HARRISON TOWNSHIP — Local “birders” are reveling in the newest addition to Lake St. Clair Metropark.
Yes, the rare American avocets, blackbirds, dabbling ducks and great horned owls — among 230 common species that flock to the area each spring — are reasons enough to come out to the 770-acre park for hours of relaxing bird-watching. However, there’s something new at the park that’s making this hobby much more enjoyable.
A 700-foot-long boardwalk at Pointe Rose Marsh near the day sail area is leading bird-watching enthusiasts, nature photographers, and avid walkers and joggers through the marsh to the park’s picturesque nature trails.
Dianne Martin — director of Resource Assessment and Management with ASTI Environmental, the Brighton-based company that designed the boardwalk — said the project was made possible through a $1.27 million U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grant aimed at cleaning and restoring precious marshlands in Lake St. Clair Metropark,
“The main purpose of the boardwalk is to bring people into the marshlands,” said Martin.
The boardwalk project started last fall and continued through the winter. It is nearing completion.
“We’ve had an amazing response already and the project is only about 85 percent complete,” Martin said. “What’s nice about it is that it connects on one side with the existing nature trail system. It’s already attracting a lot of the birders.”
There is also an observation deck that will soon have benches and some educational signage, she said.
But the boardwalk project isn’t just about aesthetic improvements and ease of access to the marshlands; it’s about preserving the area’s coastal marshes.
Martin said there was a lot of work done before the start of the projects, and more is ongoing. Specifically, the first phase involved applying a herbicide to eliminate the invasive phragmites, a plant that she said has overrun native species in wetlands across the area. Additional spraying will take place this spring to eliminate what was missed last year.
“We also worked to improve the hydrology of the park,” she said during the May 9 groundbreaking of the $3.3 million parking lot improvement project at the metropark. A key element of that project is to redirect the flow of storm water from the existing outlet at Black Creek to the open-water outlet at the Point Rosa Marsh.
Martin said water control structures were added to help improve water flow through the marsh.
She said coastal marshes are important because they provide a natural filtration system for surrounding bodies of water and aid in providing a source of clean drinking water.
“And marshes are a habitat for rare and threatened plant and animal species,” Martin said.
Lake St. Clair Metropark’s (formerly called Metro Beach) coastal marshland system provides a rest stop for migrating birds in the fall and in the spring.
Tim Phillips, a planner with Huron-Clinton Metroparks, said the boardwalk project is a partnership between Macomb County — which applied for the grant — the Clinton River Watershed Council, the state Department of Natural Resources, Harrison Township and Wayne State and Oakland universities.
Lake St. Clair Metropark’s summer hours are 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekdays and 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. weekends and on holidays.
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