The Metro: Highlighting Michigan’s largest urban park

Those outside Detroit may not know that the city’s Rouge Park is also home to one of the largest old growth forests in southeast Michigan.

Residents enjoy a "butterfly walk" in Rouge Park.

Residents enjoy a "butterfly walk" in Rouge Park.

Michigan is known for its nature, although it may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the Motor City. 

Access to green spaces in major cities can often be limited for residents looking to escape the concrete jungle. But Detroit is home to one of the largest old growth forests in southeast Michigan.

At 1,200 acres, Rouge Park is the largest urban park in the state, and Belle Isle is the second most visited state park in the country — behind Niagara Falls.

The organization Friends of Rouge Park has worked for years to maintain and preserve the park, located on the city’s west side. This year, the organization has expanded it’s community offerings at the park. Antonio Cosme, land stewardship manager for Friends of Rouge Park, joined The Metro on Tuesday to discuss the park’s many features and upcoming events.

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“We have a golf course, a golf range, a campground, an Olympic swimming pool, soccer fields, basketball, tennis court, 70-acre wildflower prairie, three miles of the Rouge River, the Buffalo Soldiers barn where people can ride horses, a model airplane field where we just did a dedication to Alex Jefferson — a Tuskegee Airmen,” Cosme said. “There’s horseshoes, picnics, a free archery range, a marsh, a blue heron rookery, and all sorts of things for nature lovers.”

Rouge Park has many fun activities and events this summer, and Cosme says the nature, wildlife and ecosystems at the park are “the highest quality.” Yet Michigan Trails Magazine — providing people with “the most accurate maps and information” on Michigan trails — has not included Detroit trails in their magazine for many years, despite Michiganders advocating for their inclusion.

WDET reached out to the publisher of Michigan Trails Magazine, however they did not respond in time for a comment. 

Ian Solomon, communications and engagement manager for the Detroit Parks Coalition and founder of Amplify Outside, also joined the show to comment on Detroit parks and trails being left out of the media, adding that the city’s natural spaces often get overshadowed by “a narrative about Detroit that may have never been true and definitely isn’t true today.”

Solomon says the natural areas in Detroit should be celebrated and utilized.

“Your tax dollars go to supporting these parks, you should absolutely be utilizing them, because they’re yours to use. And again, I cannot stress enough just how absolutely beautiful so many of them are,” said Solomon. “There’s that bad rap for parks. You know, we went through some struggles about a little over a decade ago with parks not being able to be upkept with budget, and I cannot tell you enough that those days are long gone. These parks are beautiful, they’re maintained, and they’re really special.”

Use the media player above to hear the full interview with Cosme and Solomon.

More headlines from The Metro on June 25, 2024:

  • How much leeway do states have when it comes to regulating guns and gun violence? And what laws or policies should we be considering to make the biggest impact on gun violence in our communities? To answer these questions and more, Esther Sanchez-Gomez, litigation director for Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, joined The Metro to discuss.
  • Gun violence is top of mind for Michigan residents and our elected officials. Michigan had over 1,500 firearm deaths in 2022, according to the Center for Disease Control, and firearm injuries are the leading cause of death for children and teens in the U.S. That includes homicides, suicides and unintentional shootings. Last year, Michigan lawmakers passed sweeping legislation to help curb gun violence. Lt. Mike Shaw, public information officer for the Michigan State Police, joined the show to discuss the gun safety measures.

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