A Pair of “Healthy Turf. Healthy Kids.” Projects Will Provide Improved Green Spaces to Communities That Need it Most

Two Detroit city neighborhoods will soon receive much needed green space improvements. Plans are under way to install a playground in Warrendale, a western Detroit neighborhood; and to provide an extensive renovation of Pingree Park on the east side.

The Warrendale community is the recipient of Project EverGreen’s “Our Winning Green Spaces” contest. Barb and Joe Matney, who live in the neighborhood, nominated Warrendale because there is not a park within a mile in which kids can play. The park will be created on a vacant lot where a home once stood. The community has suffered from high unemployment, foreclosures and crime.

The future park and playground site in Detroit’s Warrendale neighborhood. The house at right is scheduled to be demolished by the city.

The Matneys, who have lived in Warrandale for nearly 30 years, work with other volunteers to hang on to their neighborhood. They buy vacant lots from the Detroit Land Bank and keep the grass cut, a job made easier with two new Exmark mowers which were awarded as part of the contest. They created a community vegetable garden on one lot. They plan an orchard on another. The planned playground is slated to be across from the vegetable garden so children can play under the watchful eye of adults.

“I listen for the sound of kids laughing and running through the neighborhood. They call me the park lady,” Barb Matney said. “We need to give the kids something to do; otherwise, they are playing in abandoned homes. That isn’t good for anyone.”

Across the city, Project EverGreen and its volunteers will transform Pingree Park. These projects align with Mayor Duggan’s initiative of improving 40 smaller parks in the city by this fall. Detroit houses 308 parks, yet ranks 75th per capita on park spending based on a ranking of 75 big cities. Mayor Duggan hopes to reduce blight and restore community pride with his parks initiative.

Pingree Park spans several acres in the middle of a proud, working class neighborhood. Tentative renovations include:

• Improving the natural grass surface through grading, aeration, overseeding, fertilization and weed control
• Tree canopy pruning to enhance the health of the trees and to create a safer, more inviting park
• Creation of a neighborhood gathering spot for picnics, movies and music
• Expansion of paths and lighting

Improvements will result in better use of the park, increased safety and create a community hub for long-time neighbors, their grandchildren and the next generation moving into the neighborhood. Additionally, the plants and trees will clean the air and benefit all. This truly is a win-win situation.

“The neighborhood surrounding Pingree Park is engaged, and works to keep its park free of bottles and trash. They recognize the value of their park and are looking forward to working with Project EverGreen and local Detroit area businesses to upgrade the playing fields and improve the park’s aesthetics,” said Cindy Code, executive director of Project EverGreen. “They embrace the opportunity to enhance their lives with healthy trees, plants and grass that help cool their neighborhood and lead to healthier lives.”

Pingree Park is due to be renovated this fall through Project EverGreen’s HTHK initiative.

A year ago, Project EverGreen undertook a strategic planning initiative that resulted in a new mission and vision. The mission: Bringing people together to make a difference in how our yards, parks and communities create a greener, healthier, cooler Earth. And vision: A greener cooler Earth, healthier, happier people, guides a national footprint that has rejuvenated yards, parks and recreational playing surfaces in more than 35 cities, covering more than 1 million square feet of actively growing green space.

Our new mission has been transformative in Project EverGreen’s collaborative efforts with lawn and landscape professionals, corporations, small businesses and consumers. It’s the synergistic efforts of groups and individuals that have resulted in the renovation and sustainability of parks across the U.S. It’s also the trigger for conversations surrounding parks as the lungs of the city.

As more than half of the U.S. population now lives in urban areas, it’s more crucial than ever to provide parks and green spaces that provide relief from the heat of the city, and gathering spots where people can take a breather from work and daily life.

A snapshot of Project EverGreen projects reflects the life-changing benefits of renewed yards, parks and green spaces.

• From the pocket park and community garden in E. Harlem that transformed a vacant lot to a green garden providing a respite to neighbors young and old.
• To the sports field initiative in Hazlet, N.J., that re-opened a sports field for the first time in 10 years with a safe and sustainable playing surface for kids to play.
• To the baseball field project in Round Rock, Texas, that not only provided a safer, more durable and easier to maintain playing and recreational surfaces but earned an additional benefit of creating a gathering spot and built a spirit of togetherness we didn’t have before.

For Project Evergreen, Pingree Park in Detroit will be a showcase. It will demonstrate the impact that results when an organization can pull together community groups, municipal leaders, volunteers, green space expertise, donors, and members of the community. Pingree Park is an exciting project that will make an ongoing difference to the surrounding neighborhood, city and environment.

Project EverGreen is seeking volunteers, donors and advocates to bring this project to fruition this fall and contribute to the renaissance of Detroit. In an urban area dominated by the auto industry, Pingree and the 40 smaller parks gaining a substantial facelift, will turn on the city’s landscape, sequester carbon and highlight parks as the lungs of the city.