Great Lakes Nature Center to open in Detroit Area

Great Lakes Nature Center to open in Detroit Area
February 15, 2018 Mary Ellen Geist
Photo courtesy of Lawrence Crovo via

The focus: protecting water and wildlife

Photo courtesy of Mark Goebel via

Detroit Detroit Zoological Society Entrance, courtesy of Mark Goebel

When you think of the Detroit Zoological Society, you probably have visions of the Detroit Zoo in Royal Oak and its famous penguins, polar bears, zebras, giraffes, and apes.

But the Detroit Zoological Society (DZS) isn’t just about introducing people to rare animals from exotic places. It’s about setting an example about being stewards of the earth and educating people about protecting precious resources.

That’s why DZS announced this week it is selecting Macomb County as the home of the new Great Lakes Nature Center.

Ron Kagan, CEO Detroit Zoological Society

DZS Executive Director and CEO Ron Kagan tells Great Lakes Now the announcement represents a much greater physical presence for the Detroit Zoological Society. He says, “We currently operate two campuses. First, there’s the Detroit Zoo which is the number one paid tourist attraction in the state, as well as a nature center on Belle Isle which focusses primarily on urban wildlife and is a base camp for nature activities and programs on Belle Isle itself. The Great Lakes Nature Center is going to be our third campus.”

A major waterfront center devoted to the natural wonders of the Great Lakes

Kagan says, “Macomb County has been a champion in respect to the Great Lakes, water quality, and water conservation.  Its 32 miles of coastline along Lake St. Clair and 31 Miles on the Clinton River make it a perfect spot for a major waterfront nature center devoted to the natural wonders of the Great Lakes.”

The vision, says Kagan: The Great Lakes Nature Center would be home to Great Lakes fish like sturgeon and paddlefish, sand hill cranes, native amphibians, reptiles, turtles, small animals, shorebirds and birds of prey, as well as a large native butterfly garden.  Kagan says rescued wildlife would become permanent residents.

Photo courtesy of USFWSmidwest via wikimedia

Kirtland’s Warbler, Grayling, MI, courtesy of USFWSmidwest

Conservation and educational programs are part of the plan, including field work in the Great Lakes. Birding, astronomy, and citizen science will be regular program offerings, as well as education on the economic importance of North America’s freshwater inland seas. And Kagan says programs will be offered about the earth and climate, as well as high-tech exhibits connected to the other two zoo locations. Macomb County’s Green Schools and Macomb Community College and other educational institutions will participate in many of the programs.

Kagan says the center will be one of the largest nature attractions of its kind dedicated entirely to the Great Lakes, which hold 21 percent of the Earth’s accessible fresh water.

Kagan says his hope is that the center will “engage and excite the community of southeast Michigan to get more involved in proper public policy and management of water resources.”

Kagan says several sites are being considered. Construction on the 20,000 square foot facility is expected to begin later this year. Estimated cost? $10 million. The final site of the Great Lakes Nature Center will be announced in the spring.

“The Great Lakes Nature Center will play a significant role in educating the community about protecting this valuable natural resource”

Kagan says the center will most likely bring about 200,000 visitors a year. Kagan says DZS is reaching out to the community to help raise funds and volunteer.

The center will be a green building powered by solar and hydro power, Kagan says, and the plan is to have the building be constructed at a location close to the water.

Macomb County Public Works Commissioner, who serves on the DZS Board of Directors says, “In addition to being a beautiful and bountiful resource for tourism and recreation in Macomb County, the Great Lakes serve as a major thoroughfare for transportation and trade.” Miller says, “The Great Lakes Nature Center will play a significant role in educating the community about protecting this valuable natural resource.”

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Featured Image courtesy of Lawrence Crovo via


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