February 2, 2024
By Steve Dishman, Interpreter
February 2nd marks World Wetlands Day. World Wetlands Day was first celebrated in 1997 to mark the 25th anniversary of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. The convention, held in 1971, met to designate vital wetlands globally and protect them. In the United States, there are over 40 designated Ramsar sites, including Everglades National Park, San Francisco Bay, Door County Peninsula Wetlands in Wisconsin, and in Southeastern Detroit, Humbug Marsh. Each year, World Wetlands Day has a different theme, this year being Wetlands and Human Well-Being. That being said, let’s explore what the wetlands at your Metroparks means to all of us.
Historically speaking, the wetlands in Southeastern Michigan were home to several tribes. The Wyandot, Potawatomi, Ojibwe, and Ottawa tribes lived in this region and would have utilized the wetlands in several ways. They relied on the water for fishing and harvesting plants. They would have also hunted or trapped animals that utilized the wetlands like deer, beaver, and waterfowl. Local waterways like the Huron and Clinton Rivers would have served as travel routes for these tribes and provide access to the Great Lakes for further trade and travel. As Michigan became a state, we also turned to our wetlands for resources. The fishery in the Great Lakes is vital for our local economy and millions of tons of cargo are shipped through the Lakes every year. But the value of wetlands isn’t just measured in dollars.
Wetlands are the source of clean water for our homes. Much of the freshwater on the planet is unusable for a variety of reasons, including frozen in glaciers. Making sure to protect our wetlands from pollution is imperative for human health. Simply put, no fresh water, no drinking water or food production. But the wetlands are also a place that we can come to and enjoy ourselves.
The Metroparks, along with other local parks and natural areas, welcomes visitors from across the globe to experience the beauty of our wetlands. The intrinsic value of observing shorebirds foraging through the wetlands, feeling the wind blow across the cattails as you paddle through the marsh, and a beautiful sunny day splashing in the cool waters of a lake are priceless memories. We are happy at the Metroparks to offer these opportunities and more for our visitors.
Here at the Metroparks, we are proud to offer opportunities for you to enjoy our local wetlands. From boating excursions to guided hikes, there is something for everyone when it comes to enjoying our wetlands. Be sure to visit our Marshlands Museum at Lake Erie Metropark, where you can learn more about the history of the land and its uses through interpretive displays. Lake St. Clair Metropark’s trails take you through several wetlands including swamp, cattail marsh, and a paved walkway along Lake St. Clair. Many of our parks offer waterfront access for boating and you can even rent canoes, kayaks, or paddleboats at several of our parks. So, on behalf of your Huron-Clinton Metroparks, Happy World Wetlands Day and we will see you soon!