Since June 5 there has been a lot of activity at the corner of W. Philadelphia St. and 3rd Ave., and the July 21 dedication of Antonio McDuffy Park marked the culmination of an ambitious project to increase community connection, promote the benefits of parks and public green spaces and improve the health and well-being of area residents.
Located in the city’s New Center Historic District, McDuffy Park (formerly Philadelphia Park) serves as an important community gathering space for residents of the Piety Hill neighborhood. It was re-named for Tony McDuffy, a beloved neighborhood resident who was a tireless advocate for the community.
“We bring people together to make a difference in communities. We are determined to improve neighborhood parks since they play such an important role in establishing confidence and community pride, offer an outlet for physical and mental well-being, and benefit the environment,” said Cindy Code, executive director of Project EverGreen to a gathering of neighborhood residents, donors, volunteers, city officials and the McDuffy family. “It is a fitting tribute to the legacy of Tony McDuffy that this park bears his name.”
A new 1/8-mile concrete walkway, inclusive playground, picnic tables, grills, bike racks, benches and a horseshoe pit were part of the nearly $300,000 project that will double the size of the park to about 1.5 acres. Additionally, the planting of new trees will provide needed shade and cooling in the heat of the summer, and a new open grass play area were also completed.
“I know Tony would so be amazed at what is going on here today and I want to thank all who had a part in making this happen,” said Wendy McDuffy, wife of the late Tony McDuffy, who along with her daughters and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan cut the ceremonial ribbon.
A boost to the health and well-being of the neighborhood, green spaces such as parks, playgrounds, playing fields and community gardens are the ‘lungs of a city,’ providing relief from the heat, filtering storm water and capturing carbon that results in cleaner air. A vibrant park will also raise home values and serve as a catalyst for future development.
The Antonio McDuffy Park project is a collaborative effort between local business and civic organizations, neighborhood residents, Mayor Mike Duggan’s office and Project EverGreen, a national non-profit that is dedicated to revitalizing urban green spaces to create greener, healthier cooler parks. The makeover aligns with Mayor Duggan’s progressive ongoing initiative to renovate the city’s parks hoping to reduce blight and restore community pride.
“This is the kind of city we are trying to build. To many neighborhoods who thought for years that they were forgotten or that city government didn’t care about them. We’ve been going to neighborhood after neighborhood building and renovating these kinds of quality parks to show the children growing up here that they are valued, those who stayed are valued and this was a great partnership,” said Mayor Duggan to those in attendance. “The CDC had the land and Project EverGreen, and Rocket Community Fund came together to make it possible and honor a neighborhood leader like Tony McDuffy. This the way we should be working together, this is what neighborhood is all about.”
The Rocket Community Fund provided a $280,000 grant to Project EverGreen to support the renovation.
“We know the importance of inclusive, vibrant public spaces now more than ever,” said Laura Grannemann, vice president of the Rocket Community Fund. “Our partnership to develop Antonio McDuffy Park will unlock a new space where residents can come together safely and build strong social bonds that will support the resiliency of the entire city. We are proud to have worked closely with local leadership, partners and residents to envision and execute together.”
Fikre Prince, executive director, Central Detroit Christian CDC, who helped with the acquisition of the land for the park shared his feelings of appreciation.
“What a privilege to stand here today and see the park in its new form and experience it with my family and the community. Thank you to the neighbors who participated in the planning of what this park should and could be for the future of our children,” said Prince. “Let this be the testament of when we come together as a city, as a neighborhood and community of what can be done for our children and families. When we think that was beautiful things can be done.”
Additional sponsors and supporters of the project include Rocket Community Fund, Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Legacy Funds of the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, Magna/Magna Seating, Premier Group Associates, PEA Group, The Davey Tree Expert Co. and Green Acres Tree Farm & Re-Tree, LLC.
“Parks play a vital role in the health and well-being of youth and adults alike, a fact never more evident than during the pandemic. Connecting people to their parks enhance social well-being, relationships, safety and environmental health,” said Code. “Together with Rocket Community Fund’s generous grant and in collaboration with the City of Detroit, local businesses and the residents of Piety Hill, we have created a healthy, thriving park for generations to come.”
Project EverGreen and the Rocket Community Fund plan to work with the city to identify additional park renovation projects in the city in 2021 and beyond.
Project EverGreen, a national non-profit devoted to creating a greener, healthier, cooler Earth that has renovated nearly 50 community parks and green spaces totaling more than 100 million square feet of living green space since 2008.
Photo/Video Credits: Premier Group Associates and Aaron Dawson