The Michigan Department of Natural Resources today marked the launch of its long-awaited Outdoor Adventure and Discovery Center in downtown Detroit. The new facility – an innovative destination providing residents and visitors of all ages with hands-on, interactive experiences in outdoor recreation – will be housed in the historic Globe Building, located along the Detroit Riverfront at the site of the former Globe Trading Company, 1900 Atwater St. 

Today’s ceremonies featured presentations by city and state dignitaries, followed by a bike ride along the Dequindre Cut Greenway to Detroit’s Eastern Market. 

“The Outdoor Adventure and Discovery Center project is an exciting next step in fulfilling a vision for Detroit’s Riverfront and serves as a shining example of what city and state, public and private partnerships and collaboration can achieve,” Gov. Rick Snyder said. “This is what place making is all about. And the project will help generate additional economic development and neighborhood revitalization that are core to Detroit’s and Michigan’s comeback.” 

The roughly 42,000-square-foot Outdoor Adventure and Discovery Center is a collaboration among the city of Detroit, the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation (DEGC) and the DNR. Key partners in the project include the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund 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 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 $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.

“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 geared toward creating a downtown Detroit destination where more people can learn about Michigan’s diverse natural resources and recreation options. 

The Globe Building, adjacent to the William G. Milliken State Park and Harbor, 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 150-year-old building and its place in Detroit’s history will be preserved as it moves into this new phase of service to the city and its residents.a

Image courtesy Michigan DNR

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