Construction of new $7.5M nature center underway at Mackinac Island's iconic Arch Rock

What’s happening: Construction of Milliken Nature Center has begun at Mackinac Island’s iconic Arch Rock, temporarily closing the upper viewing area, Arch Rock Plaza, through April 2024.
Overlooking Arch Rock on Mackinac Island. (Photo: Pexels)
What’s planned: The Milliken Nature Center will replace an out-of-date restroom structure atop Arch Rock Plaza with a $7.5 million visitors complex, complete with modern restrooms, a nature center, and seating areas; a new drain field will also be built nearby. It’s expected that the grand opening of the Milliken Nature Center will take place in May 2024.

The Grand Rapids-based firm TowerPinkster was hired for the design of Milliken Nature Center, which was named for the former Michigan governor.

[Related: Read "City rec department plans first free and publicly-accessible pickleball courts on Mackinac Island" on Rural Innovation Exchange.]

What that means: This being car-free Mackinac Island – in fact, 2023 marks the 125th anniversary of the island’s prohibition of automobiles, which began in 1898 – the closure of Arch Rock Plaza means that visitors will have to find new ways to access Arch Rock by foot, bicycle, horse-and-carriage, or otherwise. An alternate viewing area, via the stairway known as Spring Trail, remains open and is accessible from M-185, the shoreline road circling the island. Visitors are warned that construction will result in occasional truck traffic, and to stay to the right and let them pass.

What they’re saying: “The Milliken Nature Center will be a welcome and fitting addition to the Arch Rock area,” says Mackinac State Historic Parks Director Steve Brisson. “In order for this structure to be ready for guests during the 2024 season construction must start soon. While we empathize with guests who may not be able to fully visit Arch Rock this fall, we are confident future guests will appreciate and enjoy the new Milliken Nature Center.”

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