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 6: The Ditch

I started this week of stories on the river. Now I’m in the ditch.  Well, it’s not really a ditch; it’s a mile long, 25 foot deep, 60 foot wide trench. And there’s nothing like it.

Conversation about the idea of converting the Dequindre Cut to into a pedestrian pathway began six years ago. The idea for what the riverfront could become was just beginning to take shape; redevelopment concepts for the Eastern Market were being discussed; and the Dequindre Cut was right there, waiting to connect the two.

The conversations weren’t always easy. When the discussion first began, the Cut was severely overgrown, it was littered with trash, cisterns eight to ten feet deep had had their covers removed, making them dangerous openings, several bridges were deteriorating so badly that cement would fall from above, the side walls were caving in. And that doesn’t even touch on the public perception that it was a scary, unsafe place.

But the project kept moving forward. The sewer system was rebuilt; the walls were reinforced; vegetation was removed, thus opening the corridor up; a couple of bridges in various stages of collapse were taken down. And suddenly, people who questioned whether investing in a subterranean railroad corridor was a good idea could see its potential.

As nifty an idea as the Dequindre Cut is, it’s important to know that its benefits, and contributions to the city, go well beyond the mile-long pathway. A greenway has been planned for the Midtown area, an area populated with educational, cultural and medical institutions. That greenway, when complete, will connect to the Eastern Market from the northwest. With the Dequindre Cut connecting the Eastern Market with the riverfront, when all is done you’ll be able to go from Wayne State to Belle Isle along without need of a car.

Of course, this is only one part of the greenways network being developed in the city, as they are or soon will be touching neighborhoods in all corners of the city. But it’s an important part because of what it does. In addition to the city resources the Dequindre Cut connects, it also links neighborhoods to those resources, and creates an interesting and unusual experience for those living in or near the Cut.

Perhaps more than what it does is what it says, about creative ways of utilizing our resources, of converting a liability to an asset, of addressing community challenges in new ways, of finding different ways of responding to community needs. And, perhaps, about what we can become as a city.

The Dequindre Cut was paved about a month ago. It will officially open when the lighting is connected. But I’ve been down there almost every day since it’s been paved; and every time I’ve been in the Cut, numerous other folks are there, enjoying what is a truly unique experience. I’ve talked to quite a number of them, and to a person, they talk about how excited they are to experience the city in such an unusual way.

So, now it’s done.

And so am I.

Let’s go for a walk.