Heard on Detroit Today with Stephen Henderson

Detroit By The Numbers: Parks … and Playlots, Greenways and Plazas

Just how many parks does Detroit have? And what’s happening in them? (Hint: A lot)

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Sandra Svoboda and Detroit Today’s Special Assignment team take a look at Detroit’s parks, playlots, greenways, and plazas. Sandra speaks with the city’s Director of General Service Administration Brad Dick and the Director of Parks and Recreation Alicia Bradford about defining and maintaining the city’s recreational spaces.

  • What is a park?: Dick and Bradford explain that while many types of recreational spaces exist they aren’t all technically parks. Spaces are classified by the type of deed the land was granted and available acreage.
  • How many parks are in Detroit? Currently there are 308 official city parks, but there are also a variety of play fields, greenways and plazas that offer services and amenities to residents and visitors.
  • Maintaining the Parks: Dick admits the parks aren’t perfect yet. However they’ve made significant improvements thanks to city and resident efforts. He says in particular the city has hired a park manager for the first time since 2007, and her team has the tools and knowledge to properly plan and maintain the parks. He also notes that the Adopt a Park program has already seen great success this summer and adopters have helped with a lot of the trash collection and cleanup efforts in the parks.
  • Park Activities: Bradford says budget cuts prevent the creation of extensive recreational programs, but the department works with many other organizations to plan activities and events for park patrons. She notes that even in reduced capacity the park programs are still very successful and many families and communities are making ample use of the spaces.
  • Where and Why?: Dick says that the city looks at population density and growth areas before they begin planning for park maintenance, closures, and establishments. He relates that there are areas where parks are surrounded by emptied neighborhoods and newer high growth areas, like Woodbridge, are in need of more parks. Particularly important are areas with high child and senior populations.
  • Park Safety: Bradford says big improvements in park safety have helped draw in many residents. She says that Police Chief James Craig’s park patrols are helping keep regional and neighborhood parks under safe watch. Residents and park goers can receive immediate assistance with park safety issues thanks to the dedicated patrols and Bradford says the safety improvements are also attractive to prospective city-dwellers.

Types of City Parks



           Murphy Playlot

Mini Park

Small sites tucked in areas of dense population. Size range is 0.5 to 2 acres with a service area radius of ¼ mile.

Neighborhood Park

Major recreational area for a neighborhood. Offers a variety of active and passive activity for residents. Size range is 5 to 10 acres with a service area radius of ½ mile.

Tolan Park

             Clark Park

                                              Community Park

Provides several surrounding neighborhoods with active and passive recreation needs. Allows for activities that a smaller park cannot house. Easily accessible by car or public transit. Size range is 30 to 50 acres with a service area radius of 3 miles.

Regional Park

Large open area that provides active and passive recreation for entire city. Accessible by car or public transit. Size is greater than 250 acres and the service area is city-wide.

Palmer Park

         Harmonie Plaza

Plaza Park

Public space for civic or commercial purposes. Landscape is often hard surfaces and location is usually at an intersection of significance. Size is less than 2 acres with a community-wide service area.


An open space or trail that connects places within a community and encourages non-motorized transportation. Size can span the whole city with a community-wide service area.
Dequindre Cut Eastern Market Extension Under Construction
Source: 2006 DRD Master Plan


Detroit by the Numbers

This post is a part of Detroit by the Numbers.

WDET is putting Detroit’s urban — and suburban — data myths to the test, separating fact from fiction.  

Detroit by the Numbers is produced by WDET 101.9 FM and is powered by the Detroit Journalism Cooperative. Support for this project comes from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Renaissance Journalism’s Michigan Reporting Initiative and the Ford Foundation.




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