The city of Wyandotte has a lot of things going for it – lots of local shops and restaurants, a vibrant downtown, the street fair – but there is a lesser-known gem that the city possesses, as well.
The Wyandotte Community Garden, located in the Green Belt Park on the eastern portion of Grove Street, near Jefferson.
It is a quiet, well-maintained green space filled with 36 raised beds that are filled with abundant, vibrant plants. Pre-COVID the garden was a social place, where garderers gathered to talk while they weeded and organized team clean-up days. The focus has shifted with the times and now the garden is more of a solitary, outdoor pursuit for gardeners.
Currently the garden is in phase 1 of its growth. That is, the 36 raised beds placed on the ground through the site. The construction of phase 2 is well underway. The Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant act will have beds raised to wheelchair height as well as beds raised high enough for those who would like to garden, but have difficulty getting down to the ground and back up again.
The site is being prepped. Water is already there and concrete has been poured creating a U-shaped walkway to provide access to both sides of the beds.
While the garden may fly somewhat under the radar for a lot of Wyandotte residents, it is pretty well-known among those in the community gardening community and recently it received a pair of important awards from both the Keep Michigan Beautiful Foundation and KMB’s grant award arm.
The Keep Michigan Beautiful Foundation was created in 1962 by Gov. John Swanson. It was later declared an official state organization to combat litter and promote beautification by Gov. George Romney.
Today, KMB tries to reach every area of the state to carry out its goals. Among other things, it utilizes a newsletter, speakers, the enthusiasm of its members and volunteers, its annual award program and well publicized “Clean Up Days” to convey its message.
The KMB grant award carries with it a $500 monetary prize. The Wyandotte Community Garden was one of 12 entities to receive a grant.
The other honor is the prestigious Michigan Plaque, which will be presented on Oct. 9 to John Darrin, President of the City of Wyandotte Beautification Commission.
“It’s very gratifying to be recognized for beautification efforts on a state-wide level,” Darrin said.
Darrin added that he was thrilled that the Wyandotte Community Garden was recognized and said the whole project could not have been pulled off without massive amounts of help
“Projects like this take a total team effort,” he said. “I feel like the garden has became kind of a community anchor and we could not have become what we have without help from all over.”
Darrin said the Wyandotte DPS and Engineering departments have been especially critical to the growth and success of the Community Garden.
Those city departments have helped with planning, development and construction of the garden. The water lines have been run by city workers, the concrete paths have been poured by them and the city even chipped in by building a 12X12 foot shed for storing gardening tools and with compost for the garden beds.
“The DPS and Engineering departments have been amazing partners,” said Darrin, who is also President of the Beautification Council of Southeastern Michigan.
Here is how the Wyandotte Community Garden was described in the group’s Keep Michigan Beautiful award application:
The City of Wyandotte’s Community Garden is respectfully submitted for consideration for a 2021 Keep Michigan Beautiful Foundation Grant Award. The Wyandotte Beautification Commission is responsible for planning and maintaining all community garden operations.
Our community garden began modestly in 2008, with 12 4’ x 8’ raised garden beds. The community garden was located on a private lot adjacent to a party store owned by a local merchant, who donated use of his vacant property for this purpose.
The community garden flourished at that site, growing to 26 beds. However, the property was sold, and the community garden was forced to relocate just six weeks before its planned opening in the spring of 2014.
We did find another site on city-owned land in the Wyandotte Downtown Development District. The community garden opened on schedule in its new location in April, 2014. The community garden continued to flourish, and grew to a total of 34 raised beds.
The community garden continued to engage local residents, including seniors who could walk to the site from their senior apartments or condos, and also provided food for local non-profit organizations to distribute.
But in early 2019, as our luck would have it, the city found another use for this land the community garden occupied – namely, a parking lot.
But, this time attention was given to finding a permanent home for the Wyandotte Community Garden. The community garden was relocated to an open site in the Green Belt Park in the south end of town close to the Detroit River waterfront, at the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Grove Street. Soil analysis at that site was performed some years prior for the construction of a new subdivision, so we knew that the base soil was good and not contaminated from industries that were previously located in the area.
The Beautification Commission again focused its energies on opening the community garden at its new site in time for planting.
With the wonderful assistance of the Wyandotte Engineering Department and Department of Public Services, 36 raised beds were built and installed. Three city water posts with two hose bibs each and hoses with water wands, are provided for gardener use.
DPS provided their own custom mix of topsoil and compost for the garden beds, which is very productive soil. The community garden was officially reopened in its new permanent location on June 1, 2019.
Even the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 could not slow us down, although all gardeners were required to mask up and observe social distancing rules. All 36 beds in the community garden Phase 1 were occupied and planted in 2021!
Phase 2 of the garden will involve six wheelchair-accessible garden beds and six garden beds raised about four feet off the ground to accommodate those ambulatory persons who cannot easily kneel or bend over to garden in our ground-level raised beds.
Darrin said he and the rest of the Beautification Commission are grateful for the support the Community Garden has received from the city and from its residents.
He added that the Wyandotte Beautification Commission continues to engage with the volunteer community, even during these difficult times.
For more information on the many wonderful Beautification Commission programs you can engage with, and how to volunteer for our events or “Adopt-A-Spot in Wyandotte”, visit the Beautification Commission on the city’s web site www.wyandotte.net, or visit the Wyandotte Beautification Commission on the Commission’s Facebook page.
You can also email the Beautification Commission directly at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call the Hotline number at (734) 324-7293.