Resilient Neighborhoods: A west Detroit park is more popular than ever thanks to a dramatic makeover

Bobbi Johnson really loves the recent changes that have taken place at Stein Park, a recreation area near her home on Detroit's West Side. 

She's the president of the Franklin Park Community Alliance and has lived in the city's Cody Rouge neighborhood since 1993. For her, the installation of a pavilion and other enhancements has helped take the stress out of throwing events at the park.

“Before the Stein Park pavilion, people used to throw events and attendees would park their cars on the grass,”  she says. “Now families walk to the park and sit under the pavilion while watching their children play.” 

While Stein Park has for years been a safe gathering spot for neighbors and community members of the Warrendale Cody Rouge neighborhood, renovations there over the last decade have created  additional benefits for local residents. 

Stein Park PavilionIn 2016, the park received a new track and football field and a 10,000-square-foot playground and obstacle course, thanks to a collaboration between Cody Rouge Community Action Alliance (CRCAA), Detroit Parks and Recreation, Kaboom!, Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation, General Motors, Quicken Loans and The Skillman Foundation, The playscape features a play area for toddlers and climbing area as well as an adventure course for older youth.

Installed in 2020, the new pavilion sits adjacent to these earlier enhancements. The result of years of planning and implementation, it was originally conceived of by the youth council of CRCAA, a West Side community development nonprofit. 

In 2019, CRCAA applied for a Kresge Innovative Projects: Detroit (KIP:D) grant for the pavilion to give local residents a site for health and wellness activities, community gatherings, and placemaking activities. The Stein Park pavilion was one of 25 projects awarded a KIP:D grant that year, with a $150,000 grant being designated for both planning and implementation of the project.

Although the arrival of COVID stopped the pavilion’s construction for a few months, the pavilion was finally built in late 2020 through a partnership between CRCAA, the Franklin Park Community Association, Cody High School and Motor City Grounds Crew. 

Now, with the pavilion built, CRCAA director Kenyetta Campbell says patrons can simply show up at the park for gatherings.

“Prior to the pavilion, the community really didn't have an area to host differentKenyetta Campbell (Nick Hagen) events. They would actually have to rent tents and bring tables and chairs out there,” says Campbell. “Now that the pavilion is out there, they've been able to host family reunions at the park, alumni picnics for Cody’s various classes, and more.” 

Ragine Head, who is a resident of the neighborhood and a 2015 graduate of Cody High School – located across the street from Stein Park – is excited to see the park’s growth over the years.

“Stein Park is located in the heart of one of Detroit’s districts that has a large population of youth in the area,” she says. “So it is very critical for us as a community to ensure that we’re protecting the upkeep and safety of the park, because our youth deserve happy, safe spaces to play in.” 

Head, who participated in a community cleanup of the Stein Park area as a senior in high school, is glad that seven years later clean ups are still regularly happening to keep the area beautiful. 

Since the pavilion’s construction, there have been numerous events and gatherings at Stein Park, from block club meetings to Cody High School having classes outside at the pavilion, and more are in the works. Later this month, Cody High School will be having their first alumni event under the pavilion. And
on August 13, CRCAA will be hosting their annual Back to School Rally in partnership with the Franklin Park Community Association. 

Based on input from its youth council, CRCAA has also been helping to provide programming focused around mental health and physical wellness.  Throughout the summer, the nonprofit has hosted health related-activities like kickball, dance classes and fitness workouts in the park with the assistance of groups likeFitness Hip Hop Dance Studio and Synergy Works Detroit. Stein Park has always been a space to promote health, wellness and athletics and Campbell is continuing that legacy. 

“I grew up in the neighborhood, so I remember as a young girl being able to come there,” says Campbell. “It’s been over 50 years now, they've been hosting outdoor baseball for the kids. PAL also uses the park and there are other new leagues that are also utilizing this space for sporting events.”

Throughout the summer, picnics, games, and a variety of other activities will  be taking place at Stein Park. CRCAA has more improvements planned for the park. At the request of youth council members, an amphitheater stage and concession stand are slated to be built on the site. The amphitheater’s construction, which is being paid for by the city of Detroit, hasn’t yet begun. The concession stand, funded by Kresge, will be complete in just a few weeks.
CRCAA is also working on adding solar panels, solar charging stations, and WiFi to the pavilion.

As a resident of the area, Head is pleased with how far Stein Park has come along and excited to see what the future has in store.

"With the deterioration of a lot of the parks in Detroit, a lot of parks aren’t being utilized for the purposes that they’re actually created for," she says. "So I love to see how we, in Cody Rouge, are taking ownership and investing into our parks.” 

All photos by David Lewinski unless otherwise noted.

Resilient Neighborhoods is a reporting and engagement series that examines how Detroit residents and community development organizations are working together to strengthen local neighborhoods. It's made possible with funding from the Kresge Foundation.

Stein Park Playscape

Read more articles by Kyla L. Wright.