After three years of speculation
concerning the future of the old state fairground at the corner of
8 Mile Road and Woodward Avenue, the Ferndale City Council approved
a refurbishment plan to turn the abandoned land into a Metropark.
Passing the plan, which many area residents support, is an
important step toward implementing a successful solution.

Janna Hutz

The plan, which follows a long line of failed proposals, is a
marked improvement over those of the past, which advocated turning
the 200-acre space into an automobile racecourse, a high-rise
retirement community or a hotel. Whereas previous plans had little
aesthetic appeal or value to the community as a whole, a public
park would benefit all residents in the area. The open space in an
urban area would provide an escape from city life. Young residents
could use it for recreation and sports, while older ones could use
it as a quiet refuge.

This plan will also encourage the development of a viable public
transportation system in the area. Because this park would be the
only major one in the vicinity, and one of only a handful
accessible by public transportation, it is probable that, if
encouraged, people will use Detroit buses to reach the park. In the
Los Angeles area, the Metropolitan Transit Authority promoted a new
rail line by advertising it as a convenient and cheap way to reach
the Pasadena Rose Parade and Rose Bowl. Similarly, Detroit could
use this new Metropark as a flagship destination, tempting people
to use public transportation. Only by getting commuters onto the
buses and comfortable with the system, will a Detroit or regional
transportation network ever gain popularity.

Unfortunately, the price might be prohibitive. Just last
September, similar plans to rejuvenate the land were abandoned
because developers were unwilling to foot the $15 million bill.
Nonetheless, local citizens have been unyielding in their support,
and many feel the park plan should continue, albeit with a reduced
budget. Advocates maintain that a park with picnic facilities,
hiking trails and bike paths could be built for as little as $2
million. If the plan is enacted, the financial support would come
from property taxes in Livingston, Macomb, Oakland, Washtenaw and
Wayne counties.

On all fronts, a revitalized Metropark will serve to improve the
Detroit area. Area neighborhoods will experience aesthetic
improvement, and residents will benefit from their close proximity
to the new park. Ultimately, the proposed park is a marked and
significant step forward in revitalizing Detroit and its
suburbs.

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