Michigan is taking the outdoors inside—literally—with the creation of a new Outdoor Adventure and Discovery Center in Detroit. The purpose of the center is to introduce visitors of all ages to outdoor recreation opportunities in Michigan through a series of hands-on, interactive “experiences.”
The roughly 42,000-square-foot Outdoor Adventure and Discovery Center, which will be housed in Detroit’s historic Globe Building, is a collaborative effort between the city of Detroit, the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Key partners in the project include the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund, which provided a $9 million grant to acquire the Globe Building, and the Roxbury Group, a local developer.
“The goal of everyone involved in this venture is to create a downtown destination where people living in or visiting an urban area can experience the adventure and excitement of Michigan’s great outdoors, gain confidence in participating in outdoor recreation activities, and understand more about protecting our state’s unique natural resources,” said DNR Director Keith Creagh. “We feel the Globe Building project provides the right hub for outdoor experiences and fits that niche perfectly.”
The center will be available to the public free of charge, and the DNR hopes that it will serve as a launch pad to inspire people to get involved in outdoor pursuits like hunting, fishing, shooting and camping.
Local and state officials attended a groundbreaking ceremony for the center on Oct. 6.
The $12.8 million facility will house a ropes challenge course; an archery range; simulated experiences for kayaking, fishing and skeet shooting; and instructional and hands-on areas where visitors can learn lifelong outdoor skills such as pitching a tent or building a campfire.
Other center activities will focus on natural resources management, with sections on tree planting, erosion control, fish hatcheries, biology of a healthy stream, and simulated logging experiences. The intent here is to reach out to Michigan educators with “extended classroom” opportunities, offering integrated natural resources, biology and environmental lessons that will complement teachers’ learning plans.
After exploring the offerings at the center, DNR staff will be on hand to help users get out and experience the outdoors on their own.
“The DNR hopes to see the Outdoor Adventure and Discovery Center take hold as an outdoor recreation ‘base camp’ that will inspire people to get out and explore Michigan’s woods and waters on their own,” said Ron Olson, chief of the DNR’s Parks and Recreation Division.
“This center will be designed to expose people of all ages to new opportunities in outdoor recreation,” Olson explained. “It could be as simple as someone experiencing for the first time what it feels like to maneuver a kayak or as life-changing as considering a career in conservation or wildlife biology.
“It’s all about providing access and opportunity.”
The Outdoor Adventure and Discovery Center is one step in a multiphase project involving harbor renovation, park improvements, installation of play equipment, and trail development along Detroit’s riverfront geared toward creating a downtown destination where more people can learn about Michigan’s diverse natural resources and recreation options.
“The renovation and reuse of a historic warehouse as the Outdoor Adventure and Discovery Center represents an important transition as we move from an era of riverfront factories to a new time of homes, shops and parks,” said George W. Jackson, Jr., president and CEO of the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation. “This riverfront was once an important asset that helped Detroit become a great manufacturing center and hub for international trade. For us, it is still an important asset that is helping Detroit re-establish itself as a great place to live, work and play.”
The Globe Building, adjacent to the William G. Milliken State Park and Harbor—Michigan’s only urban state park—has played a part in Detroit’s industrial life since the late 1860s. According to The Detroit RiverFront Conservancy, the building first housed the Dry Dock Engine Works, which employed a young Henry Ford as an apprentice. At the turn of the 20th century, the company was absorbed by the Detroit Shipbuilding Co., according to records compiled by the National Park Service. When the Detroit Shipbuilding Co. dissolved in the late 1920s, the former engine-building plant was used by a stove manufacturer, the Detroit Edison Co., for appliance repair and, finally, the Globe Trading Company, a wholesale machinery firm.
The DNR said it hopes to have the center completed by late 2013 or early 2014.
Related: South Dakota’s Outdoor Campus Brings Kids Into Hunting