- The River Rats environmental education program;
- Science in the Sanctuary;
- Guided and self-guided school fieldtrips;
- An Artist in Residence program;
- The Blue Heron Water Trail;
- Invasive Species Management trainings;
- Water Quality Monitoring programs;
- The Reel Fun Ice Fishing Tournament;
- Publication of nine Wildlife Sanctuary Field Guides.
As the Wildlife Sanctuary Board looks to the future, it aspires to provide an even greater service to the community: the Thunder Bay River Center. To further the River Center plan, the Wildlife Sanctuary Board created the Thunder Bay River Center, Inc. in 2016 to be its 501c3 partner.
Thunder Bay River Center is pictured as a 20,000 sq. ft. interpretive center of the Thunder Bay River Watershed. Located within the unique 444 acre Alpena Wildlife Sanctuary at Duck Park, Thunder Bay River Center will serve as the thermometer of the watershed's health. It will operate year-round as an interpretive resource for students, teachers, fisherman, hunters, local retailers and agribusiness owners, industries, and for all of us who live in and accept our responsibility to conserve the Thunder Bay River Watershed.
The River Center will be designed to have "maximum impact for learning; minimum impact on the environment" through its renewable heating/cooling, use of recycled materials, native plant landscaping and earth-friendly foot print. The River Center's construction techniques and systems will serve as models for environmentally responsible urban and agricultural builders and home owners.
The Thunder Bay River Center, with its multiple partnerships of people, businesses and industries, will be an attraction to the more than 400,000 tourists who visit the area each year. It's unique combination of ADA compliant indoor-outdoor experience-based activities will make the River Center a destination for tourists and entrepreneurs who seek not only to learn more about the water, woods, and communites of Northeast Michigan but how a collaborative effort benefits the entire community.
With its focus on the Thunder Bay River Watershed's ecosystems, the Center's programs will complement both the Besser Museum's historical and cultural history of Northeast Michigan and the National Marine Sanctuary focus on the shipwrecks and ecosystem of Lake Huron.
Together with its community partners, the Thunder Bay River Center will help people restore/preserve the healthy ecosystem of the Thunder Bay River Watershed. To do this, interactive exhibits involving water quality, dam placement/removal, invasive species control, promotion of native river fish and supporting food sources will lead the participant into the outdoor laboratory, Island Park and the Thunder Bay River itself. Many of Thunder Bay River Center's programs are guided by educational standards for science, technology, engineering, arts and math (S.T.E.A.M.) - tools desired by employers and needed by everyone in order to work and function.
The Northeast Michigan economy has lost much of its former industrial might; but, what it has lost in industry it promises to make up through a rediscovery of its unique natural features. The River Center will become part of the "green economy" in Northeast Michigan.