Greenway Development Taking Shape in Detroit as Public Interest Grows

Todd Scott of Detroit Greenways Coalition gives an overview of the ever-expanding picture of greenways throughout the city, and the role they’ve had in keeping Detroiters social and active over the past year.

Greenways are corridors of land dedicated to recreation and environmental preservation. From the 27.5-mile-long Joe Louis Greenway project, to development of the Uniroyal site along the riverfront, the movement around greenway development is ramping up in Detroit. 

Todd Scott is the Executive Director of the Detroit Greenways Coalition. He says there are several greenway projects taking shape throughout the city. Public interest in these spaces has been growing in recent years, Scott says, and has intensified even more during the pandemic.   

In discussing the role of greenways in the city over the past year, Scott says they have been a crucial meeting space for people to gather safely. Scott adds greenways provide an escape to the grind of city life and serve as an alternative transit route for cyclist commuters. The popular Dequindre Cut greenway has seen a huge uptick in attendance. Scott says pre-pandemic numbers were around 1,000 visitors to the Cut each day in the summer months. However, that number has gone up by 40% since the COVID-19 pandemic began. 

Learn more about greenways in Detroit at the next Great Lakes Now Facebook Live Watch Party hosted by Annamarie Sysling and Sandra Svoboda of Detroit Public Television featuring guests Todd Scott and Michele Hodges of the Belle Isle Conservancy. 

Listen: The role greenways play in the city.

The Difference Between Bike Lanes and Greenways

While Scott explains that both greenways and bike lanes are important parts of the region’s non-motorized network, there are some key distinctions. Bike lanes are within the road right of way and, Scott says, are typically marked by posts and paint in the road around Detroit and the surrounding suburbs. Meanwhile, Scott notes that greenways are more often their own right of way and are often situated along geological sites with trees and waterways like the Detroit River. Scott says greenways and bike lanes are important in making connections around the city. 

Current Greenway Projects

Alex McLenon
Alex McLenon

To the east of Mount Elliott Park at the former Uniroyal site, the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy and others are building a much anticipated segment of the Riverwalk that will connect Mount Elliott Park to Gabriel Richard Park and to the MacArthur Bridge over to Belle Isle. Scott says the project is set to be completed by next year. 

The Joe Louis Greenway is another effort taking shape in the city. The ambitious project is a 27.5-mile greenway around the city of Detroit that will extend the Dequindre Cut and build out a greenway throughout many neighborhoods in the city. Scott notes that it’s one of the most major greenway projects in the U.S. right now. There are several other Detroit greenway projects taking shape as well including the Southwest Greenway.

On how greenways will be a part of Detroit’s future, Scott says greenways and the non-motorized network play a major role in the city now and that will likely increase as time goes on. He notes that “a lot of people in Detroit cannot afford cars or auto insurance and greenways provide an alternative and we need to make sure it’s a first-class alternative.”

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