Saving the Waterfront
Sanaa Green's Story
In Detroit’s Jefferson Chalmers neighborhood, the riverfront is part of the fabric of the community. The local park is the epicenter for cookouts and gatherings, and it’s where residents fish and where soccer teams play. The community even constructed a rain garden to help ease runoff into the river, preserving and protecting the water.
The neighborhood had also wanted to turn their abandoned recreational center into a nature center. But they soon faced competition from developers who were eying the prime real estate.
Neighborhood resident Sanaa Green says that DWEJ was a welcome ally as they tried to negotiate city politics, proposals, grants, and questions about habitat restoration and public use.
“We run the risk of someone getting control of the recreation center who is not working in the interest of the environment nor the community,” says Green. “But DWEJ is helping us to develop a strong proposal to submit to the city to maintain the space as an environmentally focused public access space.”
Specifically, Green is worried about environmental stewardship, when so many people are dependent upon the riverfront. “We need to protect our private space, not just for the people but for the animals and local species. We need to be able to ensure no one is using pesticides or messing with the water table in ways that can harm us later.”
With DWEJ’s help, Green and her neighbors have been connected to a national nonprofit, which is helping strengthen their rec center proposal and is providing additional resources.
“DWEJ knows the system,” Green says.
DWEJ has been a voice for the neighborhood. “For people who don’t have [political] power, it’s easy for politicians to come in and take over,”Green says. “Before you know it, residents in our community can’t even walk to a park that is literally in our back yard. DWEJ understands the need for a conservation plan for our parks. Speaks for us in government circles and wants us to have a voice, wants us to be able to protect and preserve public land and water so that it’s healthy for animals and people.”
DWEJ, she says, “is standing with us.”