Spring 2010
Vol. 18 No. 1

In this issue...

Reflections from the President

Board Member News

News from Washington

Intrepid Pond

Update: Nature Area Gibraltar Bay Unit of the Detroit River Refuge

Hennepin Marsh Clean-up

Boy Scout Project

2010 GI Conservationist of the Year Award

Special Projects

Annual Meeting

Earth Day

Honors & Recognitions

Stewardship Corner

Memorials & Honorariums

Deer Resistant Plants

Did you know?

Upcoming Events...

April 24
Earth Day

1PM to 4PM
Centennial Farm

May 15
Dump the Junk Clean Up
Meet 9AM to Noon
Centennial Farm
Contact Pat Selby

November 6
Annual Meeting
10AM to 11:30AM
Centennial Farm


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Update: Nature Area Gibraltar Bay Unit of the Detroit River Refuge
by Liz Hugel

In late October I met with refuge and township management to discuss conditions for public use of what has been known as the Grosse Ile Nature Area. From 1993, when the Conservancy was founded, until 2008, the Nature Area covered the 40.5 acre former Nike missile site which was under the jurisdiction of the U.S. EPA and part of the adjacent Grosse Ile Municipal Airport. In 2008 ownership of the EPA's property was transferred to the US Fish & Wildlife Service's National Wildlife Refuge System.

Why were things changed?
Weren’t things fine just the way they were?

The mission of the EPA is to protect human health and to safeguard the natural environment - air, water and land - upon which life depends. The EPA facility on Grosse Ile was established as a research facility, with no real mandate to manage property and accommodate visitors. It was only because of the Conservancy's interest in being a steward of the property, helping to restore it to a natural state, that public access was deemed possible. With the establishment in 2001 of the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge, managed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, a more appropriate "property manager" appeared on the scene. This seemed ideal because in addition to the mission of conserving wildlife, the task of the national Refuge System is to manage wildlife-dependent recreational use by the American people.

So why has the area been closed all this time?

Over the years it had been determined that the concentrations of arsenic and lead in some areas of the former Nike site exceeded ecological risk thresholds. The FWS found that remediation would be required before the land could be used as a fish and wildlife habitat, as defined by the Refuge Standards. With debate between the Department of Defense's Army Corps of Engineers, the EPA, the Department of Interior's FWS and Michigan's DEQ (now DNRE), issues have been resolved and a re­opening is possible. For those wondering, for better or worse, the Corps did not perform any remediation on the property, so there will not be any "clay-capped hills." The area will look similar to the way it looked when it was closed in 2008, except that it has had minimal or no care and attention since that time.

So when will the Nature Area re-open?

The Conservancy expects to soon sign a Memorandum of understanding with the Township and the FWS to allow public access. There will be new stipulations restricting certain activities on the refuge property, but we expect it to be cause for celebration when the community can again enjoy and appreciate this beautiful area with its variety of ecosystems. After 15 years of efforts expended at the property creating trails, building observation overlooks, removing invasive plants and restoring the shoreline, the Conservancy is pleased to have the FWS take responsibility for its maintenance.