By Dean Cousino
Monroe News staff reporter
The public-private partnership in Brownstown Township is meant to help tell the story of the War of 1812 and Michigan’s early history.
BROWNSTOWN TOWNSHIP — Federal, state and local officials are hailing a public-private partnership to preserve a corduroy road dating back to the War of 1812 and 95 acres of coastal wetlands at the mouth of the Huron River here.
At a press conference Monday held at the Brownstown Event Center, authorities praised U.S. Silica for its plan to donate 95 acres of high-quality coastal wetlands to the U.S. National Park Service and Fish and Wildlife Service for inclusion in the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge. The site along the lower Huron River in southern Wayne County includes two acres off W. Jefferson Ave. called “Hull’s Trace” that the River Raisin National Battlefield Park aims to preserve and protect so it can interpret the history of the Battles of the River Raisin and their aftermath.
Hull’s Trace contains a quarter-mile-long remnant of a corduroy (log) military road built by more than 2,300 U.S. troops to supply food, weapons and other goods to the Michigan Territory during the war. The road was a critical supply route that was traveled by at least 13 Native American nations and U.S., British and French settlers.
Cooperation key to partnership
Chris Coppens, plant manager for the Silica quarry for the past 4½ years, said cooperation was the key to reaching the joint management agreement.
“Today we are preserving history and protecting our environment so that future generations can continue to learn about and enjoy them,” Coppens told about 75 people at the event center, including representatives from Berlin Township and the City of Monroe. “It’s a great public-private partnership that should serve as an example of how we get things done not only Downriver, not just in Michigan, but how we get things done in this world. When we think of anything truly great — preserving wildlife habitats for future generations, creating roads (in the 1800s or today) or sending astronauts to the moon or Mars, it’s always done with great, grand cooperation.”
He noted when he kayaked the Huron River with his 9-year-old son, they had a guide who showed them the logs from Hull’s Trace that had been placed there over 200 years ago.
“Can you imagine the cooperation those soldiers had to have when building it? The painstaking work it took to place those logs along that road in a swampy area?” he asked.
He also pointed to the hard work that Fish and Wildlife Service put into tagging and tracking eagles and the cooperation that went into building the “Ticket-to-Float” Youth Kayak Explorer program along the river that Silica started. During the past three years, 3,600 inner-city youths in the Detroit area have enjoyed field trips to the corduroy road and learned about water quality, the War of 1812, wildlife and plant conservation and culture of the region at the turn of the 19th Century, said Jeff Griffith, one of the organizers for the Youth Connection that runs the program.
“We could not have done any of these things (without) cooperation,” Coppens said.
Logs can tell history of region
Scott Bentley, superintendent of the battlefield park in Monroe, paid tribute to Silica while also recalling the history of the war and 200 years of European expansion in North America that culminated in a multinational war with the epicenter in Southeast Michigan.
“In the Great Lakes, it was a war over control of the vast natural resources and lands,” Bentley told the throng. “In 2006, under leadership of Congressman John D. Dingell and many community leaders, the international importance of remembering the untold history of Southeast Michigan” drew Congress’ attention. The logs placed along Hull’s Trace and preserved by being under water represent “events that shaped who we are today.
“We are grateful that U.S. Silica is committed to preserving this special place in partnership with the National Park Service and Fish and Wildlife Service. Together with our friends in Canada, Native Nations and local communities, because of Silica we are now able to remember the events of the past and inspire future generations.”
U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Trenton, and her husband, former longtime Congressman John D. Dingell, both said that preserving and protecting Michigan’s heritage and natural beauty should be a priority for everyone.
“The public-private partnership we celebrate today is a reflection of our shared commitment to preserving both our history and natural resources, ensuring that people are able to enjoy the outdoors and learn at the same time.”
Rep. Dingell said the donation will help “tell the incredible story of this horrible battle” of the River Raisin. “Many people have no idea what occurred here,” she said.
The wetlands and kayaking tours will help “get kids outside” and “back to the outdoors to understand how precious our natural resources are.” She also referred to the visitor center under construction at the refuge as a “great place to bring people together and preserve what we call home.”
Refuge still a jewel in clean water efforts
John Dingell, one of the founders of the refuge and author of the Clean Water Act in Congress, said the refuge remains a “treasure for education and giving people something of value to enjoy for generations.” He said he was praying for leadership and wisdom in Washington, D.C., to make the national parks and refuge a great place and institution for all Americans.”
Both Barbara Warren, deputy supervisor for Brownstown, and state Rep. Darrin Camilleri, D-Brownstown Township, said the township was blessed to have the corduroy road and wetlands in their backyard.
“It’s awesome to have partnerships with all these entities and celebrate history and natural resources,” Warren said. “There are so many people who will benefit from this.
Rep. Camilleri said interpretive staff can “use our backyard to tell the history of what happened here.”
Click here to view the entire article as it appeared in the Monroe News.