Public invited to celebrate Tuesday groundbreaking of Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Centennial Park

What’s happening: A ceremonial groundbreaking for the construction of Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Centennial Park is scheduled for Tuesday, May 10, at 1:30 p.m. And while these kinds of events are typically most popular with public officials and project stakeholders, Marc Pasco, director of communications for the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, wants Detroiters to know that everyone is invited, both to the groundbreaking ceremony and the planned afterglow at Batch Brewing Company later in the afternoon.

“We’re all about inclusivity,” Pasco says. “This is a project that we asked the public to help design so we want everyone to come out.”

What’s planned: Activities celebrating the construction of Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Centennial Park on the Detroit Riverfront will begin on Tuesday, May 10, at 1:30 p.m. with remarks and project announcements before transitioning to photo opportunities and refreshments. An afterglow at Corktown’s Batch Brewing Company begins at 4 p.m. and the first 25 guests will receive a free drink ticket and giveaways commemorating the Detroit Riverwalk being named the best Riverwalk in the country by USA Today and its Readers’ Choice Awards, its second such award in as many years’ time. Both events are open to the public.

What it is: Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Centennial Park will replace West Riverfront Park along the Detroit Riverwalk, this thanks to a $40 million grant from the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation first announced in 2018. Among the 22-acre park’s new amenities will include the William Davidson Sport House, Delta Dental Play Garden, a Water Wonderland, and a “big lawn for special events,” Pasco says. “It’s a big project and we have a lot of work to do; it’ll take every bit of a two-year construction project. But we’re already looking forward to celebrating its opening in 2024.”

[Read “Detroit Riverfront Conservancy gears up to give West Riverfront Park a big makeover and a new name” on Model D.]

How it fits in: Construction of Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Centennial Park builds on the Conservancy’s larger goal of completing the 5.5-mile Detroit Riverwalk — about two miles of which remains unfinished, Pasco says. He also says that the redevelopment of the former Uniroyal site will be ready to open by fall, completing the eastern portion of the Detroit Riverwalk. The ultimate goal is for the Riverwalk to stretch from “bridge to bridge,” or from Belle Isle to the Ambassador.

Community input: Pasco estimates that there have been upwards of 100 community input meetings throughout the design process for the new park, the results of which will include playscape designs informed by Detroit schoolchildren and two basketball courts. Many of the Riverwalk’s most popular destinations came at the suggestion of everyday Detroiters, he says, including the water park at Mt. Elliott Park and the butterfly garden at Gabriel Richard Park.

“When people come out and see Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Centennial Park, they’ll say, ‘That’s my idea. I did that,’” Pasco says. “It’s a park for Detroiters, by Detroiters.”

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MJ Galbraith is Model D's development news editor. Follow him on Twitter @mikegalbraith.