|Photo by Marvin Shaouni|
When we began our discussion last week about Detroiters rejuvenating public space, we concentrated on the development and maintenance of one extraordinary park in the North End. This week, we’ll consider the revitalization of another greenspace, Palmer Park in near Northwest Detroit. But we’ll also look at a successful effort to transform a different kind of "public space" with plenty of potential for regional sustainable redevelopment: vacant lots.
Brad Dick, the director of Detroit’s General Services Department (which maintains parks, other greenspaces, and city facilities) told me that of the city’s 300 or so parks, it can currently afford to regularly maintain only 160. When the city announced the closure of 77 parks in 2010, the General Service Department’s maintenance staff had been reduced from 200 to 50 people, its full time staff from 50 to 20. (These are the staffing levels at which it remains, making attentive care to each city park impossible.)
Palmer Park, an historic, sprawling, 296 acre greenspace, was on that list. But in the wake of its official closure, a community of more than 70 supporters has coalesced around it, taking responsibility for its maintenance and programming themselves.