for the Future
The following information is excerpted from the Rouge River
Partnership for the Future brochure. For additional information
or to request a free copy of this brochure, contact the Rouge River
Information Hotline at (888) 223-2363.
(Photo-Caption: Powerhouse of the Ford Estate - Fair Lane)
Rouge River always has played a major role in the development of
its surrounding environment. The regions original mixture
of heavy forest and upland prairies supported Native American Peoples.
The Potawatomi Indians were among the first inhabitants to take
advantage of this region's rich soils and abundance of fur-bearing
animals. The river itself was called "Minosa Goink," which
means "Singeing Skin River," as this was the place where
game animals were dressed.
The French settled the Rouge Corridor in
the 1700's. French settlers would claim a few hundred feet of river
frontage and extend their farms deep into the forest. Remnants of
these "Ribbon Farms" still exist in metropolitan Detroit
today. The population grew as new immigrants became aware of the
region's agricultural and industrial potential.
Rapid urban growth and industrial development
characterized the early 20th century. Henry Ford purchased extensive
land tracts and built a farm tractor factory in Dearborn. He started
construction of a permanent residence in 1914. The Ford Estate -
Fair Lane, was situated at a bend in the River along a Native American
trail, now Fair Lane Road. Ford hired renowned landscape architect
Jens Jensen to design and develop the grounds.
When Jensen embarked on this prestigious
commission, the native landscape was no longer recognizable. Jensen
worked at reforesting much of the site and introduced elements of
his own prairie style design. Jensen also worked with Ford on plans
for the development of Historic Greenfield Village.
The construction of the Ford Rouge Complex
during World War I proved to be a defining moment in the rivers
history. This facility grew into the largest industrial complex
in the world with support industries up and down the adjacent riverbanks.
Industrial development waned in the second
half of the 20th century; although manufacturing remains a major
land use at the lower end of the corridor. New uses have evolved
along the River's recently channelized section. These include office
parks, senior housing, a golf course and recreation center. The
banks of the Rouge River are also home to the University of Michigan-Dearborn,
Henry Ford Community College, and The Henry Ford: America's Greatest History Attraction.
This historic river corridor and its bountiful
resources represent an important slice of American heritage. Yet,
exciting new developments continue to emerge. The Rouge River Gateway
Partnership is exploring solutions to restore the vibrancy of the
area's natural landscape while preserving the legacy of the automobile
Rouge River Gateway Partnership is the primary stakeholder group
leading the effort for environmentally responsible redevelopment
within the Lower Rouge Corridor.
Under the leadership of the first co-chairs Edward Bagale, Vice Chancellor,
Government Relations, University of Michigan-Dearborn and James
Murray, Director of Wayne County Department of Environment, this
group has made great strides in achieving their goals.
This group initiated a detailed master
plan in coordination with the Rouge Program Office. Funding was
made available through stakeholder donations and the Rouge River
National Wet Weather Demonstration Project. Exciting proposals for
The Ford Rouge Visitor Center: This adaptive
reuse for part of the Ford Rouge center will create an interpretive
venue that will be the first stop on the Automobile National
Heritage Area Tour. Ford Motor Company is working with experts
in the field of "green" industrial development to explore
creative concepts for this project and the remodeling of the entire
Ford Rouge center.
Riverfront Park in Melvindale: The City of Melvindale
is planning a park along the river next to its municipal ice arena.
Concepts include improved public boat access to the river and
amenities to support "Riverfest" events.
Oxbow Restoration: The original path of a former river
oxbow has been restored at Greenfield Village. This habitat enhancement
project provides fish resting and breeding areas, in addition
to furnishing Greenfield Village with a new island for program
development. The Wildlife Habitat Council provided consulting
assistance for this effort through funding by the Ford Motor Company.
Non-Motorized Trail: Plans are being developed for a number of pedestrian/bikeway
paths that connect regional attractions on the Rouge River and to
the existing path along Edward Hines Drive. Ultimately, this Greenway
is intended to reach the Detroit River and link adjacent neighborhoods. Construction of Phase I of the Rouge Gateway Greenway will begin in summer 2003.
Channelized River Restoration: Work is underway with the
Army Corps of Engineers to investigate opportunities for removal
of portions of the concrete channel. The re-naturalization of
the rivers banks will enhance aquatic life habitat and greatly
improve the rivers appearance.
Rouge River Cruise Tours: The feasibility of a ferry boat
system is being explored. As the Great Lakes Cruise ships become
a reality, the Rouge River will provide an entry foyer to new
and existing tourist destinations.
The Rouge River National Wet Weather Demonstration Project.
Since its inception, the Rouge Project has provided funds and
technical assistance to eliminate combined sewer overflows, involve
community groups and implement strategies and best management practices
to reduce storm water and other nonpoint source pollution to the
river. Water quality has improved within the Gateway Corridor to
the point where dissolved oxygen levels are now at least 5 mg. per
liter during dry weather. This condition meets or exceeds the State
of Michigans water quality standards.
Rouge River Gateway Partnership
The Rouge River Gateway Partnership is a collaborative effort among
county government, corporations, local communities and academic
and cultural institutions. The Gateway membership area is located
between the confluence of the Upper and Middle Rouge tributaries
and the Detroit River. The purpose of the Partnership is to provide
a forum through which a consensus approach can be implemented for
the revitalization of the Rouge River.
Goals of the partnership are:
To celebrate our heritage as the birthplace of manufacturing
through the support and promotion of high quality, environmental
and historic restoration projects.
To encourage implementation of best management practices that
provide air, land, wildlife habitat and water quality improvements.
To support the efforts of our local communities in creating unique,
educationally significant recreational opportunities.
To attract new public and private investment within the region
by building on the synergy of the Partnership.
To expand on existing programs that establish the area as a world-class
center for cultural and heritage tourism.
To achieve these goals, the Partnership will:
Promote and support the next generation of environmental and
business practices that lead to sustainable manufacturing for
the 21st century.
Promote and support projects that improve the quality of life
and recreational opportunities in our communities.
Coordinate efforts with the Automobile National Heritage Area
A master plan for the Gateway Corridor of the Rouge Watershed will
serve as a guide to maximize recreation potential, reestablish river
wildlife habitat and preserve the regions rich historical
heritage. The "new" Rouge River will be a national example
of how an urban river can be transformed from a polluted waterway
to a natural resource that is a valuable asset in our communities.
To create a national model for redevelopment of historic, industrial
communities and an urban river through public/private partnerships.
Rouge River Gateway Partnership Members
City of Allen Park
City of Dearborn
City of Detroit
City of Melvindale
Edward C. Levy Company
Ford Motor Company
Henry Ford Community College
The Henry Ford: America's Greatest History Attraction
Marathon Ashland Petroleum LLC
Rouge Steel Company
University of Michigan-Dearborn
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality
Michigan Department of Natural Resources
Rouge Program Office
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Detroit District
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 5
For additional information please contact Partnership Co-chairmen:
Rouge Gateway Partnership Brochure
|Edward J. Bagale
The University of Michigan-Dearborn
Water Quality Management Division
Wayne County Department of Public Services