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Mayor: ‘You can keep park if you pay $250,000’

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Save Lipke Park campaign seeks public’s help to meet mayor’s demand 

By T. Kelly

The Michigan Citizen 

DETROIT—Mayor Mike Duggan says community members around Lipke Park can keep the park if they pay $250,000.

A vote by Detroit City Council in June to list the 15-acre park and recreation center as surplus property was the first official step by the city in handing the center over to the Salvation Army.

The residents who border Lipke and the 10-year old recreation center have been working to save their park since Mayor Dave Bing closed it in Nov. 2013 when the heating and air-conditioning units on the rood were stolen.

During a 40-minute meeting with Mayor Duggan July 30, community members were promised by Duggan that the recreation center would remain public if they could raise the quarter of a million dollars in 30 days, according to Russ Bellant, an area block club president and secretary of the Detroit Public Library Commission who attended the meeting.

“He took a piece of paper, wrote it down and signed it,” said Bellant, who explained residents have formed a committee to save the park.

Save Lipke Park committee is composed of representatives from area block clubs, civic associations and the Nortown Community Development Corporation.

The committee is determined to raise the money, he said. “By any means necessary short of armed robbery.”

The area surrounding Lipke has the highest concentration in Michigan of children under age 18.

“As it stands today, there is no recreation except street hoops in central northeast Detroit,” Bellant said in a public appeal for funds. “We intend to restore or initiate baseball, basketball, swimming, dance, weightlifting, general exercise, basic physical therapy, seniors exercise, horseshoes, art, mentoring and community support activities. All will be accessible to the whole community.” 

Emails sent to Duggan’s public relations person John Roach were not answered by press time.

The community has not seen a proposal from the Salvation Army.

The Salvation Army did not return phone calls for this article.

Bellant said Mayor Duggan said the playfield that fronts Van Dyke Avenue is separate from the recreation center.

“The whole coalition felt encouraged the play field is not part of the deal,” Bellant said. When informed by the community there was a $300,000 state grant awarded to the city for Lipke but not accepted by the city, Mayor Duggan directed his staff to accept the money and use it to upgrade the playfield.

Errol Service, owner of 17 area McDonald’s franchises and the member of the board of the Salvation Army who is pushing the deal with the city, has met twice with the community.

He told the residents at a July 3 meeting at Salvation Army center on Mack Avenue that he plans to put an aquatic center on the Lipke site.

When residents told Service they did not want a water park, Service told them the “aquatic center is a deal breaker.” 

The Salvation Army is legally a church and as such is not required to make any public disclosures over its monies.

 We are asking those who can to help us by making a donation to the Save Lipke campaign, Bellant said. Contributions can be made by going to www.crowdrise.com/savelipke

Another way to donate is to call Bellant at 313.318.6997 or by calling Karen Washington or Pat Borsch at Norwood CDC, 313.891.7709

“We are also approaching sports organizations, foundations and other potential large donors. If we do not meet our goal, all donations are refunded,” Bellant said.

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