Blue Heron Lagoon: West Shoreline Restoration - Site #3

Belle Isle, Michigan


Project Goals and Objectives: Restore emergent vegetation along the shoreline, including wet meadow and prairie plants, control Phragmites, install exclosures to protect selected vegetation from deer browse, and enhance Blanding’s Turtle habitat

Project Description: Belle Isle is a 397-hectare (980-acre) island park located in the upper end of the Detroit River. Belle Isle has eight million annual visitors and its 81-hectare (200-acre) forest is one of the highest quality native woodland environments in southeast Michigan. Blue Heron Lagoon is located at the northeastern end of Belle Isle on Lakeside Drive. Detroit Recreation Department identified a heavily used section of Blue Heron Lagoon as a high priority site for habitat rehabilitation and demonstration of soft engineering practices.

This soft engineering demonstration project was carried out as part of the Belle Isle Volunteer Stewardship kickoff on September 23, 2000. Over 100 children and adults participated, including children from Cass Tech High School, a Boy Scout Troop, and a Girl Scout Troop. The work included planting both emergent vegetation and both wet meadow and wet prairie plants in the upland areas. Native plants, grown in the Belle Isle Greenhouse, were used wherever possible. To permit seeding and plugging of wildflowers, the existing vegetation in the upland areas needed to be eradicated. The exotic species, Phragmites australis, was removed by selective herbicide treatment performed by professionals.

Exclosures (fences) were also installed to protect the project area from the deer living on the island. Log structures were placed along the shoreline to provide habitat for the Blanding's Turtles, a species of special concern on the island.

Cost: The total budget for this project was $34,000. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provided $20,000, US Department of Agriculture - Forest Service provided $10,000, and Detroit Edison Foundation and Detroit Edison - a DTE Energy Company provided $4,000. Other sponsors of this event included Friends of Belle Isle, Friends of the Detroit River, and Detroit Audubon Society.

Timeframe: 2000

Partners: Detroit Recreation Department, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Michigan Sea Grant, U.S. Department of Agriculture - Forest Service, Detroit Edison Foundation, DTE Energy, Friends of Belle Isle, Friends of the Detroit River, and Detroit Audubon Society

Ecological Effectiveness: During restoration, five exotic species were removed from the site, including glossy buckthorn, Phragmites, and purple loosestrife, six native species were maintained on site, including cottonwood, gray dogwood, staghorn sumac and red cedar; and 74 native species were planted, including swamp rose mallow, lead plant, cupplant, monkey flower and white beard tongue. No post-project monitoring was performed to evaluate ecological effectiveness.

Restoration Contact: Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment’s Michigan Natural Feature Inventory