62-year-old family photo from Palmer Park

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We asked about memories you all have of Detroit parks. Donna Remer was kind enough to share this photo with us from Palmer Park, taken 62 years ago.

"The photo was taken in fall 1952. My father, Herschel Underwood, is shown with his children Jim, Karen and me (on the right). My mother, Polly Underwood, took the photo. You can see her shadow. We lived on Belmont at John R and dad would take us to Palmer Park after dropping mom off to shop for groceries at the Big Bear market on Second, I think. This picture, however, looks like it was taken after Mass at Blessed Sacrament Cathedral."

What’s your memory? Tell us below. And feel free to share any old Detroit park photos with me at tparris@wdet.org.

-Terry Parris Jr.

Give us your memories!

Of Detroit parks, of course.

Last week the two Olympic-sized Brennan Pools in Rouge Park reopened after the completion of a $5 million renovation project. The pools closed in 2011. I wrote a blog entry here on Detroit Park Watch and posted it on WDET’s Facebook page.

Most of the comments on the thread were memories of the Brennan Pools. And they were good.

"My late mom grew up a block away from the park off Joy," Jeremy Eckerman posted. "She would always talk about swimming in the summer, horseback riding, and just how nice the park was. It’s good to see things returning."

And Bonnie Sheehy Nielsen’s memory: ”I used to live a few blocks from there. I remember going up to that top deck with the intention of jumping and after one look down… turned around and immediately walked down the steps as fast as possible.”

So, I thought we should try and get more of these memories. Below you’ll find a form. If you have a great memory of a park, or maybe it’s just really vivid, or maybe it’s not a good memory at all but just something that sticks with you, plug it in below:

West side parks get filled in by community contributors, plus Detroit parks show up on Reddit

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We just got a handful of parks filled in on Detroit’s west and northwest side. 

The descriptions and observations of the submitted park info are really interesting and I suggest you check them out. Here’s a few (submitted by Bill McGraw).

This one comes from Fargo-Oakfield Playground, located in the Eight Mile Road and Southfield area.

The grass needs cutting, but it clearly has been cut at least once this season. The playscape is battered; the fence is a mess. The park is north of an abandoned school that is missing most of its windows. A sign says the park was renovated while Kilpatrick was mayor.

And one from Milan Playfield. This park is located on Evergreen, a few blocks south of Seven Mile.

This park is big, busy and is in very good shape. There is a playscape, picnic shelter, walking track, soccer goals and port-a-john. A lot of people were using it when I visited. 

PLUS!

Earlier last week a colleague send me a thread he found on Reddit talking Detroit park maintenance. The thread’s post is titled Mower Gang’s Problem / Changes in Detroit. Check it out:

Tom Nardone sent out this tweet yesterday:

We can’t find a playground to mow tomorrow. The city is mowing them all! This is a great day, I can only say congratulations to #MikeDuggan

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Our regular parks had been mowed. But we were able to find other parks. The gang started at Lifsitz memorial playground. Then they split up.

I was late so went directly to my old stand-by, Outer Drive / Burgess in Brightmoor. It had been mowed by the city 12 days ago, so it was looking a little shaggy but not bad.

I noticed something striking. The vacant lots across the street were freshly mowed. The Detroit Blight Authority mowed them once last year, but that’s been it for the past two years. Until today.

There are changes in the city. For the better.

Have you noticed the same? Show us and contribute to Detroit Park Watch. Details above.

-Terry Parris Jr.

More on Brennan Pools from the community!

Yesterday I wrote about the reopening of two Olympic-sized pools in Rouge Park. Scroll down or read it here.

Today, I logged a new community entry about, yep, Brennan Pools.

Here’s what contributor John Biggar had to say:

Brennan Pools had been closed for a number of years and after a major renovation is now fully opened and looks fabulous. The surrounding park is very well kept and garbage picked up every day. Some major corporations in the area have donated “service days” where their employees give a day of their time at the park on clean-up. The police presence is strong and the park is well used. Rouge Park still isn’t to the quality of Hines Park nearby but it is much better than in the past years. The Brennan Pools re-opening is a huge benefit to everyone on the west side.

So that was cool.

-Terry Parris Jr.

'This pool represents a community coming together'

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Brennan Pool in the 1950s. (Walter P. Reuther Library, Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs, Wayne State University)

Rouge Park is Detroit’s largest at 1181.39 acres (New York City’s Central Park, by comparison, is a measly 843 acres). It has an 18-hole golf course, a dozen ball diamonds, playgrounds and tennis courts each. Pretty big.

It’s hard to miss on a map but, if you haven’t been there, here it is (you can also located it on our map above):

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And today, adding to the amenities it already boasts, Rouge Park got two more pieces to improving the Detroit parks puzzle…

The Brennan Pools!

The two Olympic-sized cement ponds have been renovated to the tune of more than $5 million. This project bridged public and private efforts, from Detroit to Lansing, which included three state House reps, the Detroit Parks and Recreation Department and Lear. The Detroit Free Press reported: “According to Dave Bing, Lear played one of the largest roles in making the project happen. Lear — a $17-billion company with offices in 36 countries — will always have a commitment to improving Detroit, said President and CEO Matthew Simoncini, who took over in September 2011 and helped complete numerous Detroit parks and recreation improvement projects.”

The pools and facilities also have a rich history, like many things in Detroit. In 1956, the U.S. Olympic swim team held trials in these pools.

From the official summaries of the trials in 1956, as archived by USASwimming.org, a report says: “The splendid equipment, excellent facilities and complete cooperation of the Detroit Olympic Committee could only result in the ideal meet inducing the best efforts from America’s outstanding competitors.”

Here’s what the pools looked like during the trials:

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Fast-forward 55 years from 1956 to 2011, through decades of population loss and shrinking tax revenue, and we have these “excellent facilities” shutting down due to budget issues.

But now it’s open.

This is what Michigan Speaker of the House, Rep. Jase Bolger, R-Marshall, had to say:

“This pool represents a community coming together,” Bolger said. “I think about what these changes mean to the people in Detroit: a commitment to a brighter future for our kids. For I want the same thing for my kids that you want for your kids. This represents the future of that opportunity. This represents the future of the city of Detroit.

“And this represents the future of the state of Michigan. As we stand here today, the future is much brighter.”

And don’t forget to submit parks!

-Terry Parris Jr.

Reports on more than 100 parks so far

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We recently got a community submission from Corktown’s sandwich shop Mudgie’s. Greg Mudge says: “Although it does not appear to be on the adopted list, Mudgie’s adopted this park and with the help of the community, has maintained it entirely for several years.”

With Mudge’s submmission, plus our reports and the city’s, we have more than 100 parks reported on in this early summer. We’ll need to keep that going so do this:

  1. Go to a Detroit park.
  2. Text “Parks” to 313-334-4132.
  3. Tell us what it looks like.

Also, here’s a nice write up about Detroit Park Watch from Model D Media.

Check it here.

-Terry Parris Jr.

Off to a great start: Six community submissions so far

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These six light blue pins show where the community submitted information about the condition of parks in their neighborhoods. As you can see, the reach is wide. (We have information on the condition of 107 parks so far (WDET and City reported, in addition to community reported).

So, out of these six community submissions, which we received between June 20 and 24, five of the parks appeared to be mowed recently. In fact, five of the six parks, according to the stories, appear to be in fairly good condition. Knudsen Park, at eastbound Eight Mile and the I-75 North service drive, is the only one that has issues.

In regard to that park, Steve S. wrote: “Playground equipment is old and decrepit. Fence between park and busy service drive has been down for well over a year.”

According to the latest information we have, it appears to be city maintained.

A submitted story lauded the efforts by the city for improving Lafayette Plaisance in Lafayette Park. Contributor Harriet Saperstein said: “City is improving and connecting walkways in this well-used park between E. Lafayette and Antietam, so that there is a complete walkable circle around the park and extended connections to Antietam to more easily connect to Gratiot and Eastern Market. New tennis nets - but playing surface is pretty bad. However there just is less outdoor tennis these days anyhow! Could use another basketball half-court and hoping to see rest of playfield improvements. Much less litter than in the past, although still some concrete leftovers to be picked up and edging to be done. what a pleasure to have the extended walkways!”

To read more of what the community submitted, click on the light blue pins to read the stories by these detroiters about parks in their neighborhood.

This is only six of nearly 300 parks, so we need all the help we can get in submitting. Remember DetroitParkWatch.tumblr.com the next time you’re at a park. Text “Parks” to 313-334-4132 for a short four question survey or click the big blue “Submit” button at the top.

Stay tuned as we recap submissions as they come in and tell stories about Detroit’s parks.

-Terry Parris Jr.

Help us keep track of Detroit’s parks this summer

Answer this: Is this a park?

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Vermont-Alexandrine

Or is this?

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Muliett Park

A robust park system is a sign of a robust city. We know clean, maintained, well-lit and safe parks are important to you.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan recognizes this. He’s been saying since his inaugural address that Detroit needs to do a better job maintaining these city assets. He claimed that only 20+ parks of the nearly 300 were maintained last summer.

In a Detroit News article from April 14, 2014, it said:

The mayor said during his brief remarks the conditions Detroit’s children endured last summer were unacceptable. He recalled seeing waist-high grass at some city parks where people mowed a pathway so children could get on a swing.

“Today is an indication of what the community can do when we all come together,” Duggan said. “City government doesn’t have the resources to do everything. The conditions that our children experienced in parks, particularly last summer, was not acceptable. It’s a lot better than last year. This is a case where you’re able to to put more service on the streets and in the parks for citizens.”

This summer he says that 250 parks will be maintained through pumped up city efforts, which has included hiring a larger seasonal workforce, as well as enlisting community organizations and businesses to adopt various parks around the city.

Mayor Duggan Pledges to Maintain 250 City Parks This Summer

We’ve mapped all the parks* and coded them by those that are adopted, those the city still is looking to adopt out and those that are maintained by the city. (View the master list of parks here.)

60+ groups have adopted parks throughout the city and have committed to maintaining them. The city has said that they will maintain an additional 186 parks. We know you’re passionate about it, the mayor certainly is and we are, too.

We want to track Detroit park maintenance throughout the summer. We will use reports from the city, WDET and you out there in the community.

We’ve created two ways to do this. If you go to a park, or live near a park, or recently visited a park and remember its condition, you can come here and submit your information.

We’ve created a number to text the info to as well. If you text “Parks” to 313-334-4132 you’ll get a short four question survey on the park you are at or reporting on. We’ll get that information and map it on our community parks information map above.

You can also submit via the big “SUBMIT” button. When you click the button, a form will pop up asking questions like:

  • Has the park been mowed recently?
  • Do you notice lighting in or around the park?
  • How much litter is there?

This works on your phone, too. So if you plan on going to a Detroit park, remember us, pull up DetroitParkWatch.tumblr.com and tell us about it. 

With this information, we hope to get an idea on what the parks look like throughout the season. We will update as quickly as we get the information in.

Beyond the data, we will actively look to tell stories about these parks (like why is Twork Park called Twork Park?) and those who are taking care of them.

If you’re an avid Detroit park goer and want to help out a little more on this project, email tparris@wdet.org.

So get out and visit a Detroit park. Then come here, to Detroit Park Watch, or text 313-334-4132, and tell us about it.

*If a city park isn’t mapped, bring it to our attention by emailing tparris@wdet.org.