The Refuge Gateway

Restored shoreline at the Refuge Gateway

The 44-acre Refuge Gateway property is located on the banks of the Detroit River in Trenton, Michigan adjacent to the northern boundary of Humbug Marsh

  • History

    Aerial view of Gateway Site

    Beginning in 1946, the Refuge Gateway property was operated by Chrysler Corporation as a manufacturing facility for brake pad adhesives for automobiles, blended oils, paints, sealers, powdered metal parts, asbestos brake pads, and phenolic brake pistons.  The plant was deactivated in 1990 and underwent removal of all above-ground structures.  

    In 2002, the property was purchased by Wayne County to become the gateway to the international wildlife refuge and to become the future home of the  Refuge Visitor Center.  

    Refuge Gateway Timeline 

    1946-1990: Formerly owned by Chrysler Corporation, the Refuge Gateway was operated as an automotive brake and paint plant facility for 44 years. The facility was closed in 1990 and remediated to State of Michigan criteria for industrial/commercial use. The result - an industrial brownfield left to sit vacant for the next 12 years.

    1994: Consent Decree signed, with restrictive covenants.

    2000: Conservation Vision approved by United States and Canada.In 2000, then Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Herb Grey and U.S. Congressman John Dingell (15th District of Michigan) charged a group of scientists and managers to clearly define a desired future state for the Detroit River ecosystem. The product of this 2000 visioning workshop was a consensus document titled ―A Conservation Vision for the Lower Detroit River Ecosystem.

    2001: U.S. and Canadian participants in the 2000 visioning workshop agreed to the following vision statement: "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." This consensus vision was then used by Congressman John Dingell to introduce legislation creating the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge (DRIWR) that was signed into law by the President of the United States on December 21, 2001.

    2002: Wayne County acquires the site from Chrysler for development as the Refuge Gateway, in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and other key community organizations.

    2004: Wayne County, USFWS, and partners complete a Master Plan for the Gateway to guide cleanup, restoration and construction work for public–use infrastructure. The Master Plan is a cohesive redesign of the Refuge Gateway property focusing on sustainable practices that will improve wildlife habitat while creating a world-class visitor’s experience.

    2005: Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) completed. The Refuge Gateway is identified as the proposed site for the Refuge's future visitor center.

    2006: A Schematic Plan was developed for the site to provide more details and preliminary cost estimates to begin a capital campaign. Proposed public-use infrastructure for the Refuge Gateway includes a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum Visitor Center, a boat dock and fishing pier, a kayak landing, innovative storm water treatment wetlands and greenway trails, as well as a grading plan that will enhance the existing remediation to meet human health and wildlife standards, and the restoration of endemic fish and wildlife habitat.

    2006-2007: Wayne County Parks awarded Kresge Foundation “Green Building Initiative” Grant to assist with planning of green site features and LEED-certification.

    2008: Hiking 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 complete and capping and final grade achieved on 30% of site. The piped Monguagon Drain passed through the site into Humbug Marsh as a natural creek prior to industrial development. Today, the drain is daylighted and naturally filtered before releasing into its historical route through Humbug Marsh.

    2010: Greenway trail completed linking Lake Erie Metropark Unit with the Humbug Marsh Unit and Refuge Gateway. The trail, which can be used for biking and hiking, is part of Downriver Linked Greenways Initiative, a community effort that wants to link Downriver communities through nonmotorized pathways.

    2011: In fall 2011, the Detroit River Shoreline Restoration Project was completed at the Refuge Gateway that included restoring a natural shoreline, removal of human-placed fill and debris to restore over three acres of riparian buffer habitat, and construction of a second access road and kayak landing.

    2012: All cleanup and restoration work completed at Refuge Gateway. Design work initiated for the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center at Gateway site. 

    Click to enlarge image. 

  • Site Description

    Aerial view of Gateway Site

    The 44-acre Refuge Gateway is located on the Trenton Channel of the Detroit River in Trenton, Michigan. It is a brownfield site that is being restored as the Refuge Gateway. Immediately adjacent to the Refuge Gateway is Humbug Marsh – the last mile of natural shoreline on the U.S. mainland of the Detroit River.

    Over 50 years ago the entire Refuge Gateway shoreline of the Trenton Channel was filled to accommodate the industrial development of the site, destroying many coastal wetlands. Restoration work at the site will recreate a more natural shoreline at the Refuge Gateway from upland habitats through shrub-scrub, emergent wetlands, submergent wetlands, and transitioning out to paulstrine habitats. In total, 18 acres of wetlands and 26 acres of prairie/buffer habitats will be restored at the Refuge Gateway.

    The innovative restoration work being completed at the Refuge Gateway represents a net gain in wetlands in an area that has lost 97% of its coastal wetlands to development. By restoring these coastal wetlands and adjacent buffer habitats, the ecological buffer is being improved for Humbug Marsh, Michigan's only Wetland of International Importance.

    Click to enlarge image.

  • Habitat Restoration

    Restored shoreline at the Refuge Gateway

    Over the past six years, the Refuge Gateway has undergone a dramatic landscape transformation from former industrial site to restored wildlife habitat. Restoration efforts have included brownfield cap enhancement, installation of native seed, and the planting of large native trees. The goal at the Refuge Gateway is to restore quality coastal habitat, including wetland, prairie, and forest ecosystems, and build roads, parking, and trails required for full public access. Areas not receiving restored habitat or infrastructure will be used to construct the Visitor Center for the Refuge.

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  • Blueway & Kayak Landing

    Person in kayak

    The Metropolitan Affairs Coalition and many partners developed a Detroit Heritage River Water Trail that features opportunities for kayaking and canoeing. This unique ‘blueway’ or water-trail was established to promote close-to-home paddle-based recreational opportunities and ecotourism. As part of the Detroit Heritage River Water Trail, a kayak landing was constructed at the Refuge Gateway in 2011.

    Click to enlarge image.