The Detroit Riverfront Conservancy held a grand opening for this trail in May of 2023. Despite being just a little over a half mile in length, it provides critical connections between the Riverfront, Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Centennial Park, Michigan Central, Roosevelt Park and Corktown. The trail is also part of the Iron Belle Trail and the Joe Louis Greenway.
Detroit’s Dowtown riverfront was once dominated by industry and connected via three former rail corridors: the Beltline, Dequindre Cut, and the Southwest Greenway.
Rail lines remain between the Michigan Central Station and Michigan Central Railway Tunnel, which connects with Windsor. This route follows the historic May Creek. However, there used to be rail lines next to and on top of this tunnel (see its history here.)
While this greenspace is above the rail tunnel, it still crosses below other roads such Rosa Parks, Lafayette, and Fort Street. And that’s the charm of this concept. One could get on the trail and get right on to the RiverWalk without tangling with motor vehicles. It would be a somewhat short bike superhighway similar to the Dequindre Cut.
A creek once followed this rail corridor. in 1731, the French were calling it Ruisseau des Hurons (Creek of the Hurons) since there was a Huron Native American village here. It was later renamed May’s Creek after a James May (1756-1829), who’s home and business were along the creek.
The greenway was originally called the May Creek Greenway before getting its new name.
Rail with Trail?
It may be possible to add a non-motorized trail alongside the existing railroad that continues northwest from the tunnel. Some rail tracks have been removed. There appears to be enough room for a trail with protective fencing from the Michigan Central Station to at least Junction. This rail segment is above the street grade much like the High Line in New York City.
- Detroit’s Southwest Greenway opens to the public, CBS Detroit, May 2023
- Major Detroit project adds additional half mile of walkable pathways: Where it goes, Detroit Free Press, April 2022
- Rails to trails: Work begins on the Southwest Greenway, Model D, April 2022
- Detroit’s Southwest Greenway expected to start construction in summer 2021, Model D, June 2021