A unique partnership between Wayne County Community College District and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge will create a pipeline of next-generation conservationists and sustainability entrepreneurs to take root in southeast Michigan.
The mission of WCCCD has always been to provide pathways to better lives through higher education, and this partnership fits well within that mission.
Curtis L. Ivery, WCCCD Chancellor
The partnership will provide new training space near the shores of the Humbug Marsh, including a 12,000 Gold LEED-certified visitor center with multipurpose spaces and classrooms, as well as a 740-foot school ship dock and fishing pier, a canoe and kayak launch, three wildlife observation decks, outdoor classroom spaces and more than three miles of hiking trails connected to more than 100 miles of greenway trails next year.
The work of the partnership also includes helping clean up and restore an industrial brownfield into a gateway to the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge – the site of the visitor center that is adjacent to Michigan’s only “Wetland of International Importance” – Humbug Marsh.
“The mission of WCCCD has always been to provide pathways to better lives through higher education, and this partnership fits well within that mission,” said WCCCD Chancellor Curtis L. Ivery. “By working together, we are providing conduits to emerging careers that are in demand and that our students have asked for by name. We feel particularly fortunate that this partnership is providing access to some of the only training environment of its kind in the world.”
“This partnership allows us to extend our career and academic programming in exciting ways, while making a meaningful impact in the communities that we serve,” said WCCCD Downriver Campus President Anthony Arminiak. “This is a partnership that can be integrated into other agriculture and horticulture training programs we are creating now.”
WCCCD last fall announced its new Horticulture Education Center, a new structure that will be completed on the Downriver Campus in 2018. That center will provide certificate and associate degree programs for those seeking careers in landscape and restoration, hydroponics, aquaponics, irrigation, urban agriculture and more.
“This is a transformational project for metro Detroit,” said Dr. John Hartig, Refuge Manager of the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge. “The cleanup and restoration of the Refuge Gateway is the only project in the world to successfully clean up an industrial brownfield sufficiently to serve as an ecological buffer for a ‘Wetland of International Importance.’ Humbug Marsh and other Refuge wetlands are now preserved in perpetuity for conservation and environmental education.”
“We also see this as an opportunity to engage the broader community, to educate and inspire youth and to model sustainability as a way to attract investment and broaden opportunity for all,” Arminiak said. “The possibilities are really limitless.”
The Refuge visitor center opened in late 2017.