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A major addition to the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge Gateway in Trenton and Gibraltar is one step closer to reality.

The Wayne County Commission voted 15-0 Nov. 5 to approve a $1 million agreement with the Downriver Community Conference through Dec. 31, 2016, to build a boat dock and fishing pier at the 44-acre facility off West Jefferson Avenue near Vreeland Road. The project will extend 775 feet into the Detroit River and include a fishing pier that can accommodate 100 people, a floating dock for the Michigan Sea Grant educational program boat, seating areas, shade structures and interpretive signs.

"This is a great addition to the refuge and will make the river that much more accessible to the public, which is an important benefit of why the refuge was created in the first place," said Wayne County Commissioner Joseph Palamara, D-Grosse Ile Twp., whose 15th District includes Gibraltar and Trenton. "The refuge has allowed nature to move back into that area, and people can see that up close. The Detroit River is a great place to go fishing, and the Michigan Sea Grant provides such a valuable resource to teachers and the public alike with its programs aboard the boat."

Of the $1 million, half will come from a Michigan Department of Natural Resources Trust Fund grant and the other half will come from Wayne County Parks money. The total cost of the project is estimated at $2.85 million, with the rest coming from other sources. The Southgate-based Downriver Community Conference, an alliance of 20 cities and townships in Wayne County, is coordinating the project, including overseeing the construction contract.

The contract is expected to be awarded this fall.

The Refuge Gateway is part of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service's Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge, which includes more than 5,800 acres along 48 miles of the lower Detroit River and western Lake Erie. It's North America's only international wildlife refuge, and is home to more than 300 species of birds and more than 100 species of fish. The refuge's Humbug Marsh Unit contains the last mile of undeveloped shoreline along the Detroit River.

The Refuge Gateway property was home to a Chrysler Corp. manufacturing facility from 1946 to 1990. The buildings were removed and Wayne County purchased the land in 2002. Construction of a 12,000-square-foot visitor center on the property is expected to be complete in spring 2017.