Parks in Detroit have had an interesting history and have had a busy few years. Some started as urban gardens on vacant land while others have been donated by families. Some parks have historic designations while others still have private land deed holders. This summer WDET has started a Detroit Park Watch blog and has been commenting on how Duggan has been managing to keep parks open and maintained. The volunteer “Detroit Mower Gang” sees fewer parks that need help, but also community gardens and greenspaces have been cleared or mown down by the city. There is also controversy over the city selling 15-acre Lipke park to the Salvation Army.
I did some mapping with parks data in 2012 when Mayor Bing announced the closing of 51 city parks, but it was very difficult since park names were listed differently in different databases. Bing was able to raise $14 million to keep the parks and recreation centers open that summer as part of the “Active & Safe” program. 119 churches and nonprofits stepped up to “adopt” parks and a 10-14 day mowing schedule was instituted for high use parks, while low use parks were placed on a 3 week mowing schedule. The program also allowed for a permanent staff member at 5 parks: Palmer, Patton, Clark , Farwell, and Lasky for daily maintenance.
Mayor Mike Duggan has continued a similar program of selecting “premier parks” (n=23) and encouraging park adoption (n=76) to keep as many parks open as possible. There is a current list of 76 adopted parks ranging from corporations to churches. Something new that Duggan’s administration has started is a scorecard for groups that have adopted a park based on how well they have maintained mowing, trimming, etc. Partners who have adopted a park are given a score between 1 and 9, the average so far is a 6 for most parks. The city has mowing schedules for 165 city parks, but these also overlap with 16 adopted parks, so it is unclear if they are scoring themselves or their park “partners.” Additionally, that leaves 112 “city maintained” parks without a clear plan. Among those 112 is one of the city’s “premier” parks, Stoepel No. 1.