After a monthlong closure for annual maintenance, deep cleaning and addition of new features, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Outdoor Adventure Center in Detroit will reopen Oct. 1. To celebrate the reopening, all guests can enjoy a weekend of free admission, special activities and a chance to check out the improvements – 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 1, and noon to 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 2.

Reopening weekend activities include:

Community Open House and Native Plant Sale

Saturday, Oct. 1, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Learn about exciting program offerings in the community, gather resources to make a backyard habitat at home, purchase native plants from local nurseries, meet local partners dedicated to increasing access to the outdoors and improving native habitat, and more, just outside the Outdoor Adventure Center.

Partner organizations include Plants for Ecology: Native Plants to Heal Our Planet, Detroit Butterfly Nursery, Blue Heron Headwaters Conservancy, Detroit Wildflower NurseryFriends of Detroit Animal Care and Control, Orleans Landing, We Fixin To Fish and The Xerces Society.

Guests will also have the chance to get up close to and learn more about live horses from Detroit Mounted Police, Buffalo Soldiers Detroit, Detroit Horse Power and DNR equestrian trails representative Jenny Cook.

Official opening of the Milliken State Park berm/hill

Saturday, Oct. 1, 1 p.m.  

The highest elevation on the Detroit Riverwalk is in Milliken State Park. Due to damage from erosion, the park began a restoration project on this hill, which was slowed due to COVID-related issues. The beloved hill has just reopened with safer and more accessible pathways that will also help protect the soil from future erosion issues. Join us at 1 p.m., when we “run up that hill” in a ceremonial opening of this popular attraction. All participants will get complimentary cardstock binoculars and snacks. 

“The plan to upgrade the berm was envisioned to be a great investment not only for improving its appearance but also to make it accessible for all. In 2005, we decided to keep the hill, which was formed from the state parks wetland excavation, to retain this as the high spot along the riverfront and the views and perspectives it afforded. It also ended up becoming a great fitness amenity for the thousands of walkers and runners who use the river walk regularly,” said Ron Olson, chief of the DNR Parks and Recreation Division.

At the top of the hill, guests will be able to view the river and our neighbors in Canada through two new spotting scopes, courtesy of the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge and EnChroma, that provide an enhanced color view for visitors who are color blind. (Read more about similar viewers at other Michigan state parks.)

“EnChroma is pleased that the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge is supporting accessibility by enabling those with color vision deficiencies to more fully experience the beautiful colors of nature,” said Erik Ritchie, CEO of EnChroma. “Since there are 350 million colorblind people in the world, and they only see 10% of hues and shades of color, we hope that more state and federal parks will be inspired to partner with EnChroma to improve the experiences of this population.”

Detroit Riverfront Cleanup

Saturday, Oct. 1, 9 to 11 a.m.

Join Outdoor Adventure Center staff to help keep the Detroit Riverfront area clean, beautiful and safe for people and wildlife, as we partner with the Great Lakes Educators of Aquatic and Marine Sciences and the Alliance for the Great Lakes on a regionwide Great Lakes shoreline and beach cleanup effort. Our efforts will focus on the Milliken State Park portion of the Detroit Riverwalk. Cleanup equipment will be provided, but please plan to bring your own water bottle. Participants can get buy one, get one free admission to the OAC to be used at a later date. Meet at the front entrance of the building, along the Dequindre Cut. Register for Detroit Riverfront Cleanup.

Sensory Sunday

Sunday, Oct. 2, 10 a.m. to noon

It’s the kickoff of the new Sensory Sunday program, when the Outdoor Adventure Center welcomes visitors with sensory processing differences to sensory-friendly building hours, with free admission for all guests. Visitors can enjoy the opportunity to experience the OAC with building sounds and ambient noises at a lower volume and a quiet room with sensory materials available to use. At noon, the building will open to the public, with volumes returning to regular levels. All staff members are KultureCity-certified to ensure the best possible experience.

The October event will celebrate fall with extra fun – dressing in a costume or a festive fall shirt is welcome! There will be a raffle to win a copy of the children’s book “The Crayons Trick or Treatby Drew Daywalt. 

The Outdoor Adventure Center will offer six of these Sensory Sunday events in the coming year; the next scheduled date is Sunday, Dec. 4. 

Outdoor games and live animals

Sunday, Oct. 2, noon to 3 p.m.

Visitors can enjoy a variety of outdoor games and time with the center’s live animals.

Woman standing in front of mural featuring colorful Michigan wildflowers

Among the projects the Outdoor Adventure Center completed during the September closure is the addition of three new wall murals, highlighting Michigan’s state parks, native wildflowers and “Leave No Trace” messages, by artist Ken “Phybr” Dushane (Phybrart.com). Now a Kansas City, Missouri-based muralist, designer and educator who has become sought-after for his colorful portraits and pop art-esque tropical foliage, Dushane began his painting career in Detroit in 2014.

“What I enjoyed the most about the project was being able to create murals for the parks, because I grew up enjoying the parks so much as a kid and continue to do so with my own family,” Dushane said. “And being able to somehow give back to that is amazing to me.”

The murals were a special project supported by the Friends of the Outdoor Adventure Center.

Chair Andrea LaFontaine said the group is “very proud to have helped bring these three projects to our center. We know that our guests will be inspired by their beauty. We love that the subject matter showcases Michigan’s natural resources and state parks. We look forward to expanding our group and bringing new projects to the OAC for all to enjoy.”

Other Outdoor Adventure Center improvements include:

  • A new model train running around the center’s living wall, a replica depicting the trains that brought materials to the facility (the Globe Building, former home of Detroit Dry Dock Engine Works and later the Detroit Shipbuilding Company) in the early 1900s. The train was custom-detailed by a local train enthusiast, and the platform, track and electronics were designed by DNR park rangers Frank Toarmina and Pete Gosinski.
  • A “little library,” featuring nature books for all ages, at the building entrance.
  • A new sidewalk, allowing for greater accessibility from the parking area to the front door, built by the DNR Mt. Clemens Field Office team.
  • Updated lighting and technology throughout the building.
  • A new Perception model kayak, donated by Pelican International, for the center’s kayaking simulator. After over 500,00 guests enjoying the kayak experience, it was time for a new vessel.

Located on Detroit’s riverfront at 1801 Atwater Street, with the Dequindre Cut trail running through its backyard, the Outdoor Adventure Center gives visitors a taste of Michigan’s great outdoors in the heart of the city. Learn more at Michigan.gov/OAC.

Note to editors: Accompanying photos are available below for download. Caption information follows. 

  • Leave No Trace: One of three new murals at the Department of Natural Resources Outdoor Adventure Center, this piece features the “Leave No Trace” message, “Take only memories, Leave only footprints.”
  • Michigan wildflowers: Friends of the Outdoor Adventure Center Chair Andrea LaFontaine stands in front of one of three murals, created by artist Ken “Phybr” Dushane, that the friends group supported. This one depicts Michigan wildflowers.
  • Postcard with team: Pictured in front of a new mural at the Outdoor Adventure Center highlighting Michigan state parks (left to right): Andrea LaFontaine, chair of Friends of the Outdoor Adventure Center; artists Madeline, and Ken “Phybr” Dushane; and DNR rangers Frank Toarmina and Pete Gosinski.