons; fish species including whitefish, sturgeon, salmon, perch, and walleye.
“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 Dingell. “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.”
“President Trump and I are committed to expanding access and use of our public lands, and the grand opening of the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge Gateway and visitor center will be another excellent way for Michiganders to enjoy the great outdoors,” said Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt. “This visitor center will provide a place for all to develop a love of the great outdoors through education and exploration.”
“We are proud to announce that we will be opening the new John D Dingell Jr. Visitor Center to the public on May 9, 2020,” said U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Regional Director Charlie Wooley. “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 and we hope everyone will come out and help us celebrate this Spring."
In the early 2000s, then-Representative John Dingell joined then-Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Herb Grey to form a group of local, regional, state, and federal agencies to establish a wildlife refuge along the lower Detroit River ecosystem. Mr. Dingell grew up hunting and enjoying the outdoors in these same areas and made it his mission to establish the refuge. The process formally began in 2001 when President Bush signed legislation written by Dingell to create the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge. Since that time, the refuge has grown from a couple of small tracts of land into a 6,200-acre refuge that spans 48 miles of the lower Detroit River and western Lake Erie.
The Refuge Gateway embodies the vision of the refuge. Co-managed by Wayne County and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, it includes restored native habitat on the site of a former factory, a 700-foot fishing pier into the Detroit River, and a state-of-the-art LEED-certified visitor center and offices. The Refuge Gateway will provide public access to the river in Trenton, Michigan, and is the gateway into the hiking trails of the refuge’s Humbug Marsh, the last undeveloped mile along the U.S. side of the river. In 2017, the visitor center was named after John Dingell as a tribute to his decades of service in establishing and expanding the refuge.
More details about the May 9, 2020 Grand Opening will be released as they become available.
2018 John D. Dingell Friend of the Refuge Awards
On Tuesday, April 17th at Gibraltar City Hall, two John D. Dingell Friend of the Refuge Awards were given in recognition of leadership and dedication to conservation on the Detroit River and western Lake Erie Basin. This year’s honorees were Richard E. Mills (Individual Award) and The Nature Conservancy (Non-Profit Award).
Read more about the awards and the recipients here (PDF).
IWRA Chair Richard Micka, Deputy District Director Michael Klotz (representing Congresswoman Debbie Dingell and John Dingell), Richard and Cheryl Mills, and IWRA Executive Director Joann Van Aken. The 2018 Friend of the Refuge- Individual Award was presented to Mr. Richard Mills on Tuesday, April 17 at Gibraltar City Hall. Photo: Mark Messer
IWRA Chair Richard Micka, Deputy District Director Michael Klotz (representing Congresswoman Debbie Dingell and John Dingell), TNC Restoration Director Chris May, IWRA Executive Director Joann Van Aken, and TNC Associate State Director Patrick Doran. The 2018 Friend of the Refuge- Non-Profit Award was presented to The Nature Conservancy on Tuesday, April 17 at Gibraltar City Hall. Photo: Mark Messer
New Regional Treaty a Boost for Migratory Birds
More than fifty people, including students from the Ralph J. Bunche Preparatory Academy, assembled on the Detroit Riverwalk to witness Metropolitan Detroit become the 29th U.S. city in the Urban Bird Treaty program. The program was established in 1999 as a collaborative effort among federal, state and local governments, non-governmental organizations, and academic institutions to create bird-friendly environments and to provide citizens the opportunities to connect with nature through birding and conservation activities.
Read more about the signing in this article from the Trenton (MI) Tribune.
Good News About the Detroit River Outlined
In an article for "The Outdoor Wire," James D. Swan, Ph.D.provides an overview of the Detroit River, from its early colonial days as a waterway for French colonists, to industrial dumping ground by the United States and Canada, to pollution control efforts in the early 20th century, and finally to environmental success stories of the last couple of decades. Dr. Swan shares family recollections and observations from Detroit River IWR manager Dr. John Hartig. To read the article, go to www.theoutdoorwire.com/features/231925.
John D. Dingell Friend of the Refuge Awards for 2017
On May 15, 2017 at the Gibraltar (MI) City Hall, the IWRA announced the winners of this year's John D. Dingell Friend of the Refuge awards, in recognition of leadership and dedication to conservation on the Detroit River and the western Lake Erie Basin. The honorees were Dr. Russell G. Kreis, Jr. (individual honoree); Michigan Sea Grant (non-profit honoree), and CN Rail (corporate honoree). Read more about each recipient and the awards. Click on the photos to enlarge.
New Refuge Visitor Center named for John D. Dingell, Jr.
Detroit News photo by Todd McInturf
At a ceremony January 14, 2017, officials with the US Fish & Wildlife Service's Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge announced that the new visitor center, currently under construction, will be named for former US Representative John D. Dingell, Jr. Dingell, who served nearly sixty years in Congress, championed the refuge as well as a host of environmental initiatives and conservation legislation.
Project S.N.A.P. Mosaic Mural Coming Soon
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We have received all the funding that was needed for the Project S.N.A.P. Mosaic Mural. Thank you to all who contributed; we greatly appreciate the support!
The mural will be revealed with the grand opening of the Refuge Visitor Center.
Blue Goose Bus Fund - Help students visit the Refuge!
The IWRA's Blue Goose Bus Fund will help schools and educators experience the Detroit River IWR by helping to offset the costs of bus transportation to and from the Refuge.
For more information, contact Executive Director Joann Van Aken at email@example.com or 734-692-7671.
Construction on the Fishing Pier Continues:
completion expected soon
For more photos of the design and the construction, visit the Photo Gallery page.