A Neighborhood That Never Gave Up

Kudos to David Alire Garcia for his enlightening article, “The Greening of Detroit.” As a Detroit resident, I have not only witnessed the impact of community gardens on various neighborhoods, but I have experienced it first hand as well.

My wife and I tend a plot in a Detroit community garden in an area of the city called Midtown. Last year when we first started this venture we lived in Midtown—now we are just a 15 minute walk away in Woodbridge. Midtown these days seems like ground zero for development in the city. Several restaurants, bars and retail shops have opened here in recent years. Twenty years ago, however, it was a different story. Midtown was then referred to as the “Cass Corridor,” Cass being a main thoroughfare through the area. The Corridor was a den for crack cocaine junkies and prostitutes, and it certainly was a contributor to the negative image Detroit has carried for decades. Midtown’s transition since the late 80s has been remarkable, thanks in large part to Wayne State University and a host of creative entrepreneurs.

Advertisement

Our experience growing vegetables and spices in an urban community garden has been a rewarding one, and not solely because we can harvest fresh produce. Two recent experiences highlight a couple of the themes Mr. Garcia discusses in his piece. The first was a simple comment spoken by a local resident as she walked by the garden pushing her infant daughter in a stroller. “We see what you’re all doing,” she announced, referring presumably to those who lived with her down the block, “and we are grateful.” Hers was a simple gesture of thanks, but one that speaks volumes about the positive effect that even small efforts can have on a formerly devastated area.

The other experience we found rewarding was getting to know some of the other gardeners. In order to maintain a plot, everyone must volunteer some time to work on projects such as building compost bins or laying mulch around the perimeter of the garden. My wife and I worked with a group to clean up an alley adjacent to the garden and dig though 8 feet of packed dirt to open up a sewer drain. It certainly felt good to accomplish some manual labor and help the neighborhood, but talking to and laughing with our fellow community gardeners was a blast! In that short time we met a number of folks and found we shared a common bond. We are rallying around a cause about which we are all passionate. That passion gives life—it breathed new life into a formerly abandoned parking lot and transformed it into a vibrant, colorful sign of vitality for a neighborhood that never gave up.

Dave Nantais

 

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Vince Killoran
7 years 11 months ago
As a native Detroiter (and graduate of the UDJesuitHS) I'm pleased to read about this.  The challenges facing a city devastated by over a half century of deindustrialization are immense.  The splashy riverfront projects haven't worked, none of the city's mayors ever seriously tried neighborhood revitalization, the suburbs remain largely indifferent, etc.  
 
I'm not certain how Detroit will find its way.  Without sounding unduly optimistic these small, intensely local steps might be a route to a better future.  Maybe some emerging green technology employers will see an opportunity. . .?

Advertisement

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with The University of Notre Dame President Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., Rev. Edgar Chandler (far left), and Msgr. Robert J. Hagarty of Chicago (far right) at the Illinois Rally for Civil Rights in Chicago's Soldier Field, 1964. (The University of Notre Dame Archives)
Every individual, organization, institution and structure in the church must do something to counter the intensification of the racial divide in our country.
Edward K. BraxtonMay 24, 2018
An official wedding photo of Britain's Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, center, in Windsor Castle, Windsor, England. Others in photo from left, back row, Jasper Dyer, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, Prince Charles, Doria Ragland, Prince William; center row, Brian Mulroney, Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth II, Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, Princess Charlotte, Prince George, Rylan Litt, John Mulroney; front row, Ivy Mulroney, Florence van Cutsem, Zalie Warren, Remi Litt. (Alexi Lubomirski/Kensington Palace via AP)
A poll found that 66 percent of the British public declared they were not interested in the Windsor wedding.
David StewartMay 23, 2018
God simply is a triad of love: a going out in love, a return in love and thus, ever more, love itself.
Terrance KleinMay 23, 2018
The leaders sent a letter to President Donald Trump, administration officials and members of Congress.