In my humble opinion, I believe that Clark Park is the greatest park in the city. Though this park does indeed have some stellar counterparts (Belle Isle mostly, Mt. Elliott Park, Lafayette Park…), what differentiates Clark Park is its robust and engaged programming that ignites community connections. This, to me, is what makes a great neighborhood park. I’ve been thinking about how much I love my neighborhood and Clark Park a lot lately, and once I read this piece in Model D Media, I’m only more certain that this park rules.

Since I live in Mexicantown, my apartment isn’t more than a 10 minute walk away from the Park, and I feel grateful that I can access this community space on a regular basis. Just last Saturday my pals and I spent the afternoon around the neighborhood and stumbled upon a Children’s Day festival sponsored by Matrix Human Services. How much greater is a neighborhood with kids playing in the park and sidewalks? The answer is a million times greater, and events like this at the Park create this type of playful, safe environment for kids, their families, and other residents like me.

Some other simple ways that Clark Park is great:

  • It’s walkable! Not only is it located in the heart of the Mexicantown/Hubbard Farms neighborhood, it’s surrounded by sidewalks and pedestrian friendly streets for easy access.
  • It’s nearby yummy restaurants! What’s a warm day in the park without an ice cream or horchata? Pretty worthless, indeed. Thankfully, the park’s proximity to restaurants, bakeries, ice cream shops and cafes will ensure a worthwhile day in the park.
  • It has community programming for all ages! This park focuses on families and, as the above article notes, building strong social infrastructure. Strong social infrastructure means that people can live and work well together, across boundaries like cultural or generational lines.
  • It’s clean! Of course, there are more than several parks around the city that are disheveled, unsafe and therefore extremely un-fun. Clark Park is none of those things, and more so, is well-maintained with plenty of trash bins, walking paths and lots of grassy space.

As a very active kid, safe neighborhoods and parks were fundamental in my childhood and adolescent development. When I remember spring and summer afternoons on my bike and frolicking in parks around my neighborhoods in suburban Ohio and New Jersey, I wonder where those spaces are for kids and families in Detroit. I see Clark Park as an emblem then as a safe and positive community space for neighbors of all ages. I see Clark Park as a symbol of strong social infrastructure and neighborhood empowerment.

How can we leverage what’s worked in Clark Park to other parks around the city? How can we create spaces for kids and families to build community across social boundaries? For the love of Clark Park and in the spirit of warmer weather, I propose we, Detroiters, Americans, world citizens alike, look to our parks as a means of building stronger neighborhoods and communities.