Duggan unveils $11.7M plan to upgrade city parks

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

Detroit — Long-neglected neighborhood parks throughout the city will get upgrades under a $11.7 million plan unveiled Thursday.

Mayor Mike Duggan says officials have identified 40 parks and playgrounds throughout the city that will get revamped under the program that will span about 18 months.

The effort will also give city communities a say in the redevelopment projects that will range from new play equipment to basketball courts, picnic areas and walking trails.

“There are folks in some of these neighborhoods that feel like they’ve been forgotten,” Duggan said Thursday during a news conference in Simmons Playground on the city’s northwest side. “When you enhance the park, you enhance the value of the entire community.”

Detroit parks scheduled for improvements in 2016-17 - The Detroit News

Duggan first mentioned his proposal for the parks during a budget presentation to the City Council last month. The upgrades are among several projects the mayor said he will tackle with some $50 million in unspent bond funds.

The administration has said it uncovered the funds after scouring city bank accounts and separating funds related to grants and others that were related to operations.

Officials said Thursday that work will begin this spring in 10 of the neighborhood parks and should conclude in the fall. Next year, the remaining 30 parks will receive upgrades.

The city of Detroit has more than 300 parks and more than half are in neighborhoods and haven’t seen significant upgrades in at least two decades.

All of the parks selected are five acres or less and located in areas populated with seniors and children of ages ranging from tots to teens.

Alice Halliburton, president of the Evergreen Lahser 7-8 Mile Roads Community Council, said the community has long had a vision to restore neighborhood parks and the city administration’s efforts are helping to make that goal a reality.

“We appreciate you for involving the community in determining what improvements should be made to the parks by allowing us to be a team player in this process,” said Halliburton of the mayor’s administration. “We are so grateful for all that you have done and what you are continuing to do for the improvement of the neighborhoods in the city of Detroit.”

Some of the voter-approved bond dollars dated to the 1980s. Officials said they discovered more than a half-dozen unused bond issues for capital purposes.

The mayor also has said he planned to add $7.5 million to the Detroit Police Department’s Real Time Crime Center, and $7 million for the Police Department’s 8th Precinct in northwest Detroit.

In 2014, the city, in partnership with more than 70 volunteer groups, began cleaning about 250 parks that hadn’t been maintained in years due to city budget cuts.

Last year, the city spent $1 million to improve seven neighborhood parks including Arthur, Edmore-Marbud, Optimist-Parkgrove, Ryan, Tuttle and Wilson.

Alicia Bradford, director of the city’s Parks & Recreation Department, said the bond dollars toward improving the quality of life in city neighborhoods are critical as is gives residents a voice in the process.

“It is owned by the city, but this is your park,” said Bradford, a District 1 resident, from the playground on Chapel Street north of Seven Mile. “We will be engaging you to come in and tell us what you would like to see.”