The headlines are dominated by talk of Belle Isle being a state park, but did you know the city of Detroit already has a state park within it that is getting a multi-million dollar addition?
The addition to the Milliken State Park will include a climbing wall, an archery range, kayak and water sports simulators as well as classrooms that will help bridge the divide between the urban landscape and nature. Estimates are that there will be more than one million visitors a year to this new attraction at the foot of the Dequindre cut. It also brings back to life a building built in 1892 as a dry dock machine shop.
Looking at and spending time in the area surrounding the soon-to-be center, which is part of the state park system, you can immediately tell the difference between it and the city parks that are derelict in comparison (and in some cases, just derelict). Portable toilets are not the rule at Milliken State Park, nor trash, nor flipped- over boats dubbed the “SS Kwame.”
Millken State Park stands in stark contrast to a place like Angel Park just down the river that Crain’s Detroit Business highlighted, or the state of much of Belle Isle.
At recent press conference announcing the additions to the Milliken State Park, the theme was cooperation. Representatives from the city, state (Governor’s office and Michigan Department of Natural Resources) and the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy shared the stage.
“I want everyone to remember what that looks like today, so when we come back and see what it looks like, we can see what the power of working together can do and the opportunity to reinvent Michigan and the opportunity to reinvent Detroit,” said Governor Rick Snyder. We’ve included pictures of before and renderings of what the project will look like after to show that contrast.
There are other examples in the city of how parks and partnerships can work.
Did you know that Campus Martius is administered by a partnership?
That’s right, Detroit 300 oversees that park and the area has gone from an ugly cement roadway with a forgotten past to an award winning space.
In other ways, partnerships have been a success. The Detroit Zoo, the Detroit Institute of Arts and Cobo Hall are moving forward and thriving by working together instead festering the divisive, racist and hurtful policies of the past.
Doing what we did left us financially and functionally broken, and it’s time to make a change. It’s time to focus on the future. There’s a commitment by many backed up by action to make some real change in the city. It’s high time to cooperate on all sides and support instead of squandering such opportunities.
How many more oft-photographed “ruins” can we turn around if we work together? The limit is only defined by our actions letting go of prejudices and embracing respect as we are all fellow community members.