This article is part of Inside Our Outdoors, a series about Southeast Michigan's connected parks, greenways, and trails and how they affect residents' quality of life. It is made possible with funding from the Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance.
Located in the shadow of the Ambassador Bridge, Riverside Park is by far Detroit's busiest park. And with major renovations and new trail connections on the way, it's only going to become more popular over the next few years.
Plans are now underway to connect the Southwest Detroit recreation area with two greenways. And the 29-acre park is also in the midst of an impressive overhaul.
In the last of a series of renovations that began in 2018, the city plans to upgrade 13 acres of Riverside Park along the eastern edge of West Grand Boulevard this summer and fall. Among the upcoming enhancements will be a splash pad, playground area, outdoor gym, series of new shelters including a large shelter, sledding hill, amphitheater, and comfort station with its own concession area.
Detroit Chief Parks Planner Meagan Elliott expects the sledding hill to be a big hit with Southwest Detroiters, who have long desired a sledding hill close to their homes.
"The number one text message I receive on the weekend [in the winter from friends there] is: 'Where can I go sledding in the neighborhood?'" she says. "And I'm like, 'You can't yet. You can go all the way to Balduck [on the East Side]. There are a couple of spots around town, but there isn't any place in Southwest Detroit.'"
Elliott is also looking forward to the opening of the concession area, which the city would like to see occupied by local vendors.
"We're excited about that piece," she says. "The concessions are an area where we're trying to partner with local businesses in Southwest Detroit to figure out how we can make that reflective of the community."
The park will eventually link up with the western section of the Detroit RiverWalk, which is still under construction; and the Joe Louis Greenway, which is set to begin its first phase of implementation later this spring.
The city of Detroit first began renovating Riverside Park in 2018 after drafting a new master plan earlier that year. The first phase targeted six acres in the northeastern portion of the park along Jefferson Avenue with renovations that included a new softball diamond, picnic shelter, playground, basketball court, and restroom area.
The following year, the city transformed a three-acre area that had once housed a city dog pound facility into Detroit's largest dog park and a 20,000-square-foot skate park. Last year, the southeastern portion of the park was upgraded with a revamped picnic area, new section of
riverwalk, boat launch, horseshoe and table tennis area, and new parking zone.
The park has also undergone extensive environmental remediation to ensure its safety for visitors.