Clark Park, 1905

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Photograph courtesy of the Library of Congress

1905 Clark Park, on the city’s southwest side, long ago served as a leisurely spot for these girls on a merry-go-round, and it continues to attract youth today, both recreationally and educationally. Because of the city’s dire finances, the park closed in 1991, but a volunteer neighborhood group called the Clark Park Coalition soon partnered with the Detroit Recreation Department to reopen it. Some volunteers coach basketball, hockey, lacrosse, and other sports, while others mentor youth in homework assistance, computer skills, and craft projects. “Although we do have a small staff, it’s the volunteers who really keep things going here,” says Clark Park Recreation Center Director Anthony Benavides. The roughly 30-acre oasis opened in 1890, Benavides says. “It used to be part of a ribbon farm that went from the Detroit River all the way to Tireman,” he says. The park, in the heart of Mexicantown on Clark Street between Vernor and I-75, is home to a regulation-size outdoor ice rink and hosts festivals throughout the year, including the popular Winter Carnival. New this summer is what Benavides calls “an old-fashioned barbecue and picnic.” (Check clarkparkdetroit.com for a calendar of events.) Corporate support and individual donors keep the park afloat. They include musician Jack White, who donated a chunk of money to revamp the park’s baseball field in 2009. “He likes to keep that quiet,” Benavides says, “but he grew up in Southwest Detroit and played baseball here as a kid, so he has a personal connection.”

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