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Friends of the Joe Louis Greenway Greenways Newsletter

News from the Trail – May 2021

Joe Louis Greenway Groundbreaking

The City of Detroit recently held a groundbreaking for Phase 1 of the Joe Louis Greenway — a key milestone showing this trail vision is becoming a reality. This historic event took place on a former Conrail railroad property that was highlighted over 18 years ago in a Rails-to-Trails Conservancy study funded by the Greenways Initiative.

It was great to see so many elected officials and community members at the event and voicing their support, as well as Joe Louis’ family. For those who don’t already know, Joe Louis was much more than a world champion boxer. He was a leader in civil rights and an American hero — themes that will undoubtedly be told along the future greenway.

In conjunction with the groundbreaking, the City put the greenway framework plan online, which truly is an amazing vision for the greenway.

So, now that this nearly 3-mile segment is under construction, when will the next six phases get completed? The answer comes largely down to funding. There is not enough funding in hand for all the future phases, but that could change. 

The City of Detroit is receiving $826 million in federal funding through the American Rescue Plan Act. Mayor Mike Duggan has initially proposed that $50 million of that go towards parks, paths, and the Joe Louis Greenway. (He’s also proposed another $20 million for streetscapes and $30 million for recreation centers.) 

Another option might be the Connecting America’s Active Transportation System Act that was mentioned in last month’s newsletter. The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works just included this act within the next transportation bill. If it remains there, this could be a new federal grant opportunity for major trails like the Joe Louis Greenway. 

And, federal earmarks are back…

While Mayor Duggan stuck with a 10-year completion timelines, Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib said let’s try getting it done in five.


RiverWalk Groundbreaking

The Detroit Riverfront Conservancy also broke ground on a highly anticipated segment of the East RiverWalk along the UniRoyal Site. This segment runs between the Mt. EIlliott and Gabriel Richard Parks, and would connect with the MacArthur Bridge to Belle Isle. 

It’s expected to be open by the fall of 2022.

If you missed the live coverage of the groundbreaking, there is a 3-minute video on the project. 

“The Michigan Department of Transportation is responsible for building and maintaining roads, bridges and freeways, and we have also assisted with building trail systems throughout the state as well,” said Robert A. Davis, senior advisor for MDOT [and DGC board member.]  “It’s exciting to work with the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy to help transform the riverfront into a trail system that pedestrians can enjoy.  It’s a legacy project for us.”

Detroit Riverfront Conservancy press release


Bike to “Work” Day

Detroit Bike to Work Day looked much different this year given the pandemic and fewer people commuting to work and school. This year we encouraged everyone to ride to participating local coffee shops and bakeries. Nearly 200 people registered for the event and were able to pick up free custom Detroit Bike Challenge socks at those local businesses.

The weather was great and it seemed like a welcomed change from the previous event format. 

Thanks to everyone that participated, especially our local businesses. 

Our event was part of the Detroit Bike Challenge, which you can still register for. It’s free and you can record your rides to win prizes. This is a City of Detroit program that’s encouraging more people to ride bikes in the city, but especially to work. The Challenge runs from May through October. 

DGC Board Member Gloria Mitchell at the Motor CIty Java House in Old Redford

Streets for People

We are encouraging all Detroiters to participate in the Streets for People project. In short, the City of Detroit is “developing Streets for People, a transportation plan with a singular focus — to make it easier and safer for all Detroiters to move around the city.”

You can participate by adding your transportation needs and challenges to this Streets for People map which includes a brief introductory survey. 

While this map focuses on transportation, we encourage residents to provide feedback on transportation issues related to the environment and public health, such as the need for:

  • More green space and tree canopies along our roads and trails, which can also reduce urban heat island effects
  • Increased green stormwater infrastructure that can reduce residential and street flooding
  • Greater connection between residential communities, recreation, green space, commercial areas, jobs, transit, and more
  • Reduced impacts from truck traffic on residents’ health and mobility options

Events for Saturday May 29th

  • GMOB/GLOW Coupe Day – While there are activities planned for the entire weekend (see the flyer below), you don’t want to miss the big gathering on Saturday afternoon at Cass Park. It’s one of the most amazing displays of custom bikes and Detroit bike culture. We’ll have a table there and will be a judge in the bike custom competitions.
  • Occupy the Corner Bike Giveaway – Council President Pro Tem Mary Sheffield is hosting this event at the Coleman Young Playfield, Chene at Bradby from 1pm to 5pm. Supplies are limited!
  • Bailey Park Moves — This bike safety event is from 2pm to 5pm at 2617 Joseph Campau. There will be a bike raffle, helmet fitting, and more. Please register in advance. It’s free.
GMOB/GLOW Coupe Day 2021

Additional Reading

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Friends of the Joe Louis Greenway Greenways Newsletter

News from the Trail – April 2021

Happy Earth Day!

Updates from around the Joe

The pandemic has halted many things, but not the construction of new trails, especially those that are part of the Joe Louis Greenway.

Phase 1 construction hasn’t officially broken ground, but the City of Detroit has been busy clearing the land in preparation for it. The City has also been transferring land parcels from the Detroit Land Bank Authority to the project to help create neighborhood connections and more.

The Detroit Riverfront Conservancy is continuing to make progress on the Southwest Greenway (formerly called the May Creek Greenway.) According to their Spring 2021 newsletter, “With the final easements in place and the design stage nearing completion, the Conservancy will break ground this summer.”

Source: Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority

The Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority has selected a design for the greenspace between the U.S. Port of Entry plaza and West Jefferson near Historic Fort Wayne. This segment will include a shared-use path. They also have this video that describes the project’s design in more detail.

Much discussion has been happening at the city and federal level about additional funding for these projects. There’s talk of a federal infrastructure bill, a renewal of the federal transportation bill, and more. Detroit Is It published this article about the Connecting America’s Active Transportation System Act that we’ve been supporting. We’re optimistic these discussions will eventually result in dollars.

There’s also been a number of news article about these projects:


Great Lakes Way

Another project we’re involved in is the Great Lakes Way. This new greenway and blueway project was recently announced in Great Lakes Now.

If the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan has its way, southeast Michigan will soon have a regional trail of national significance called the Great Lakes Way…

The Community Foundation together with regional partners developed a vision map for the Great Lakes Way – an interconnected set of 156 miles of blueways or water trails and 160 miles of greenways stretching from southern Lake Huron through western Lake Erie. The vision is that all residents and visitors of southeast Michigan are connected to and benefit from world-class freshwater, wildlife, recreation, and heritage right in our backyard through the Great Lakes Way.

An emphasis will be placed on ensuring that all residents and visitors – people of all ages, backgrounds, ethnicities and interests – feel welcomed and share in its benefits. This Great Lakes Way will improve close-to-home outdoor recreation, enhance regional competitive advantage, help attract and retain employees for businesses, and celebrate, protect and capitalize on our region’s defining natural resources.

SEMCOG has also created an interactive project map with additional details. 

From our perspective, this is another tool for encouraging communities to build Complete Streets that don’t have a history of doing so. We also asked that the Great Lakes Way infrastructure works for people of all ages and abilities. We don’t want to see a community install some sharrows and think the job is done.

Source: Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan

Other Updates

  • Sign up now for the free Detroit Bike Challenge. We are helping the City of Detroit with this program that encourages more people to ride bikes in the city, but especially to work. The Challenge runs from May through October. You record your rides, earn points, and get the chance to win prizes. There are also monthly mini-challenges as well. Detroit riders will also be competing with other cities across the country. There is no cost to you, so register now and start earning points.
  • Detroit Bike to Work Day is May 21st. We’ll have more information available soon.
  • Last year, Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced the MI Healthy Climate Plan to make the state carbon-neutral by 2050. We’re on the Transportation and Mobility Working Group and supporting policies that promote more trips by walking and biking  — two great carbon neutral transportation options. There are two public listening sessions planned: April 22nd at 10:30am and May 5th at 6pm. Please consider joining one of those two sessions.
  • House Bill 4014 that allows cities to post safer speed limits has now passed the House and is in the Senate Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. We worked with Council member Scott Benson who got a City Council resolution in support of the bill. 
  • Have you seen the work the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy is doing on the new RiverWalk section between Mt. Elliott Park and Gabriel Richard Park? From their newsletter: “Crews are currently on site at the Uniroyal property clearing land and placing rip rap along the water’s edge. This stone barrier will help to prevent erosion, and will serve as a base for the Riverwalk and a habitat for fish species.” 
  • Ferndale and Pleasant Ridge are making progress on a long-sought Woodward Avenue road diet. This project would add bike lanes, shorten pedestrian crosswalks, and improve safety on this segment of Woodward. While not in Detroit, we’ve been very supportive since the project touches the border at Eight Mile. Those bike lanes could eventually be extended into Detroit.
  • Lastly, we’re taking over Model D’s social media for the week of April 26th. Watch out!
Seawall preparation work at the UniRoyal site, April 2021

People making moves

There has been a large number of moves and retirements announced recently of people involved in greenways. We want to recognize them and offer our appreciation for their continued commitment to making Detroit a better, greener place to walk, roll, bike, and paddle. 

  • Mariam Noland, the longtime leader of the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan announced her upcoming retirement. The Community Foundation has been the major catalyst for greenways in Detroit and across Southeast Michigan. It’s doubtful there would be a Dequindre Cut without the Foundation and Mariam’s leadership.
  • Paul Yauk, the State Trails Coordinator for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources has retired. We worked with Paul for many years and he developed a great enthusiasm for what was happening in Detroit. We’ll never forget when major rain storm rolled in on us during our Iron Belle bike tour, a ride we would have cancelled if not for Paul’s optimism. “We can do this!”
  • Jodee Raines, our former program officer at the Erb Family Foundation is now the COO at New Detroit, Inc. We’ll be working again with Melissa Damaschke who was named Vice President of Programs. Both Jodee and Melissa are strong supporters of our work to get green stormwater infrastructure routinely incorporated into all our greenway and streetscape projects. 
  • Julie Edwards, an MDOT Metro Region planner has retired. We’ve known Julie for many years as she has helped bring a multi-modal perspective to MDOT’s role in regional transportation. We’ve promised her a bike tour after the I-375 project is finished.
  • Meagan Elliott, the City of Detroit’s Chief Parks Planner is now the Deputy Chief Financial Officer for Development & Grants. Meagan has played a major role in the Joe Louis Greenway’s planning. She’s also helped incorporate greenways into the city’s park plans. In her new role, she’ll be leading city efforts to find funding to get these projects (and others) built. Congratulations, Meagan, and we’re glad your still involved. 
  • Council member Raquel Castañeda-López just announced she will not be pursuing a third term. Raquel has been one of our biggest supporters at Council. She was part of a study tour that visited European cities and learned how they were designed for better bicycling. She also has participated in Bike to Work Day on her very cool folding bike!

Additional Reading

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Top Bike/Trail Projects for 2019

Detroit bike and trail progress is moving at a pace we never could have imagined when we started over a decade again. Back then we celebrated sharrows. Now Motown has leapfrogged other US cities to become a leader in building non-motorized infrastructure.

This doesn’t appear to be slowing down in 2019 and we’ve picked out a number of projects that illustrate this progress.

Detroit RiverWalk

It’s exciting every time a new piece of the RiverWalk puzzle is completed and a gap is closed. Soon the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy will have more construction ongoing that ever before.

  • Atwater Beach near Jos Campau is under construction now and is expected to be opened in September. This is going to be a very unique and popular gathering place along the Riverfront with its bridge and sandy beach (but no water access.)
  • The groundbreaking for the Uniroyal site should occur this year. This is the major gap between Mt. Elliott Park, Gabriel Richard Park, and the MacArthur Bridge to Belle Isle.
  • The city of Detroit expects the Jos Campau Greenway will be under construction this year. This will provide access from the RiverWalk to E. Vernor along Jos Campau Avenue and on the existing public pathway. A pathway between Larned and E. Jefferson will be added as well.
  • On the West Riverfront, the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Centennial Park received $50 million in October, $40 million of which is for construction. While work continues on the park, it is not scheduled to be open until Fall 2022.
  • The Riverfront Connector between the Joe Louis Arena and Centennial Park was recommended for a $3 million Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grant. Additional funding is required to build this trail segment along the river.
  • Planning continues on the May Creek Greenway between Centennial park and Roosevelt Park. This should get quite interesting with Ford Motor Company renovating the train station and now owning some of the property required for the trail. Their community benefits agreement includes verbal support for the greenway.
  • Last but not least, the city of Detroit said they would be repaving W. Jefferson between Centennial Park and Riverside Park. This would be a major park connector. Currently the road appears war torn. This could be the most underrated project on this list.