Pistons, city join to revitalize parks, offer activities

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Detroit — With COVID-19 infection rates dropping near 1%, it's time for residents in Michigan's hardest-hit city to head back to the parks, Mayor Mike Duggan says.

Through a partnership with the Detroit Pistons, the William Davidson Foundation, the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation and Biederman Redevelopment Ventures, families are being welcomed back with outdoor programming at five parks spread throughout the city.

Old, cracked, gray asphalt is being traded out for a bright new space with a basketball logo, and officials say there will be socially-distanced activities geared towards youth, families, adults and seniors for the next eight weeks.

Jeffery Wilson and son Jace Wilson, 1,  try out the new basketball court at Littlefield Park in Detroit, one of 60 basketball courts that will be renovated by the Detroit Pistons by 2023.  Detroit Pistons vice chairman Arn Tellem, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and others unveil the first of 60 renovated basketball courts in 50 city parks in Detroit, Michigan on October 19, 2018.  (Image by Daniel Mears / The Detroit News)

As of Wednesday, Adam Butzel Park on the city's west side, Clark Park in southwest Detroit, Palmer Park on the north side, Pingree Park on the east side, and Jayne Field more in the center-east of the city have reopened. Activities at the parks include Pistons youth basketball, yoga, arts and crafts workshops, and hustle and hip-hop dance classes. 

The special programming, organized by the Pistons, will run noon-5 p.m. Wednesday through Sundays at the parks through Sept. 30. Residents can view the calendar and online registration schedule for the Pistons Neighbors Program at detroitmi.gov/recreation.

Duggan said the city has made a full commitment to maintaining the parks and basketball courts. 

“It won’t be the full-contact activities, but they will be a significant step in the right direction," he said during a press conference Wednesday. "It will be a while before they can run the recreation activities, but the outdoor activities will continue as long as infection rates remain low."

The Pistons were in the process of refurbishing basketball courts at 50 city parks over six years as a part of the team's community benefits package for its new downtown headquarters. The program was suspended in light of stay-home orders and will be restarted immediately, Duggan said.

Teens play on the new basketball court during opening of Ella Fitzgerald Park Saturday, July 28.

Alicia Jeffreys, Pistons senior vice president of marketing, said they hope to distribute basketballs and expand for greater access for Detroiters.

“The program will include daily drop-in activities with fitness equipment at each park, music and the best thing is all programming is free for everyone,” she said. “The health of our community, for the Pistons, is the top priority. Our staff and engagement instructors are trained in COVID safety protocols that follow CDC guidelines and are equipped with personal protective equipment, and activities will be socially distanced and using non-shared materials."

Meagan Elliott, Detroit's chief parks planner, said they've been working with the health department to make residents feel comfortable participating in the Pistons Neighbors Program.

"We weren't sure if we were going to bring the program to light this year, but something we all recognize is how important parks and recreation are especially at this time both for physical and mental health," Elliott said. "We've worked incredibly closely with (partners) to figure out a way to make residents feel safe and know their safety is our top priority."

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan speaks on Detroiters and the coronavirus at a press conference at Shed 5 in Eastern Market in Detroit on April 17, 2020.

Assisting with property taxes

During the press conference, the mayor also provided Detroiters with a new deadline of Dec. 14 to complete the Homeowners Property Tax Assistance Program application. If approved, the program reduces or eliminates yearly property taxes based on household income. The paper-application process is free.

The Pay As You Stay deadline has also been extended to Sept. 15. By paying through a one-time lump sum rather than monthly payments, residents in the program for paying delinquent taxes receive a 10% reduction on their PAYS balance.

"We don't want to be pushing people out of their homes ... we want to put abandoned houses behind us once and for all," Duggan said.

More than 9,000 applications were submitted last year and less than 1% were denied, officials said.


Twitter: @SarahRahal_