William G. Milliken State Park and Harbor

Image Number: 00080
Sunrise over Detroit River with Renaissance Center and Ambassador Bridge in distance from William G. Milliken State Park
--Detroit, Michigan

Location Name:  William G. Milliken State Park and Harbor (Detroit, Michigan)

Location Type:  Park (State)

Year Opened:  2004


Located on the former site of the city-owned Saint Aubin Park and Marina and an adjacent brownfield, this park was envisioned as an urban oasis dedicated to transforming the post-industrial Detroit Riverfront. The 31-acre park became Michigan’s first urban state park when, on 20 May 2004, the first phase of construction was completed and the park opened to the public. At that time the park consisted of a refurbished harbor and a small area for picnicking. Marking the entrance to the harbor is a 63-foot scaled-down replica of Lake Huron’s Tawas Point Lighthouse.

The park was named Tri-Centennial State Park and Harbor in recognition of the recently-passed 300 year anniversary of Cadillac’s landing and the founding of Detroit. In 2008, the second phase of construction began. An area of reclaimed brownfield was converted into restored wetlands; markers interpret the process by which wetlands not only attract various animal life but also filter surface water as it makes its way into the river. The wetlands were designed to mimic the types of life found along the Detroit Riverfront before the settling of today’s modern city. Also part of the second phase was a memorial to noted conservationist Peter Stroh; a tireless advocate for the opening of Detroit’s waterfront to the public.

Once finished, this new portion of the park was opened on 22 October 2009 and the park was renamed William G. Milliken State Park and Harbor in honor of the former Governor; one of Michigan’s most conservation and environmentally-minded politicians. This urban park is still very much in transition. Since opening, the Detroit RiverWalk has completed a large section of walkway along the riverside; including a section that spans Milliken Park. In 2010, the city’s Dequindre Cut was extended to connect the greenway to Milliken Park and the riverfront. Today, plans are in the works to develop the remaining acreage owned by the park and possibly building an Adventure and Outdoor Discovery Center in the nearby abandoned Globe Trading Company Building. Milliken Park has become synonymous with the improvement of Detroit’s riverfront and its’ future looks poised to bring more positive news for a city amidst a long-needed turnaround.