Dobel Street

Magnificent seven

Seven years ago — almost to the day — I went home, only to find my childhood field of dreams, Fletcher Field, in ruins.

The grass, once manicured and emerald green, was about 3-feet tall and brown. The playground equipment was mangled and missing pieces. The backstop for the baseball diamond was a trellis for whatever was growing around it. The diamond itself was gone, engulfed by weeds.

Today, as it’s been nearly every day since Sept. 8, 2007, the park is as it should be: clean, cut, safe and open for business for the children living in the City Airport community.

The best part is, I rarely have to do anything anymore to keep it that way. Yes, I show up for the big events, occasionally weed one of the gardens or the baseball diamond, and barbecue for the kids. But most of the heavy lifting is done by the community now, which is what we fully intended to happen all those years ago.

When my wife, Shannon, and I stopped by Fletcher for a visit Sunday afternoon, it was freshly cut , courtesy of the City of Detroit and DTE. The baseball diamond had just been weeded and dragged, also thanks to DTE. And a man who lives on Mt. Olivet Street, right across from the playground area at the park, had dragged a lengthy hose from the side of his house to the middle of the garden and was watering the tomato plants.

There were kids playing basketball and a family having a picnic. There was even a little dog with them that followed me around for a while.

Despite the blight all around us, the picture in the park was all Norman Rockwell. SUCCESS!

Now it’s my intention to do it again … and again … and again. We have a blueprint to follow and a great story of hope to tell.

While Mike Ilitch and Dan Gilbert do their things on a grand scale and for big profit, I firmly believe this success story speaks volumes about the heart of Metro Detroit and could be duplicated time and again with the right people and megaphone behind the effort. And in the coming days and weeks, we’ll be searching for those people and that megaphone.

After a lengthy absence, one of the co-founders of this blog, Jon Morgan, has returned to Metro Detroit and is rarin’ to pick up where he left off.

I don’t think this blog has the big audience it did at one time, and most of it’s my fault. I’ve been an absentee author for far too long.

But I assure you that what we started seven years ago is still going strong, and we fully intend to keep it going and to expand the effort throughout the city’s distressed neighborhoods, where Ilitch and Gilbert likely will never venture.

Stay tuned.