Photo: Debbie Kent and Ronald Parker play tennis recently at Stoepel Park No. 1 on the west side.
There are signs of a renaissance across many of the city of Detroit's 307 parks, the result of millions of dollars in bankruptcy money flowing into the park system, which has, among other things, allowed the administration of Mayor Mike Duggan to more than triple the number of workers tending parks.
Bill McGraw reports in Bridge Magazine that other factors are also at work, from growing corporate support to a collection of volunteer park lovers adopting green space in Detroit neighborhoods and caring for parks that the city still is not able to reach.
In most parks, workers are cutting grass and picking up trash on a regular basis. That might be a basic function in most cities, but it’s a huge step forward in Detroit, given the neglect of recent years. They are also painting equipment and making other improvements, and usage appears to be growing.
Fixing up the parks hasn’t received as much promotion from the Duggan administration as the oft-touted repair of streetlights, auctioning of vacant homes and what the mayor says is a reduction in emergency response times. But park-watchers have noticed.
“We’re seeing more improvements in parks than we have in the past five years,” said Joe Rashid, president of the Detroit Parks Coalition, an advocacy group.
Even with more money and extra help, however, city officials are quietly closing some parks, mostly in inner-city neighborhoods, a practice that began under previous mayors. Duggan officials are touchy about the shutdowns; the city refused to make public to Bridge its most current list of decommissioned parks.