Not long ago, circle forest This location at 3301 E. Palmer Street in Poletown East, Detroit, was something that some people were hesitant to visit. Dirty toilets, swimming pools, dirty beds and old carpets are just a few of the things that have been forgotten, tangled in neglected trees and vegetation, buried in piles of rubble. Today, thanks to the Wilderness Habitat Restoration Project, what was once a 1.3-acre vacant and unusable land has been transformed from an eyesore into a valuable community asset.
“The land was really overgrown and a bit intimidating, unwelcoming and unattractive.It’s garbage,” says President Andrew “Birch” Kemp. Detroit Arboretum
Andrew “Birch” Kemp was amazed by some of the cleanup results at Circle Forest. Photo: Arboretum Detroit.
Kemp was a key figure in Circle Forest’s community comeback. detroit future city, made possible by a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. The project is particularly important to Kemp, a long-time resident of his Forrest area, and he is proud to see the impact already.
“Now it’s a place where people can come in and take a breather and feel like they’re in another place,” he says. “We had meetings there, camped there, and just the other day some kids were sitting in a tree writing songs.”
Restoring a 40-year-old forest was no easy task. Kemp describes it as being in 12 vacant lots that had been “badly neglected and dumped for 30 years.” The first step in the project was to clear the way and then evaluate the existing trees (which occupied his 30% of the land).
“A lot of space in Detroit is forest. Someone dumped so much concrete that it can no longer be mowed and trees grow,” says Kemp. “All of a sudden, at the end of the block, there’s this little forest.
Since April, Kemp and other project leaders have rallied the support of many local partner organizations and community volunteers. Together, they cleared 60 yards of debris across a space the size of a football field.
“I call them trash warriors, people who came out with us to lift heavy things, tear trash out of the ground, and sweat in really ugly hard work,” he said. “There was a vibe that people understood that this is such a traumatizing landscape, and if we can do something to heal it, we’re doing well.”
Photo: Arboretum Detroit.
Paving the way for community growth
Pulling part of the toilet out of the ground during Circle Forest’s cleanup event was “an eye-opener and a challenge” for Mark Purvine, the company’s Executive Director of Manufacturing. General Motors (GM)Earlier this year, Pervine was part of a 15-man strong company contingent that pulled everything from weeds to toilet bowls out of the ground. His one of his GM sites he manages is Factory Zero, so giving back to a nearby community means a lot to him.
“I saw it as an opportunity to support our residents. If we can make a difference in their lives, we can support the growth of our region and our future talent pool,” he says. “Residents become employees, so it’s a win-win situation to address the good causes that support neighborhood prosperity.”
He added that he is looking forward to seeing how Circle Forest’s growth develops over time. The potential for the project to have ripple effects across the region was something he considered from his first land experiences.
“Looking at something like Circle Forest gives you a more positive feeling about the area than looking at a clump of dirt or trash. “It shows that we are doing it,” says Pervine. “I’m looking forward to seeing the project continue to move down the block and into other blocks and areas, revitalizing the land a little at a time.”
Photo: Arboretum Detroit.
Help other areas turn over new leaves
According to Patrick Crouch, Detroit Future City’s landscape innovation manager, there is great potential for the project to be replicated. Circle He says Forest could serve as a model for learning and inspire other communities to grow.
“Maybe not all communities can do it on the same scale. Some want to do it on a larger scale, some want to do it on a smaller scale.” “I want you to look at some of the lessons we learned and think about how you can apply them in your own community,” he says.
Crouch adds that he hopes Circle Forest will be an accessible space where people can connect with the natural world. Often, Detroiters see nature as something that needs to be moved far north, or split from its urban location, he explains.
And while admitting he may be “drawing with a rough brush,” he said people of color often don’t feel comfortable or welcome in rural communities. increase.
“I think it’s really important to have spaces where people can find transportation and be in touch with nature without having to go to places where they feel unwelcome,” says Crouch.
Community planting events will continue to be announced in the coming months. The forest itself is not continuous. People have to cross the street, sometimes in very fast traffic. Connecting several community green spaces is beneficial to all neighborhood residents, especially residents of adjacent health and rehabilitation centers.
“If you can walk half a mile, you can relax in a different way. You can sit on a bench and watch the birds. increase. “It’s a lifestyle, something every Detroiter can enjoy.”