Detroit parks, play areas see major upgrades

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

Detroit — For the first time since they were born, Janea Fletcher’s daughters are able to play on a swing set at the neighborhood park near their west side home.

This is the "after" condition of Mansfield-Diversey Park. Janea Fletcher, 28, pushes her daughter, Amour, 4, as sister and daughter, Rose, 2, all of Detroit, watches at a park under renovation at Mansfield-Diversey Park on Detroit's NW side, Thursday, November 17, 2016.

Until recently, the swings were left broken, leaving her children, Amour, 4, and Rose, 2, unable to use them. The family instead traveled to area metro parks or took in the sights on Belle Isle.

“For the first time, they are able to use the swings,” said Fletcher, 28, after a recent visit to the Mansfield-Diversey park on Rutherford with her girls. “They are happy to just walk right down the street and get on the swings. They are enjoying it.”

Beyond the playground repair, the 1.8-acre park has a new sidewalk, full and half-basketball courts, a soccer field and picnic tables, benches and barbecue grills.

The neighborhood park is one of 10 across the city to get a makeover this year under a $12 million effort that will have 30 more neighborhood parks rejuvenated by next October.

The city spent about $3 million on the first round of long-neglected parks and will use the remaining money on projects slated to get under way next spring, General Services Director Brad Dick said.

The first 10 parks are wrapping up as projected, apart from Viola Liuzzo, which has bioswales that will be finished in the spring, Dick added. The remaining parks will be done next year.

“By this time next year, we’re going to have some pretty impressive neighborhood parks,” Dick said.

Mayor Mike Duggan first mentioned the renovations for the parks and playgrounds during a February budget presentation to Detroit’s City Council. The effort also has allowed communities to weigh in on the redevelopment projects.

Among the upgrades:

■Simmons, 19450 Chapel: A playground, walking paths, picnic shelter, soccer field, softball backstop and a flag pole.

■Fields, 16601 Florence: Fitness equipment, trees, walkway connections and a playground.

■Liuzzo, 20053 Winthrop: Playground, walking path, two pickle ball courts with 8 hoops, fitness equipment, three rain gardens, drinking fountain and sidewalks.

■Wells, 20159 Griggs: Playground repair, two basketball courts, picnic shelter, fitness equipment and bike racks.

■Calimera, 19493 Joann: Playground, half-court basketball and walking paths.

■Hansen, 542 Drexel: Playground, walkways, basketball and a picnic shelter.

■Latham, 5082 Seneca: Playground improvements, fencing, walking path, half-court basketball and a horseshoe pit.

■Boyer, 6203 W. Vernor: walkways, fencing, playground, soccer field, half-court basketball and a skate ramp.

■Cross/Tireman-Littlefield, 8134 Manor: playground improvements, walking paths, mini-picnic shelter and fitness equipment.

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

All of the parks selected for improvements are five acres or less and in areas populated with seniors and children, Dick said.

In 2014, the city, in partnership with 70-plus 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 several parks including: Arthur, Edmore-Marbud, Optimist-Parkgrove, Ryan, Tuttle and Wilson.

The upgrades were funded with quality-of-life loan dollars the city received in its 2014 bankruptcy exit.

The city initially planned to pay for the upgrades with a portion of some $50 million in unused bond proceeds.

The voter-approved bond dollars, some dating back to the 1980s, were uncovered after the administration scoured city bank accounts and separated funds related to grants from others that were related to operations.

The proceeds however have not been used toward the park projects since city officials are working to ensure the bonds are applied to projects most closely aligned with their voter-approved purposes.