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NOLAN FINLEY

Editor’s Note: Defend Fort Wayne from decay

Nolan Finley
The Detroit News

During Detroit’s declining years, so much of the city’s history was torn down or allowed to rot away. With the city steadily climbing back to viability, saving the remaining historic treasures should be a priority.

So it’s encouraging to see a project underway to make sure historic Fort Wayne in southwest Detroit doesn’t hit the casualty list.

I’ve long thought Fort Wayne should be a state park. But the state, busy revitalizing Belle Isle, doesn’t seem interested in taking on another major overhaul task.

But the Kresge Foundation and the National Park Service are joining together to study the potential for rejuvenating the 1840s-era site along the Detroit River.

For the next two years they’ll be working with the southwest Detroit community to determine how to expand the cultural and recreational opportunities offered by Fort Wayne. Hopefully, the work will also include the ongoing restoration and maintenance of the military buildings.

A consultant will be hired with a grant from Kresge to work with the city on a comprehensive strategic plan.

Already, 150,000 visitors a year come to Fort Wayne for Civil War re-enactments and other activities. There are soccer fields on the 83-acre site that are in use.

Fort Wayne is on the National Register of Historic Places and is owned by the city of Detroit.

The possibilities of turning it into another major tourist attraction in the city are exciting. But even more so is the potential for Fort Wayne to serve as an anchor for southwest Detroit, and spin off other business and job opportunities.

The nonprofit Historic Fort Wayne Coalition has been working to preserve the fort. The boost from this new planning effort should accelerate that work in a big way.