Removal of Abandoned Boats Sets Stage

for Further Restoration at Fordson Island

Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funds are helping to clean up marine debris and abandoned boats to increase recreational opportunities on island.


Prior to World War II, Fordson Island in the Rouge River was created from the sediment dredged from the river to create a deeper channel. The Ford Motor Company’s Rouge Plant needed a deeper channel in the river to transport critically important submarine chaser boats, which they produced during the war. Over time, the small man-made island that was created because of important transportation needs was forgotten and people began dumping trash on the island. On the west side of the island, marine debris from industry and nearby commercial areas began to build up. The cleanup project removed 18 abandoned boats and tons of other debris from the shoreline and river. The project will include ecological and habitat surveys, which could lead to the 8.5-acre island becoming a park amid a heavily industrialized area.

Resource Challenges Addressed

  • Trash piles
  • Dump for boats
  • Degraded fish and wildlife habitat
  • Soil and water contamination


People with a large piece of trash pulled from the riverbank

Abandoned boats and large pieces of garbage, like the barrel pictured above, pollute natural areas like Fordson Island. Credit: Stefanski U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Results and Accomplishments

Crews removed 18 abandoned boats from the island. Studies are planned to determine the biological health of the island and nearshore areas, and what could be done to make the site a more attractive recreational area.