Blog: Tom Woiwode

How is Thomas M. Woiwode a champion for conservation? For starters, he has raised over $125 million in private funds for conservation purposes. Plus he's completed more than 300 conservation real estate acquisitions. He's worked for decades to preserve natural spaces, create greenways and otherwise make this a greener state, region and planet. He's our guest blogger this week to share his experiences and ideas to keep this ball rolling.

Post No 1: Going For A Walk

I went for a walk today. It's a walk I take often, several times a week if possible.  Today's walk, though, was much longer than usual. Typically, when I have the chance, I walk along the Detroit River from the Renaissance Center to the Rivard Plaza and back. Today I walked to Gabriel Richard Park and back, a distance of about 3 1/2 miles each way, the entire length of the east riverfront when it will be done.

RiverWalk is incredible. Have you seen it yet? If not, you should get down there soon, and visit often. Who knows what you might find? Fountains (always full of children on hot days); a one-of-a-kind carousel; air races; rock concerts; weddings (I walked into one a couple of weeks ago); a labyrinth; outdoor meetings; bike riders; or, perhaps most important, a place to walk, or sit, or watch the boats and the river--a place of respite, to enjoy what is special about this city.

For those of us who've lived and worked in Detroit for decades, access to the riverfront, the change in the city is truly inspirational. And it has transformed the way we think about the city, and the city thinks about itself.

Oh, sure, there's more to be done. The state park isn't finished; the section between Mt. Elliott Park and Gabriel Richard Park needs to be completed; access at the eastern end needs to be improved; the area east of the Renaissance Center needs to be cleaned up to make for a more inviting environment.

The city must work with the
Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, the organization vested with the responsibility of managing the public spaces and hosting the events along the RiverWalk, to complete this pedestrian corridor. It needs to happen soon, so the momentum for development is not lost, and so the Riverfront Conservancy can move on to the stretch heading west to the Ambassador Bridge (yes, there is a next phase in the riverfront's development, another 2 1/2 miles west of Cobo Center).

But the work yet to be done does not make the transformation any less significant. Something happens when you go for a walk along the riverfront. You interact and engage people in entirely different ways. You meet people from very different backgrounds, people of all colors, of all ages, of all philosophies. You smile and say hello. You share with everyone that same sense of wonder, of excitement, of enthusiasm for this place we call home, and that commitment to what it could be. The transformation of the riverfront has created a share sense of interest in where we live, and how we live, and how we live with each other.    

And that's the point.