Wilson Foundation gifts $500K to support Detroit riverfront park

Associated Press

Detroit – The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation is gifting $500,000 to support the development of a park along Detroit’s west riverfront.

The funding to the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy is from the trusts of Wilson’s late daughters, Edith “Dee Dee” Wilson and Linda Bogdan.

A garden recognizing the two women also will be created at the park which will be renamed the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Centennial Park. About $150,000 annually from another fund will be recommended to support maintenance and seasonal plantings.

“Dee Dee and Linda both loved to play tennis, spend time outdoors, and enjoyed gardening,” said Mary Wilson, foundation board chair and Ralph C. Wilson’s widow. “When identifying how to allocate this generous gift from their estate, we knew it would be most appropriate to honor these passions in a way that will live on through the park.”

A rendering shows the 22-acre site along Detroit's west riverfront that will become the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Centennial Park.

Edith Wilson died in 2020 at age 68. Linda Bogdan was 61 when she died in 2009.

The foundation also said $1 million from the daughters’ trusts will support projects in the future Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Centennial Park in Buffalo, New York.

Ralph C. Wilson was born in Columbus, Ohio, but his family moved to Detroit. Wilson took over his father’s insurance business, and in 1959 he founded the Buffalo Bills and helped establish the American Football League. He was 95 when he died at his Grosse Pointe Shores, Michigan, home in 2014.

In 2018, his foundation announced a $50 million investment for West Riverfront Park. The park is 22 acres (8.9 hectares) along the Detroit River. It’s part of the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy’s plan to develop 5.5 miles (8.8 kilometers) of the riverfront.

The conservancy officially will break ground on the future Centennial Park later this year. It is expected to open in 2023.

The conservancy has invested more than $200 million in the revitalization of the city’s riverfront.