Thursday, January 3, 2013

My Detroit: Balduck Hill and Park

Balduck Hill Detroit January 2, 2013
I was at Balduck Hill and Park (near Moross and Chandler Park Drive) and started to think about what Detroit is to me. This park is dear to my heart so I think it really speaks to the Detroit I know best.

Getting out of the car I heard kids screaming. No, not what many people might expect in Detroit. These were the kind of screams heard at amusement parks and wave pools. They were the screams of children playing by sledding down a big hill - of urban children who had the rare opportunity to take healthy risks and learn the boundaries of those risks. Most people there say excuse me, smile,  take sledding ideas from each other, laugh a lot, and compliment each other on their sleds and skills. There was no sun in the sky, no money exchanged - just a free snow-covered hill plopped in a city. From that comes hours and hours of fun and the wonder of childhood memories being made. EVERYONE who grows up within a few miles of this hill holds it in their heart a little, even when they grow up.

On the hill were several children from the suburb next to the park (yes, Detroit shares this park without requiring outsiders to be residents to enjoy its awesomeness). I saw one suburban mom kindly share her child's snow board with a child from Detroit who didn't have one. It may be the only chance he has to be exposed to that sport. Ideally, there should be an instructor up there and snow boards for kids with permission slips to give it a try. I don't need to tell anyone that African Americans are underrepresented in winter sports but it doesn't have to stay that way in Detroit.

From a City of Detroit management perspective, the little community house behind the hill should be open. There should be cleaned off/repaired stairs to the hill, restrooms, concessions of warm and healthy foods and beverages, gloves/hats/handwarmers for sale, free used or new winter coats for kids who need them, sled and snowboard rental at a sliding scale, free and open basic instruction during school breaks and on weekends and ice skating/sliding scale ice skate rental below - maybe even a chance for kids in Detroit to learn hockey outside of Clark Park. It would be a foolish mistake to think that more of our very near suburban neighbors would not indulge in a park that was well run, safe and offered all these kinds of winter recreation. City revenue just waits to made in Detroit.

Balduck Park Trees Summer 2012
In the summer, the park is used for soccer and and for baseball. A walking/roller blade/cycling path, like the one at Heilmann Recreation Center but better, would be an inexpensive addition to the park. The woods are lovely just across the street from the hill. There is also a nature trail that could be a great place for nature programming.  Someday, it would even be a great place for a small urban nature center- even a picnic shelter could serve as one - like the one at Humbug Marsh of the International Wildlife Refuge. The benches all need to be replaced and there needs to be more garbage cans that are emptied more frequently. There could be better play equipment or an adventure playground there. It would be an excellent place for a low treehouse.

Many people like to walk their dogs at this park. For those who like their dog to be off their leashes, there is a fenced-in dog park.

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