Shimmer on the River keeps Detroit sparkling

The RiverFront Conservancy just held its annual fundraiser, Shimmer on the River. Thanks to its success, some  very exciting projects are going to benefit. As it stands now, the RiverFront Conservancy covers 5 and a half miles of shoreline and provides the conduit for Detroiters to reconnect with nature in an urban environment.

They’ve become Detroit’s stewards of the waterway. Through new construction and renovation, security and expansion, the Conservancy is opening up the stretch of river that was once abandoned and industrial to a green space that welcomes both its residents and tourists. Currently, they’re about 80% finished with Phase One, which stretches from the Belle Isle bridge to the downtown area. Before their work, there was no fountain, no carousel, no bike trails… there was little public access to the water at all.

Barbara Levin accepts the Shimmer award for her husband, Senator Carl Levin

Their plans for the future include expanding development all the way up to Gabriel Richard, Mt. Eliot, and West and East Shane Park. Construction is set to begin in spring of 2012. The Dequindre Cut might also get bigger, according to John Stroh, Shimmer’s Honorary Co-Chair.

Public art has also played an extraordinary part in the RiverFront’s revitalization. When creating the Dequindre Cut greenway out of an old train track line, they elected to keep the graffiti lining the way. In addition to keeping street art that’s already there, they’ve also decided to bring in artists to create work specifically for the site. The conservancy currently has an art exhibition from Jocelyn Rainey up, called “A Touch of Tranquility.” She’s been an artist in residence of the DIA, Wayne County Community College, and the National Conference of Artists. Her work, up until October 29th, is a vibrantly colorful display that’s a part of the conservancy’s master plan for public artwork on the RiverWalk, set to launch this fall.

Recipient of the annual Shimmer award, Senator Carl Levin has played a major part in the redevelopment of the river front. He was a child when he first came to love the waterway between Detroit and Canada when he was a child. “In the top of the 1300 tower in Lafayette Park, Carl would sit with his mother and watch the freighters go by on the river,” his wife Barbara explains.

He and the other members of the Conservancy have invested deeply in this project, but the commitment is more than emotional. It drives economic development year round. Some say it should be used 12 monthsof the year. “If you’re not here in the winter, you should be,” Cynthia Pasky, CEO of Strategic Staffing Solutions insists. “It’s magical. Nothing compares to the sound of ice crunching in the river.”

If you missed out on the Shimmer on the River fundraiser, there are other ways to contribute. You can join friends of the conservancy, with a sliding scale of donation amounts available. Friends receive invitations to special events, and are kept in the loop of events and activities centered around the waterway. If you would like to literally leave your mark on the groundwork of the RiverFront, you can inscribe bricks or pavers with a personal message. Volunteers are always needed and welcomed too. Wherever your interests lie, there is rewarding work to be done along the water.

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