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Nine tours offered at the 20th Annual Detroit Tour of Urban Farms and Gardens

Detroit has an impressive number of urban farms -- over 1,500 according to Keep Growing Detroit -- a number that has grown significantly in recent years. But the the urban farm "movement" has been alive in the city for some time, as demonstrated by the fact that the 20th Annual Detroit Tour of Urban Gardens and Farms takes place August 2. 

Presented by Keep Growing Detroit, patrons can take one of nine bus and bike tours organized by theme and location. For example, a west side bus tour, called "Making Institutional Change," will swing by D-Town Farm, Detroit Public School's Charles R. Drew Transition Center, and Knagg's Creek Farm to demonstrate "how farms are inspiring systemic changes in our community."

Other tours will highlight black-led farms, farms with a focus on youth development, the history of urban farming in Detroit, and more. 

All the tours will begin in Eastern Market at 6:00 p.m. and last approximately two hours. Afterwards, there will be a reception with local produce cooked by local chefs. 

Keep Growing Detroit, an urban agriculture organization dedicated to food sovereignty in Detroit, hopes to not only showcase these farms, but educate attendees about Detroit's food system.

"We demand healthy, green, affordable, fair, and culturally appropriate food that is grown and made by Detroiters for Detroiters," writes the organization in a press release. "Transforming our broken food system begins with ensuring there are places to grow food in every neighborhood in the city. Places where residents can dig their hands in the soil to cultivate a healthy relationship to food, learn healthy habits from family and neighbors, and nurture an economically viable city where residents are strong and thrive."

The 20th Annual Detroit Tour of Urban Gardens and Farms takes place August 2 at 6:00 p.m. Purchase tickets at the Eventbrite page

City of Detroit to purchase 7.5-mile stretch of abandoned rail for use in Inner Circle Greenway

Earlier this month, Model D reported that the Detroit Greenways Coalition received a grant to develop the Inner Circle Greenway across 1.4 miles in Highland Park. Well, there's even more good news about the prospect for the 26-mile series of bike lanes and greenways connecting the city by non-motorized pathways.
 
The city of Detroit has announced that it's agreed in principle to purchased 7.5 miles of abandoned rail from Conrail for $4.3 million. While the sale still needs to be approved by the Conrail board and Detroit City Council, construction preparation could begin as early as this fall. The city will be reimbursed by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Department of Transportation.
 
"The Inner Circle Greenway is going to connect Detroiters from every corner of the city to some of our greatest resources," said Mayor Mike Duggan in a statement. "Residents will have a safe and reliable non-motorized path of greenways and bike lanes connecting them to the riverfront, Eastern Market, parks across the city, and more."
 
This stretch of rail, the largest gap in the path, would constitute nearly 30 percent of the entire Inner Circle Greenway. Other completed portions include the Dequindre Cut, Riverfront, and Southwest Detroit Greenlink. 
 
"The goal of the greenway is to connect neighborhoods previously separated by freeways and disjointed transit via pedestrian and bike paths," according to a press release fro the city. 
 
The plan has been in the works for years—Model D first reported on it in 2015. But it's never felt closer to a reality. 

City of Detroit creates Office of Sustainability, names first director

Another in a series of firsts for the administration of Mayor Mike Duggan, the city of Detroit has established an Office of Sustainability, and named Joel Howrani Heeres as its director. 
 
According to a press release, the new department and director will "guide the city's efforts to strengthen the economic, social, and environmental well-being of the city's residents, neighborhoods and businesses."
 
Sustainability has been a priority for this administration. There have been efforts to improve green infrastructure in Detroit, clean up air quality, and promote urban farming, among other initiatives. More were touted in the press release:
 
"Detroit has achieved several sustainability-related milestones in recent years, including the launch of the QLine streetcar, conversion of the city's 59,000 streetlights to LEDs, adoption of green demolition practices for vacant home demolitions, securing $9 million in Federal funding to enhance the city's resiliency, opening a 10-acre solar array at O'Shea Park, and $11.7 million in investments to renovate 40 city parks and playgrounds. Howrani Heeres' appointment and the creation of a sustainability office will support and accelerate these types of projects."
 
Howrani Heeres has lived in Detroit for 13 years and worked in a variety of fields related to sustainability, including as a staff member for EcoWorks Detroit and as managing director of the Southeast Michigan Regional Energy Office.

Detroit's Bunche Academy partners with wildlife refuge to foster environmental stewardship

Did you know that Metropolitan Detroit is home to the only International Wildlife Refuge in North America, the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge? The Refuge and Detroit Public Schools Community District’s Ralph J. Bunche Academy have entered into a partnership to enhance conservation education and inspire a sense of wonder for natural resources in students. That makes Bunche Academy the first partnership school of the only international wildlife refuge in North America.

This partnership will continue for years to come. Each year, 4th, 5th and 6th graders will get multiple in-class visits from Refuge staff and a fieldtrip to the Refuge each fall and spring. All of the programs presented through the partnership are curriculum-based following the Next Generation Science Standards. Students have the opportunity to explore the natural world and all aspects of nature through hands-on educational activities. 

"The objective of this partnership is to help students to recognize that each and every one of them is a naturalist," says Jennie Braatz, park ranger at Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge.  "We start the year off by having the students make their own nature journals that they will keep with them throughout the year. We discuss what a naturalist is and we learn about famous naturalists, both historical and modern. The point we want to drive home is that no matter what the future holds, no matter what careers the students go into as adults, they can all be naturalists."

The Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge is unique in that it is one of only 14 priority urban refuges in the nation charged with bringing conservation to cities and helping make nature part of everyday urban life. The Refuge stretches from southwest Detroit to the Ohio-Michigan border and as far east as Point Pelee National Park in Ontario. It focuses on conserving, protecting, and restoring habitats for 300 species of birds and 117 species of fish. In total, over 18,800 acres of land in southeast Michigan and southwest Ontario are now being cooperatively managed for conservation and outdoor recreation for nearly seven million people living in a 45-minute drive.  

We should care about this because 80 percent of all Americans and Canadians live in urban areas, and most are disconnected from the natural world. This disconnect cannot continue. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is committed to providing the reasons and opportunities for urban residents to find, appreciate, and care for nature in their cities and beyond.  That's why inspiring a sense of outdoor wonder in students and fostering a culture of stewardship are critical. All of this is being done to help develop the next generation of conservationists in urban areas because that is now where most North Americans live.  

The visits of Bunche students to the Refuge are made possible by travel funding from the Bruce Jones Environmental Education Fund of the International Wildlife Refuge Alliance. 

John Hartig is Refuge Manager at Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge.

Cobo Center recognized for meeting green venue standard

It isn't widely known, but Detroit's Cobo Center is fairly sustainable for a building of its size. And an international standards organization continues to recognized it as such. 

The Cobo Center has once again met the American Society for Testing and Materials International (ASTM International) "Venue Standard," which grades venues on such criteria as staff management and communications, as well as waste management and energy use.

The Cobo will also host this year's Sustainable Brands (SB'17) conference, which, according to a press release, is "the largest global convening of brand leaders and sustainability practitioners. 1,500 people from across the globe are expected to attend the May 22 to 25 event."

And ASTM isn't the only organization to recognize Cobo's sustainability efforts. "In 2012, Cobo became the largest Green Venues Michigan facility. In 2014, Cobo was designated an EcoWorks Sustainable Communities Champion, and in 2015 the Detroit Free Press named Cobo Center a Detroit Green Leader. In 2016, Keep Michigan Beautiful awarded Cobo Center their highest honor, the KMB President’s Plaque."

Cobo Center also lists the many "green initiatives" it's undertaken on its website. 

North End urban farm makes jams to benefit neighborhood

Oakland Avenue Urban Farm in Detroit's North End has always strove to tie their work back to the neighborhood and its history. The same is true for the farm's latest venture, "Afro-Jam," as described by Model D contributor Martina Guzman writing for NPR.

"The idea for Afro Jam was born out of a need to generate revenue year round while also keeping the community involved, says [Oakland Avenue Urban Farm director Jerry] Hebron. 'The community is at the root of everything we do,' she says."

Their idea was to create jams using old, local recipes, "including some that had been handed down for generations." Later, Guzman writes that some of these recipes were unearthed "from hiding places in attics and long-forgotten recipe boxes."

And the profits from Afro-Jams will directly benefit the neighborhood. "Proceeds from the jam venture go to Northend Christian CDC, a nonprofit that's aimed at revitalizing Detroit's North End historic district, where One Mile and Oakland Avenue Urban Farm are based."

[To read more about the recent developments in the North End, check out this Model D story]

Project Green Light offers to help businesses save money, improve safety through lighting rebates

For business owners struggling with the expense of installing external lighting, Project Green Light is here to help.
 
A collaboration between the City of Detroit and DTE Energy, Project Green Light is now offering thousands of dollars in rebates to "Detroit companies who install high-efficiency LED lighting and other energy-savings equipment at their businesses." Those that undertake these upgrades are eligible to receive as much as 65 percent off their purchases for an average savings of $7,000.
 
The program hopes to not only improve energy efficiency in the city, but also safety, as external lighting of business plays a huge role in crime reduction.
 
"DTE has taken great pride in supporting organizations that share our commitment to neighborhoods by promoting safety and implementing programs to revitalize our community—and Project Green Light is just one more great example," says Trevor Lauer, president of DTE Electric, in a press release.
 
Project Green Light was launched early this year and has continued to add incentives, including affordable external video cameras provided by Comcast, and now the rebate program. The program claims that those enrolled since its inception have experienced "a 50 percent reduction in violent crime."
 
52 Detroit businesses are currently enrolled. 

U.S. cities, Detroit included, are rethinking the alley

An article in The Atlantic's City Lab begins on a poetic note:

"The alley is dark no longer.

"In the United States, these almost-accidental spaces between buildings have existed in a sort of limbo: not quite streets, but still thoroughfares; not private, but not public enough to feel protected; backdrops to crime, or filled with trash heaps."

The article continues by detailing the way cities, including Detroit, are creatively rethinking use of these "almost accidental" spaces. For years, writes Eillie Anzilotti, "[alleys] were a place to conduct activities considered unfit for the main street," like big deliveries or trash collection.

But urban planners are beginning to recognize how much untapped space exists in alleys. One of these new approaches was adopted by Detroit's own Tom and Peggy Brennan. The Green Alley, adjacent to their business-incubator and coworking space the Green Garage (profiled in Model D), is a prototype for the green alley movement being adopted by many U.S. cities.

The Green Alley, writes Anzilotti, "incorporates permeable surfaces and gardening space, and has transformed a space once filled with mattresses and hypodermic needles into a community gathering place."

There's many other interesting cases mentioned in the article, and one wonders which alleys in Detroit would make for promising redevelopment opportunities. 

Group seeks to make two streets temporarily car-free

An article in the Detroit News reports that an organization called Open Streets is applying for permits to convert stretches of Michigan Avenue and Vernor Highway into exclusively pedestrian and bike streets.

"If the city and state gives permission, the two major thoroughfares would be shut for several hours, from noon to 5 p.m., on two consecutive Sundays, organizers said. The planned dates are Sept. 25 and Oct. 2," writes Louis Aguilar for the Detroit News.

While it's only for a matter of hours, twice, on parts of each road, this is a big deal. The car-free zones could demonstrate new planning possibilities for Detroit, which has been heavily reliant on automobile transportation for decades.

Also noted in the article, Detroit is late to the game in offering pedestrian roads. Other cities offer an example of what might take place on those Sundays.

"They inspire local businesses to set up sidewalk booths," writes Aguilar. "Musicians play. Yoga and other exercise classes are held on the street along with other family-friendly activities. A street-fair atmosphere takes root, with the actual street and the community it supports as the focus."

Detroit Ento to host five-course dinner featuring edible insects

Detroit Ento, a sustainable protein R&D firm that focuses on locally reared insects, is offering a truly unique dining experience on May 26. 

Hosted by Salt and Cedar in Eastern Market, Detroit Ento describes the meal as "Detroit's first edible insect culinary event." The five-course dinner will consist of locally-farmed insects such as crickets and mealworms, "as well as other notable and unique species," according to the event notice. "The meal will be paired with cocktails and wine, prepared by local chefs, and served in a great local space. This event will highlight the techniques and palates of the chefs and forefront the versatility of insects as an oft overlooked, yet rekindling, food source in the West."

Detroit Ento was founded last year by Theodore Kozerski and Anthony Hatinger, who both have extensive experience in Detroit's urban agriculture scene. Insects, which are high in protein and raised with minimal energy investment, can be an efficient way to feed animals and a potential food source for humans.

Before that can happen, however, people need to overcome their instinctive aversion to eating insects. And that's one of the dinner's goals. 

"We are having this dinner to showcase and demystify insects as a real food and protein source, while highlighting local chefs," writes Kozerski by email.

The dinner will also help kick-off the first edible insects conference in North America, hosted by Wayne State University and taking place from May 26-28. 

The meal will have two seatings at 6 and 9 p.m. To be notified when tickets go on sale, click here

DDOT offers bus service to Belle Isle seven days a week

In an important step for improving access to Belle Isle, the Detroit Department of Transportation (DDOT) has partnered with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to provide bus service to Belle Isle Park via the existing #12 Conant route, according to a press release from the city of Detroit. Service has been in effect since April 23. 

The standard fare ($1.50) will apply to riders in transit to and from the island. Moreover, visitors who take a bus won't need a recreation passport, which costs $11 for a registered vehicle in the state of Michigan and is required for all visitors accessing the island by car. 

Currently, there's only one Belle Isle bus stop -- on Loiter Way near the Belle Isle Conservatory -- which runs approximately every 50 minutes. The route goes from Monday – Friday between the hours of 5:50 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., Saturday from 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., and Sunday from 8:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

The issue of access inequality to the island was addressed in Model D last month in an article titled, "Belle Isle and Olmsted's forgotten legacy." The author, Brian Allnutt, writes, "Landscape designer Erin Kelly says that Belle Isle is one of the few places where a person can really get close to the water, which is strange considering how much Detroit’s identity -- indeed, it's very name -- relates to the river. For these reasons, we must find a more equitable way for residents to visit the island."

Fortunately DDOT and DNR recognized this problem and made a step towards fixing it. 

"The DNR and DDOT have been working together for months to introduce bus service to Belle Isle Park," says DNR chief of parks and recreation Ron Olson in a press release. "As attendance at the park increased to more than 3.5 million visitors last year, it became increasingly important to provide additional transportation options to the island. It has been a pleasure to work with DDOT on providing this bus service."

Midtown Inc. closes in on $50K fundraising goal for green alley project

Midtown Detroit Inc. is seeking to raise a total of $50,000 towards the development of the district's second green alleyway. If the organization succeeds in raising the funds through its Patronicity campaign, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation will match the funds. At the time of this writing, donors have pledged just over $30,000 to the campaign.

The project is planned for an alley right-of-way bounded by Second Avenue, Selden, the Third Avenue alley, and Alexandrine. According to the project's Patronicity page, "the project will "transform the 415 foot long alley with the purpose of connecting future developments, promoting walk-ability and community connectivity - opening up business for restaurants like the Selden Standard."

For more details, visit the green alley project's Patronicity page.

Vacant land in Detroit could help reduce airborne allergens

Researchers may have discovered a way to greatly reduce the level of ragweed that floats through the air every summer and plagues allergy sufferers. Their sollution: do nothing -- at least to vacant lots.

A team of researchers from the University of Michigan studied conditions in 62 vacant lots all over Detroit.

According to a recent story in Citylab, "in the ones that were mowed every one-to-two years, between 63 and 70 percent had ragweed plants, each one capable of releasing a billion pollen grains in a single season. These grains can travel hundreds of miles, but the vast majority stay within the neighborhood, creating for allergy sufferers a highly localized plague of sneezing, itchy eyes and throats, and noses that run like busted faucets."

However, only 28 percent of the lots that were never mowed contained ragweed plants because ragweed was forced to compete with other plants for space over the longer term.

"Although allowing vacant lots to reforest is controversial, it is already happening in many places across Detroit. Woody plants are establishing in vacant lots and reclaiming large chunks of Detroit," says U of M researcher Daniel Katz. "Regardless of whether people think that reforestation of vacant lots is a good or bad thing overall, it will have the benefit of reducing ragweed pollen exposure."

Source: Citylab
 

The Design Observer explores the urban ecology of Detroit and other cities

While many look at the overgrown grass and a resurgent swamps sometimes found on Detroit's vacant land as blight, the Design Observer points out that these occurences are the result of a complex urba ecology.

Author Peter Del Tredici, associate professor in practice at the Harvard Graduate School of Design and author of Wild Urban Plants of the Northeast: A Field Guide, makes the following observation:

"While Detroit is clearly a tragic story from the socioeconomic perspective, it is a paradise for spontaneous vegetation."

It's always good to look on the bright side of things.

Regardless, this essay is a fascinating read for anyone interested in the ecology of cities.

Read more in the Design Observer.

Detroit Bikes partners with Bicycle Technologies International for U.S. distribution

Detroit Bikes, LLC, and Bicycle Technologies International recently announced that they have begun working together to bring Detroit Bikes to over 4000 of BTI's clients.
 
Bicycle Technologies International is one of the largest distributors in North America, with over 23,000 unique bicycle parts, accessories and clothing items representing over 300 premium brands. BTI supplies local bike shops across the country, bringing high performance products from around the globe. BTI celebrated its 20th Anniversary in 2013 and looks forward to growth in the next 20 years by partnering with brands that are committed to fostering the cycling community with great products.
 
Detroit Bikes, LLC is a bicycle manufacturing company in west Detroit, marking the return of high-volume frame manufacturing to the United States. Each bicycle frame is built from 4130 chromoly steel tubing cut, coped, welded and painted in Detroit Bikes' 50,000 square-foot factory. This location has the capacity to produce 40,000 bikes a year.
 
Detroit Bikes seeks to encourage cycling by making an accessible, enjoyable bicycle while continuing Detroit's legacy of quality manufacturing and design. Its headquarters and factory are located at 13639 Elmira Road, Detroit. For more information, go here.

102 Green Articles | Page: | Show All
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