Rouge Park--the largest park in the City of Detroit--has been saved from development...at least for now. After months of heated controversy, the City administration has withdrawn their plans to sell off prime sections of Rouge Park for development. This controversy, and ones across the state, call on the need for better protections for public parks and open space in Michigan. Citizens need better legal protections to protect THEIR parks. Conservation easements on public parks are one avenue; better state laws to protect public parks might be another.
Below is a press release issued by Friends of Rouge Park. The Detroit News also ran an article which can be found online at: http://www.detnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20061026/METRO/610260330/1003
Friends of Rouge Park
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Rouge Park Saved!
Contact: Sally Petrella 313-271-1643 (alt. daytime # 313-792-9621)
Di Allgood 313-590-0268
Yesterday afternoon, the Friends of Rouge Park (FORP) were overjoyed to receive the news that the mayor of Detroit has decided to scrap plans to sell 115 acres of Rouge Park. Detroit Recreation Department Director Loren Jackson called Friends of Rouge Park president Sally Petrella to let her know of the decision and attended the group’s regularly scheduled Save Rouge Park meeting last evening.
Park supporters were ecstatic at the news that their precious park they have been fighting to save since August was given a reprieve from the bulldozers. Over 2300 signatures on a petition opposing the sale have been collected by the group and over 500 Save Rouge Park lawn signs and t-shirts were distributed. WDIV Local 4 News videotaped the meeting in time for the 11 o’clock news. WDIV general manager Steve Wasserman ran an editorial opposing the sale last Sunday.
Ms. Jackson and Deputy Director Lawrence Hemingway spent over an hour at FORP’s meeting answering questions from the group. Jackson said that the Recreation Department, Planning and Development Department, Law Department, and Water Department all met regarding the sale. Some of the factors in the decision to scrap the sale were the Water Department’s plans to build a combined sewer overflow tunnel through the park, the EPA grant for the restored prairie and the MDNR grant for an Intown Youth Camp that could be jeopardized by the sale, the new Recreation Center planned for the park in the recently updated Recreation Department Master Plan, and the strong community opposition. FORP members were impressed with the professionalism of the new Director and her commitment to staying at the meeting until every question the group had was answered.
The Friends of Rouge Park are planning a celebration but also know that their work is not done. Now that the park has been saved from development, they can go back to their former work of saving the park from blight and continue to work with the City to garner the resources needed to restore this beautiful natural park. Given the City’s bleak financial state, FORP is planning to hold fundraisers and form partnerships for the park. Perhaps the Tigers might consider helping to restore some of the ball fields like the one named after former Tiger player Aurelio Rodriguez so that future Tiger players have a place to practice.