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Named for a civil rights activist, Viola Liuzzo Park to get $1 million in upgrades


Back in 1965, Viola Liuzzo left her home, husband and five children in Detroit and headed Alabama to help Martin Luther King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference register African-American voters in Selma.


Viola Liuzzo

She helped by driving supporters between Selma and Montgomery so they could participate in the freedom march from Selma to Montgomery. On March 21, she and another civil rights worker, Leroy Moton, an African-American teenager, were driving back to Selma on Highway 80. Another car with Ku Klux Klan members pulled up beside their vehicle. One of them shot Liuzzo in the face and killed her. The car ended up in a ditch. Moton survived the attack by pretending to be dead.

Liuzzo was the only white female protester to die in the civil rights movement.

She was remembered in Detroit with a park bearing her name, dedicated in 1982.

As with many parks in our city, it needs work. That’s coming.

The City of Detroit will spend nearly $1 million to completely redesign the Viola Liuzzo Park on the northwest side and install an array of new features and equipment.

Liuzzo Park is the first of the 40 Neighborhood Parks initiative announced earlier this year by Mayor Mike Duggan. Improvements to those 40 parks are being paid for out of nearly $12 million in bond money CFO John Hill discovered had gone unspent for decades.  In April, Mayor Duggan announced that 10 parks would receive improvements this year and the remaining 30 will be improved next summer.

“This park has a very deep meaning in Detroit because of Viola and her sacrifice,” said Mayor Mike Duggan. “Now, like many other parks across the city, this one is seeing the kind of improvement and investment Detroiters deserve.”


Among the capital improvements slated for Liuzzo Park are:

  • New playground and equipment
  • Picnic shelter
  • 2 pickle ball courts
  • Fitness equipment
  • New walkways & benches
  • New landscaping

In addition, the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) will add bio retention gardens to enhance the appearance of the park and help reduce storm water runoff in the surrounding neighborhood. It is working with the Detroit Parks and Recreation Department and the Viola Liuzzo Park Association to integrate innovative green infrastructure features into the park’s redesign as a way to beautify the park and improve Detroit’s water quality.

Green infrastructure is an approach to managing storm water that uses the natural processes of soils and plants to soak up storm water where it falls before it can enter and overwhelm the sewer system.

DWSD will construct three bioretention areas in the to treat and infiltrate storm water from the streets and sidewalks.  In addition, bioretention features will provide park landscaping that aligns with the community’s vision for the park.

“The three bioretention areas will provide beauty to the neighborhood, enhancing the park’s features, while minimizing the risk of storm water runoff flooding nearby streets,” said Palencia Mobley, DWSD deputy director.

Some of the plants selected in the planting plan for the bioretention areas include: purple coneflower, Lime Rickey Coral Bells, Obedient Plant, Gerald Darby Iris, Black Eyed Susan, Rising Sun Redbud, Little Bluestem, Yellow Twig dogwood, and Fragrant Sumac.

More information on this project and other neighborhood parks slated for improvements over the next two years please click here.

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