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By Renee Summers
Telegram Reporter 

Planting for Pollinators Event Held at Fort Street Bridge Park


On Wednesday morning, June 23, a collection of non-profit and community organizations, along with industrial partners, volunteers, and community members descended on the Fort Street Bridge Park in Detroit to observe National Pollinator Week by planting some native pollinator-friendly plants in the park's rain garden. This year National Pollinator Week was observed June 21 to 27.

Brian Yopp, Director or Programs and Operations for Motor Cities National Heritage Area, a non-profit corporation focused on promoting southeast Michigan's automotive and labor heritage, said organizing the event was a coordinated effort. The Wildlife Habitat Council, Friends of the Rouge, Downriver Delta Community Development Corporation (CDC), the Fort Rouge Gateway (FRoG) Partnership, Bees in the D, Marathon Petroleum Corporation, Waste Management, and DTE Energy also contributed to organizing the event and provided resources including plants and volunteers to establish the park's rain garden. "Our goal is to try and encourage all of our community partners, industrial partners, and those we work with locally to support pollinator habitats as best we can and the opportunity has really been seized by a lot of great people," said Yopp.

Dr. Paul Draus is a board member with both Downriver Delta CDC and Friends of the Rouge. He explained the importance of establishing the park's rain garden, which is a depressed area in the landscape which serves to collect rain water. "This garden here serves as an overflow area for the water that runs off, especially in a heavy rainfall, off the pavement and all these impervious surfaces. Especially in a highly industrialized area like this you have a lot of issues with storm water overflow events and these can lead to sewage ending up in the river, flooding in peoples' basements, all kinds of other issues," he stated, adding that the native plants added to the rain garden on Wednesday will absorb excess water through their roots while filtering out pollutants such as fertilizers, pesticides, and oil in the runoff water as it is absorbed into the soil. "Everything in the park is designed to try to reduce that unnecessary excess runoff into the river."

Cyndi Ross, Restoration Manager with Friends of the Rouge said, "This is the culmination of many years of work to try to bring this park to fruition's a treasure, it's a gem and there's more to come as the park's going to be a hub and a great space here in southeast Michigan." Features proposed to be added to the Fort Street Bridge Park in the future include a boardwalk and paddleboat launch. Ross said such structural elements will provide access to the Rouge River for recreation and enjoyment, adding, "You can't love what you're not connected to."

Volunteers helped to plant the rain garden at Fort Street Bridge Park in Detroit

Hank Thoenes, board member with Bees in the D, attended the event to promote efforts to help pollinators including bees and butterflies, and to showcase the organization's efforts to create community partnerships to establish bee hives and pollinator habitats in metro Detroit. "This is my first time here," he said of the park. "It's nice to be able to see the emphasis on reclaiming what was vacant land to be able to then have some kind of purpose in restoring the habitat and making it pollinator-friendly."

Improvements, additional plantings, and activities will be ongoing all summer at the Fort Street Bridge Park. Ross added, "The amazing thing is, when you plant it they will come: the birds, the butterflies, the insects, all the critical pieces of a healthy ecosystem start to come back pretty quick."

The Fort Street Bridge Park is located at 12700 Denmark St., at the corner of Fort Street, along the Rouge River. The park is new and opened to the public on October 22, 2020, and in addition to providing green space, it also serves to commemorate the Ford Hunger March of 1932 and will serve as a connection to Downriver Linked Greenways and Michigan's Iron Belle Trail. To find out more about the park and future activities,


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