Littlefield Playfield testimony to Detroit’s resiliency

Louis Aguilar
The Detroit News

Detroit — A Saturday afternoon in Detroit’s Littlefield Playfield was testimony to the do-it-yourself resiliency of the west side neighborhood.

Several hundred were expected for the third annual “History in the Neighborhood” program that included re-enactments of the contributions of black soldiers in the Civil War. It the 102nd U.S. Colored Troop Civil War, local Boy Scouts, and students from Noble Elementary-Middle School.

The event celebrated African-American history and also displayed the current efforts of the majority black community in Littlefield. The daylong program was held in the 11-acre playfield, behind Noble school, that residents rescued from blight over the past few years.

The green space at 8646 Fullerton was among the 300 parks in the city hadn’t upgraded since at least the late 1990s.

“The grass was waist high, the tennis courts and basketballs courts were no longer usable,” said Carol Pickens, community strategist for the Littlefield-Happy Homes Community Association.

But the non-profit has helped rally residents and raise funds through various foundations to clean up the park over the past several years. The grass is now cut, there’s a soccer/football field and a new pathway in the middle of the playfield. So far, the group has raised $500,000 and hope to eventually get $2.2 million for the playfield.

“We still clean the park ourselves,” said Charlotte Blackwell, president of the Littlefield community association. “Next we are going to bring back the basketball courts and maybe a butterfly refuge,” she said.

Pickens said the neighborhood is starting to get new residents. “Things are getting better overall,” she said.

The Littlefield neighbhorhood is tucked between I-96 and Grand River. The main property owner is the Detroit Land Bank Authority, according to Loveland Technologies, which tracks land ownership in the city. The land bank is the city agency that’s become a repository for most city property, much of it inherited from the county foreclosure tax sale when properties don't sell.

In Littlefield, the land bank owns more than 1,000 properties, according to Loveland.

In March, Mayor Mike Duggan announced a campaign to use $11.7 million in unused bond funds toward revamping 40 parks and playgrounds over the next 18 months.

The upgrades will range from new play equipment to basketball courts, picnic areas and walking trails.

Upgrades in 10 parks — Field, Simmons, Bale, Liuzzo, Calimera, Hansen, Latham, Boyer, Mansfield-Diversey and Cross/Tireman-Littlefield — are slated to begin soon and conclude by the fall. The other 30 parks will receive upgrades in 2017.

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