Southwest Greenway

“Southwest Greenway ” is a new name for what had been called the May Creek Greenway. The name may change again before the expected grand opening in 2022.

There are rail lines heading east from the Michigan Central Station in Corktown. They slope below ground and enter the Michigan Central Railway Tunnel, which connects with Windsor. This route follows the historic May Creek.

There used to be rail lines next to and on top of this tunnel (see its history here.) Their absence creates an opportunity for a greenway not unlike the Dequindre Cut.

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.

This greenway would become part of the Iron Belle Trail and a great opportunity for green stormwater infrastructure.

The Detroit Riverfront Conservancy in partnership with others like the Michigan Department of Natural Resources are currently planning this trail and expect to begin construction in 2021 with a grand opening in 2022.

May Creek?

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.

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.

Proposed RiverWalk-to-Junction Trail in Detroit

Additional Reading

20 replies on “Southwest Greenway”

I live in Corktown, and own our unit at the Grinnell Place Lofts. I would absolutely love this project to move forward. It looks great!

I am so excited for this new greenway!! Though why name it after a white settler who likely did not respect the indigenous people before him? The greenway should be named after the Huron tribe that lived there.

Hello
I totally agree with Ms. Brandon. I strongly think the pathway should be named after the Huron Native American tribe. We, white people, have taken so much away from The Native Americans. Is there any chance the pathway name be changed back to the Founding Fathers?
This pathway is a great idea and much needed nature trail for all to explore and enjoy.
Good luck on this project!

Here’s an excerpt from what I posted elsewhere, almost five years ago (December 18, 2015, in Detroit – Area Railroad History Facebook group):
………the elevated, eighteen-track-wide Michigan Central Station (MCS) Viaduct. Completed in 1914 (after MCS opened), the southern portion of Detroit’s largest railroad bridge could become part of a grade-separated (like Dequindre Cut Greenway) trail-with-rails, extending from West Riverfront Park to West Detroit Junction, and points north, west, and south. Enclosed parking could be easily-provided in the station’s vacant Express Warehouse, located under four, long-vacant freight sidings and the proposed rail-trail.
I concede that this proposal is mine alone, so far, but others have expressed interest.
Another possibility: Separate the cyclist / pedestrian trail from the still-active, double-track Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) mainline with a limited-access, grade-separated light-rail rapid transit system, extending from the (soon-to-be-renamed) Joe Louis Arena Detroit People Mover Station to West Detroit Junction, where it could connect with Amtrak and / or Ann Arbor / SEMCOG Commuter Rail trains.
Between West Jefferson Avenue and West Detroit, all of the necessary railroad overpasses are already in place — one of them, the so-called “Cloud Bridge” over West Grand Boulevard, was completed in 1896.

West of Vernor Highway the railroad right-of-way narrows considerably, especially over I-75. The railroad also needs an access road along its tracks. Along the railroad between Vernor and Bay City Junction and West Detroit interlocking as has been proposed, you will generally have a railroad on one side of the trail and warehouses and trucking terminals on the other side, and not really taking you to anyplace.

Ford intends to build the link between the river and the Michigan Central Station, so it might be best to provide a bike path along West Vernor. Ford also intends to transform the area beneath the Vernor viaduct into a pedestrian-friendly zone.

A replacement for the 110-year-old railroad tunnel has already been engineered and would be built slightly downstream and next to the existing tunnel. Who knows when it might be built but eventually time will take its toll.

It is one thing to build a pathway park on an abandoned railroad like was done with the High Line, but it is another matter to build adjacent to an active railway.

The May Creek Greenway will be a pleasant/safe pathway for the Iron Belle Trail to leave the Detroit Riverfront. The Greenway will connect to a section of the Iron Belle that travels thru SW Detroit to the new Fort Street Bridge Park and beyond. In the future, many trails will converge on this partially developed Park at the NW corner of Fort St. and the Rouge River.
Whatever name is given to the “Creek”, the Greenway will run along the only portion of May Creek that was a classic stream. This stream portion was the outlet for the “Braided Scour Channel” section of May Creek from Cork Town to Grand Circus Park–that portion parallel to the Detroit River. Braided Scour Channels were formed during the catastrophic, turbulent birth of the Detroit River & St. Clair River 5,728 cal yrs BP.
Braided Scour Channels are in numerous locations between Port Huron and the mouth of the Detroit River into Lake Erie. In Detroit, the most famous is the Savoyard River which ran from Lafayette Park along Congress beyond Cobo(?) Hall, turning and entering the Detroit River around the Joe Louis site/Riverfront(?) Apts. The Savoyard River flowed behind Cadillac’s Fort Pontchartrain at Shelby just north of Jefferson.
Other notable scour channels are the 3 braided channels of the Detroit River that flow around Belle Isle & Peche Island–they are still live.
All the islands downriver of Ecorse are lands not scoured away by the turbulence of twisting, turning braided scour channels forming the lower Detroit River running free–Lake Erie was 50′ lower at that time (520′ vs 570′ now). Grosse Ile has a live braided scour channel running thru it.
Considerable amount of turbulent, eroding flow did not want to turn south with the main channels in the Detroit River valley. From Wyandotte to the deep channel of the Huron River, there are many criss-crossing channels cut into the land of Downriver Communities. Study topo maps north & south of the Huron River–no scour channels made it south. The Huron ran freely thru most of the dry western basin of the Lower Erie Basin; cutting a deeper channel than today.
HOW DID ALL THIS HAPPEN IN ONE YEAR:
After the continental glaciers left the Great Lakes 10,000 yrs BP, a depressed outlet was exposed–The North Channel to the Ottawa River, lowering Huron-Michigan Basin levels to 100’s of feet lower than today’s Lake levels. There was no need for a Detroit River. It took over 4,000 yrs for the Huron Basin to reach Lake Nipissing levels(605′) due to the rebound of the Earth from the loss of glacial ice weight. The North Channel and all of the northern Huron Basin rebounded 100’s of feet while the Port Huron area rose of few feet. Lake Nipissing was pushing up against the Port Huron Border(moraine/ridge)–it broke thru 5,728 cal yrs BP with relentless, continuous flow forming the St Clair & Detroit Rivers in minutes, hours, days, weeks–of one year.

I will send additional comments later–what do I want?

THE TURBULENT BEGINNING OF THE DETROIT RIVER

This is a continuation of my November 17th Reply:
Just before 5,728 cal yrs BP, the Detroit River/St Clair River valleys had Three ridges(moraines) crossing them and 1 somewhat higher area within the valley:
1. The Port Huron Border(Moraine) crossing at the Port Huron/Marysville area;
2. The Muttonville Moraine also crossing the St Clair River valley just north of Algonac;
3. The miles wide Detroit Water-laid Moraine. Its wide, gentle ridge did cross over the Detroit Riverwalk at the Brown’s Hotel(past Parke-Davis Hdqrs.) near the GM-UAW Human Resources Bldg. On the Canadian side, the gentle ridge crossed over the Hiram Walker Distillery.
4. The higher ground within the Detroit River valley(Sag) around Grosse Ile.
TWO PALEO-LAKES(no appreciable outlets) existed between these ridges:
1. Paleo-Lake St Clair(elev. ~600′)–much larger than the present Lake St Clair(elev. ~575′) was between the Muttonville & the Detroit Moraines.
2. Paleo-Lake Rouge(elev. ~595′) was between the Detroit Moraine & the Grosse Ile high ground–a much smaller lake than present day Lake St Clair.

THE DETROIT WATER-LAID MORAINE
Before being washed away, the flat ridge of the Detroit Water-laid Moraine past over the present day Detroit River(elev.~573′) and the Detroit Riverwalk(elev.~575′) at an approx. elevation of 605-610′. This wide moraine and ridge-not washed away-travels NW to Detroit’s high elevation near Wyoming & 8 Mile Rd–Joe Louis Park(elev.675′). The Moraine ridge turns north then NE around the west side of Royal Oak. The Moraine becomes narrower and gradually higher until it reaches 800′ in elevation at Adams just north of Big Beaver in Troy where the moraine is renamed the Birmingham Moraine. The Birmingham Moraine (ridge) becomes quite pronounced in the Rochester/Rochester Hills area where the Clinton River/Paint Creek/Stony Creek eroded thru it–washed a section of the ridge away. The Moraine wraps around Stony Creek Metropark on the east side and heads north along the west side of Van Dyke towards Imlay City. There it melds into other geological features such as the Defiance Moraine.
From Highland Park north to Rochester Hills this Detroit Water-laid/Birmingham Moraine is the boundary between the Rouge & Clinton River Watersheds. The Birmingham Moraine is not a Water-laid Moraine because the ridge reaches above 800′–the level of Glacial Lake Maumee-1; the highest glacial lake of SE Michigan(~14,000 to 13,700 yrs BP). The Birmingham Moraine was given its name because this is the location of the “nose” of the huge Huron Lobe of Continental Ice. The Detroit Water-laid/Birmingham Moraine scribes the shape-the end of the Huron Lobe where it laid down a till ridge for part of a 100 yrs approx. 13,700 yrs BP.
In Canada, the portion of the Moraine ridge that didn’t wash away during the catastrophic beginning of the Detroit River meets the huge Erie Lobe of Continental Ice near Pt. Pelee. Near the northern end of the Detroit/Birmingham Moraine near Imlay City, the Huron Lobe of Continental Glacial Ice meets the huge Saginaw Lobe of Continental Glacial Ice. This completely describes the shape and end of the Huron Lobe 13,700 yrs BP.

THE DETROIT SPILLWAY
When you stand on the Detroit River Walk at the Brown’s Hotel, you cannot see this ridge. You are now standing on the remnants of the miles wide “DETROIT SPILLWAY” which replaced the Detroit Water-laid Moraine during the turbulent beginning of the Detroit River. The closest edge of the Detroit Spillway is just north of Lafayette in the area of the McDougall and Jos Campau Greenways. I remember taking the bus in the early 60’s and looking north along McDougall Street from Lafayette and seeing a pretty steep rise for a road. This edge of the spillway is spread out somewhat and re-sculptured for housing.
You can see the edge of Moraine erosion on the Paleo-Lake St Clair side (east) of the Detroit Spillway in Elmwood Cemetery. See how the land rises along the “Bloody Run” valley in the Cemetery. Before the Detroit River, Bloody Run flowed into Paleo-Lake St Clair. Look north along Mt. Elliot–see the erosion ridge as it fades back north from the Spillway. This ridge fades out as you travel east into the Paleo-Lake bed and away from the Detroit Water-laid Moraine.

PALEO-LAKE ST CLAIR
Before 5,728 cal yrs BP, Bloody Run and Conner Creek flowed into Paleo-Lake St Clair. Take notice how Bloody Run differs from the orientation of May Creek & the Savoyard Scour Channels. Bloody Run entered the Detroit River at the Riverwalk and Adair–the east side of the GM-UAW Bldg.
Fox Creek (Jefferson & Alter) and Milk Creek (Edsel(?) Ford’s Mansion) run parallel to the Lake St Clair. When Paleo Lake St Clair broke thru the Detroit Water-Laid Moraine 5,728 cal yrs BP, the two streams flowed SW as one Scour Channel as Paleo Lake levels started dropping.

WHAT I AM LEADING TO!
We have historical monuments in various places. I am proposing that we have NATURAL HISTORY MONUMENTS. The most important monument would be where the Detroit River began 5,728 cal yrs BP near Brown’s Riverwalk Hotel on the Riverwalk.

signing off –I have other ideas for natural history monuments along muti-use pathways.

The hotel that resides in the old Parke-Davis Pharmaceuticals World Hdqrs may have changed it’s name. It is located east of the Talon/Omni Center at Jos. Campau(Dennis Archer Greenway) & the Detroit River(580′) and, west of the UAW/GM Human Resources Center. Bloody Run emptied into the Detroit River east of the UAW/GM Center(Adair St).
The new “Dennis Archer Greenway” travels up to the NNW end of the “Detroit River Spillway” just east of it’s intersection with Brady St(615′) and rides on the “Detroit Waterlaid Moraine” high ground to it’s end at Vernor Hwy which is approx. where Bloody Run emptied into Glacial Lake Stage Elkton(620′) ~12,000yrs BP. The SSE end of the “Detroit River Spillway” is about two miles into Canada beyond the Hiram Walker Distilleries.
To demonstrate how wide & flat the “Detroit Waterlaid Moraine”(DWM) is–In 1701, Cadillac built Fort Ponchartrain(Jefferson between Washington Blvd & Shelby–the Crowne Plaza Hotel(600’+)) on a ridge of remaining DWM land between two “braided scour channels”: 1)the Main Detroit River Scour Channel to the south and 2)the Savoyard River Scour Channel(running along Congress) to the north. Cadillac probably didn’t know it but he used geological features to help locate the Fort. The Savoyard Scour Channel met the Detroit River Scour Channel near Cobo(TNC) Hall and washed away all the DWM that will now be the Riverwalk West. The May Creek Scour Channel washed away DWM land further SW. A knoll or the downriver end of the ridge of DWM at TNC Hall gave Fort Ponchartrain(the French) a clear view of “enemy” ships(the British) coming from downriver.
The turbulent eroding forces of the Savoyard River Scour Channel become evident out of Lafayette Park. The May Creek Scour Channel becomes more evident SW of Grand Circus Park.
Except for Lake Elkton, all Glacial Geological Events discussed here occurred 5,728 cal yrs BP.

Brown’s is now called Roberts Landing. I recently read it while riding my bike on the Detroit Riverwalk.

This historical insightfulness should be required curriculum for every Detroit Public Schools student. Your sir are a treasure! Thank You for this contribution. Made my day!

Additional Comments for 11/17 & 11/22 Reply s.
With all the info I relayed, I never gave the average elevation for Lake Huron/Lake Michigan: 579′
Compare this to Lake Nipissing’s elevation of 605+’ at the time it’s waters broke thru the Port Huron Border(ridge). When the flooding waters came thru the St Clair/Detroit River valleys, the event 5,728 cal yrs BP wasn’t just a short burst like the recent, devastating Sanford/? dam burst The turbulent, flooding was relentless and continuous for years to come, in trying to draw down the surface of Lakes the size of the Huron, Michigan & Superior Basins(The St Mary’s rapids did not yet rebound to the water surface at that time).
I have also used the word “catastrophic” to describe the beginning of the 2 Rivers. If Paleo-Native Americans lived in these valleys at the time of the burst, there may have been casualties.
To help visualize the turbulence and the eroding power of this much flooding, watch PBS past episode of NOVA (Season 44, Episode 18) called “Killer Floods”. 1 of 3 segments is about the creation of the “scab lands” of central Washington State when the ice dam holding back Montana’s Lake Missoula burst ~16,000 yrs BP. The scale of this event was much greater than the SE Michigan burst event:
1. Montana; 1000′ of elevation energy stored in Lake Missoula with 800′ of moving energy through the Idaho dam burst, capable of blasting thru solid rock into central Washington all the way to the Columbia River, closing in on the Pacific Ocean.
2. SE Michigan; 25 to 35′ of elevation energy stored in Lake Nipissing & Paleo-Lake St Clair with 20 to 25′ of moving energy busting thru the Ridges(Moraines). Even though this pales compared to the Washington event , it would have left devastating scab lands in the downriver area of the present day Detroit River.
We in SE Michigan can thank Niagara Falls and the rebounding Niagara Escarpment for the live braided scour channels, beautiful islands, marshes & aquatic habitat in the Detroit River leading to Lake Erie. It took 100’s of years for Early Lake Erie(elev 520′) to fill up and build up to present Lake Erie at 570′ (average 572″).
During the Thanksgiving Holidays enjoy the Trails & Greenways and Remember:
“NATURE IS OPEN”

A new limited-access trail-with-rails, currently-known as Southwest Greenway (aka May Creek Greenway), will soon connect the Detroit RiverWalk with Ford Motor Company’s soon-to-be-renovated Michigan Central Station (MCS). This pedestrian / cyclist pathway, analogous to the Dequindre Cut Greenway rail-trail on Detroit’s east side, follows the route of long-gone May Creek to the riverfront.
May Creek Ravine provided Michigan Central Railroad (M.C.R.R.) with a naturally-occurring, depressed “water level route” to the riverfront, from c. 1848 until c. 1972. The new trail will parallel the descending approach to Canadian Pacific Railway’s 1910 Detroit River Tunnel, making it Detroit’s first trail-with-rails.
This group seeks to preserve the history and pre-history of the area.
https://www.facebook.com/groups/64480976696/

Sort of. This greenway will be one leg of the Joe Louis Greenway that will connect to Highland Park.

It is important for the DRC & the City to make the original & promised vision of the Detroit Riverwalk & a Greenway Connection of the “Bridge to Bridge” (Belle Isle Bridge to the Ambassador Bridge) come to fruitation. The residents of Southwest Detroit have been waiting since at least 2003 & this last stretch of connection from the Ralph Wilson Centennial Park along West Jefferson Ave. (the Peoples’ Riverside Drive) @ Rosa Parks Blvd. to Riverside Park in Southwest Detroit is a crucial link. West Jefferson Ave. is a publically-owned street & needs to be invested in & it a no-brainer for the DRC & City to create this to the SWD Greenway Connection to Riverside Park. As for the D-Riverwalk from the Ralph Wilson Centennial Park to Riverside Park, it is more than unfortunate, it is unacceptable that one company, DIBC, has prevented this improvement & access for the entire City residents & its vistors from being able to walk along this stretch of our Detroit River’s edge. This is a prime example where Matthew Moroun of DIBC needs to step-up & be an intergal partner with DRC to give legal easement along the riverfront properties that they own along this stretch, donate funds for this Riverwalk Connection & show the public that “he is really trying to turn a new leaf of his company’s image around” to give back to the People of Detroit!

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