The Michigan Department of Natural Resources and private partners will fund the redevelopment project in Monroe at the location of the Battle of Frenchtown, an important battle in the War of 1812, The Detroit Free Press reported.
The project launched Monday will begin with the purchase of 20 houses that will be demolished to make room for a recreation of historic Frenchtown and a $20 million education center.
Officials estimate the changes will attract more than 1 million visitors annually, including 100,000 school children. The area had 239,000 visitors last year, said Park Superintendent Scott Bentley. Monroe has a population of about 20,000 and lies 35 miles south of Detroit.
"Fourteen million people live within three hours' drive of the park," said Mark Cochran, Monroe development coordinator. "We've been working on gearing our economy more toward tourism. We've got Lake Erie, the River Raisin, the battlefield and a heritage trail."
Bentley said the Battle of Frenchtown was an important moment in U.S. history that went on to shape U.S. policy toward Native Americans and led to westward expansion.
"It was the greatest defeat for the U.S. in the entire War of 1812," he said.
Native American tribes fought alongside British and Canadian soldiers to capture Fort Detroit before taking over Frenchtown. The Canadian and Native American troops later withdrew from the town. The Native American tribes brought about 500 U.S. prisoners with them during the retreat and killed between 20 to 100 soldiers who couldn't walk.
Bentley said that event led to the forced removal of native populations.