From left, Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel, Detroit Zoological Society Executive Director and CEO Ron Kagan and Macomb County Public Works Commissioner and zoo board member Candice Miller pose with jars of “Vitamin Z” during a press conference at the Macomb County Administration Building in Mount Clemens Feb. 13.

From left, Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel, Detroit Zoological Society Executive Director and CEO Ron Kagan and Macomb County Public Works Commissioner and zoo board member Candice Miller pose with jars of “Vitamin Z” during a press conference at the Macomb County Administration Building in Mount Clemens Feb. 13.

Photo by Sarah Wojcik


Detroit Zoo announces plans for $10 million nature center in Macomb County

By: Sarah Wojcik | C&G Newspapers | Published February 13, 2018

METRO DETROIT — On Feb. 13, officials announced plans for a $10 million, 20,000-square-foot, eco-friendly Great Lakes Nature Center in a to-be-determined waterfront location in Macomb County.

Detroit Zoological Society Executive Director and CEO Ron Kagan called the project a hybrid between a nature center and a science center with a “really huge” focus on education and science.

Kagan said the zoo’s Board of Directors unanimously approved the project approximately 10 days ago, and that the zoo plans to announce the location in the spring.

Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel said that, although officials have “some ideas” for a location along Lake St. Clair or the Clinton River, “we’re hoping we might get a few phone calls so we can look at other options.”

“This is, in a sense, a base camp for nature programs and activities,” Kagan said. “We have a lot of design work to do. We hope to start (construction) within a year, and the building will take about a year to build.”

Candice Miller, a zoo board member and Macomb County’s public works commissioner, stressed the importance of conservation efforts and advocacy for the water and wildlife of the Great Lakes area.

“We have not treated Mother Nature as well as we could have over the generations, and I see this as a critical component for really helping us with that dynamic,” Miller said. “I think this is going to be a national jewel.”

Kagan said that, with the Great Lakes providing 21 percent of the planet’s and 85 percent of the U.S.’s accessible fresh water, “really nothing is more important.”

He said the Great Lakes Nature Center would host many live animal exhibits and habitats, including a number of aquatic species, as well as other rescued and endangered animals, including small mammals, turtles, reptiles, amphibians, birds of prey and a butterfly garden — all indigenous to the Great Lakes.

“We expect to do a rescue with sandhill cranes,” Kagan said, adding that the species is considered to be the oldest living species of bird on the planet at 9 million years old.

Technology, he said, would also be a big focus, including a Science On a Sphere, which is a global environmental education system, and a Smartflower, which is a device geared to harness solar power and raise awareness about environmental sustainability.

The zoo’s ongoing field initiatives to be highlighted at the nature center include conservation efforts for Blanding’s turtles, mudpuppies, massasauga rattlesnakes, piping plovers, common terns, black terns, ospreys and bats, according to a zoo press release.

“We really will need help to do a lot of fundraising to make this a reality, so if there are people who are out there who care about the environment, please let us know. We want to go as fast as possible, and we also need lots of volunteers,” Kagan said. “We’re exploring all options, including with the folks in Lansing and other environmental agencies.”

He said he expects the Great Lakes Nature Center to attract 150,000-200,000 visitors annually, employ approximately 20 people and cost a “modest” fee. He estimated $6-$7 for adults and $3-$4 for children.

The Detroit Zoological Society, a nonprofit organization, operates the Detroit Zoo and Belle Isle Nature Center.

For more information, call (248) 541-5717 or visit detroitzoo.org.