Soft opening announced - IWRA

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Dingell, Wayne County Announce Soft Opening for Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge Gateway and Visitor Center

Refuge Trails & Fishing Pier Open to the Public on
Thursday, October 1



TRENTON, MI – Today, September 28, 2020 Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (D-MI) – along with Wayne County Executive Warren C. Evans, Trenton Mayor Steven Rzeppa, and the International Wildlife Refuge Alliance (IWRA) – announced a soft opening date for the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge Gateway.

Beginning October 1, 2020, the lands and waters of the Refuge Gateway – a collaborative partnership that is owned and co-managed by Wayne County and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – will open to the public every Thursday through Sunday, during daylight hours. This includes access to on-site parking, the 700-foot fishing pier, portions of Humbug Marsh Orange and Green Trails, Humbug Observation deck, Monguagon Boardwalk, picnic tables, bike trails, and a few porta potties.

Please note that the visitor center – including exterior restrooms – will remain closed due to concerns related to public safety and COVID-19. Visitors are encouraged to adhere to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 safety guidelines throughout the site.  An announcement will be made at a later date when the Visitor Center is ready to be opened.

“Opening the refuge for the public has been a long-time coming, but I’m thrilled the day is here and now the whole community can take advantage of this very special place,” said Dingell. “During COVID, everyone deserves the opportunity to be a tourist in their own community. The Refuge is a critical service to the Downriver community and a place for all to appreciate the outdoors. This refuge was John’s dream and his footprints are all over. His vision is now a reality and a place to gather, learn and protect the wildlife and natural resources that make our region unique. After decades, and the incredibly hard work of many, the grounds of Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge Gateway will open on Thursday, October 1. We still have work to be done, volunteers will be trained, the visitor center will be opened down the road. But for now - being at the refuge truly reinforces one’s appreciation of the outdoors, and I hope everyone can visit soon.”

“The Detroit River National Wildlife Refuge contributes to a well-balanced quality of life for county residents while providing needed habitat for many of the migratory and native species unique to the Detroit River and the eastern Great Lakes region,” said County Executive Evans. “Wayne County residents have unparalleled access to a diversity of parks and out-of-door activities that provide important recreational and educational opportunities for our residents. The Detroit River National Wildlife Refuge in an important addition to the cultural and environmental attributes of the Downriver area.”

“I am so excited that we are able to finally make this announcement together. After years and years of leadership from Congresswoman Dingell and work by countless individuals and organizations, Congressman John Dingell's vision is finally going to become a reality. Folks from across the state and country of all ages and backgrounds will be able to come here and enjoy all the wildlife, natural resources, and conservation efforts our area has to offer. I'm really looking forward to the opportunity we have to showcase this in Trenton and the impact it will have for generations,” said Trenton Mayor Steven Rzeppa.

"This is the realization of a dream held by many people for a long time. On behalf of the International Wildlife Refuge Alliance Board of Directors, thank you to the more than 300 partnerships and the hundreds of people who have worked and supported the vision of restoring an industrial brownfield to a public green space, offering recreational and educational access in an urban setting. IWRA is grateful to all of you and to have had the opportunity to work with both John and Debbie Dingell in their dedicated efforts to ensure Wayne County and the US Fish and Wildlife Service are able to open these lands for the public to enjoy," said Joann Van Aken, Executive Director of International Wildlife Refuge Alliance.

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.

Dingell visited the Refuge in July to see the progress towards opening. You can watch her visit, archived on Facebook, here.

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.
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