2021 Palmer Park Year In Review

Looking back, moving forward 

People for Palmer Park’s mission is, “To further the preservation, revitalization, and viability of Palmer Park – a Detroit park for the good of all.”  While 2021 was another challenging year on the heels of the Covid-19 virus, the importance and viability of Palmer Park has provided a green space for a healthy and vibrant community. This past year, we were able to bring back some of our most treasured activities and events, bringing many community residents to Palmer Park. 

Especially exciting news is the upcoming three-day WinterFest at Palmer Park, organized by the City of Detroit with support from People for Palmer Park. The park will be a winter wonderland of free family fun. Enjoy ice skating, snowshoeing, sledding, horse and carriage rides, entertainment, food trunks, arts and crafts, ice hockey demonstrations by the Red Wings, and much more. Warm up with People for Palmer Park inside our heated tent. We will be giving away free art kits for children and free hot cocoa, while DJ Joe Darling spins some of his and our favorite classic LPs — plus more surprises. For info, visit detroitmi.gov/media/55716.

WinterFest Log Cabin
WinterFest Carriage Rides

Over this past year, through careful programming, we offered safe recreational activities, including t’ai chi, tennis, and yoga on a weekly basis. Our yoga program continues indoors in the Palmer Park Community Center, partnering with Yoganic Flow for safe, small Saturday morning classes. Pre-registration is necessary, and you must show proof of vaccination and wear a mask during the class. Sign up: palmerparkyoga2022.eventbrite.com

Palmer Park Yoga
Yoga at Palmer Park

Our Palmer Park Tennis Academy continued to grow, involving 150 students this past year and introducing a Junior Excellence Program. The Palmer Park Panthers, our adult travel team and the Palmer Park Pumas, our 12 and under travel team have both successfully competed in local tournaments;  and for the first time, the Palmer Park Tennis Courts hosted the Tri-City Tennis Tournament with players from Detroit, Chicago and Cleveland competing in various age brackets. Indoor tennis programs continue during the winter. To learn and sign up, visit our website. 

Our Community Garden blossomed with the involvement of dozens of community gardeners—including quite a few University District residents—who rented about 20 garden beds. We will continue the program in 2022 with a new farm manager, Naomi Crawthorne. To inquire about availability of a garden bed, you can email her at garden@peopleforpalmerpark.org

Garden Day - Palmer Park
Gardeners of all ages planted their beds at the People for Palmer Park Community Garden on Sat. May 1, 2021.

Through a partnership with Eastern Market and the City of Detroit, we hosted the Palmer Park Farmers Market for the second year, attracting local vendors and neighbors weekly  — both our garden program and market promote healthy living and eating. 

Palmer Park Farmers Market
Palmer Park Farmers Market

A new addition to the park this fall, was a Sukkot built by several Palmer Woods neighbors and PFPP members. A Sukkot is a structure commemorating the Jewish journey after escaping slavery in Egypt and celebrates the harvest. Many visitors enjoyed it, and helped to weave fabrics and plants through its branches. We hope it will be rebuilt next year. 

One of the most exciting projects completed recently was the total renovation of the Lighthouse in Lake Frances, made possible by a private donation. It beams a bright rotating beacon of light in the park. We continue to work with the City on a grant from the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation, which will spearhead an ecological makeover of Lake Frances and Witherell Woods. Thus far, we have started a campaign to discourage feeding the geese in the lake as a first step, and a community meeting (virtual) to share the exciting plans will be held on February 16 from 6:30-8:00 pm. The Zoom Meeting ID: 838 0456 6630.

Palmer Park Lighthouse
Palmer Park Lighthouse

Events that are so cherished by the local community returned this past year and we look forward to them again in 2022. In June we hosted the Palmer Park Art Fair attracting thousands to the park. Included this year was a Mint Artists emerging artist tent, an authors’ tent, and many new and returning local artists. Artists who are interested in applying should visit palmerparkartfair.com before the March 6 deadline.

In late June, we held Log Cabin Day, which featured the 102nd U.S. Colored Civil War Troop, an exhibit of Gee’s Alabama Quilts, spinning and weaving demonstrations, free ice cream to the first 500 visitors … a magical day for all who attended. Log Cabin Day will be even more exciting in 2022 on Sunday, June 26, because we will open the Log Cabin. It has been closed for extensive renovations for more than two years. The downstairs Victorian pocketdoors have been restored, and we hope to have a start on restoring the kitchen. IBEW union electricians have donated labor and materials to completely upgrade the electricity inside and out. New vintage-similar lighting fixtures will add beauty and dazzle, and the cabin is now lit up outside, as well! The City also installed lights around Lake Frances this past year. 

In October,  Harvest Festival provided a pumpkin patch for kids, a live performance of the magical  “Last Unicorn,” roasted corn-on-the-cob, apples, cider and donuts for all – on a perfect fall Michigan day. 

Harvest Fest
HarvestFest was held in Detroit’s Palmer Park on Saturday, October 2, 2021.

People for Palmer Park is grateful to have offered these in-person family activities in a safe and conscientious manner. This past summer, there was music alive in Palmer Park. The Michigan Opera Theatre hosted a live free concert and PFPP with Detroit Unity Temple also hosted a unique “Music of the Spirit” concert. It featured jazzy, soulful performances by Charles & Gwen Scales, and a Jewish Klezmer band, and attracted a multicultural audience bringing people from surrounding communities to the park. 

The future holds much excitement too. The City, with demonstrated community support will be rebuilding the iconic State Fair Bandshell in Palmer Park, in an area south of the 12th Precinct. It is our goal to see plays, movies, dance, storytelling, and live musical entertainment geared to family audiences performed in the bandshell. We are also scouting funding to build a dog park in Palmer Park, and a  group of neighbors have formed a special committee, called Palmer Park Unleashed Dog Park Task Force to spearhead this effort. Finally, a Disc Golf Course has been installed on the former back nine golf course in Palmer Park—and you can play on it now!

People for Palmer Park has also been a founding member of the Detroit Parks Coalition (DPC), and we are very proud to see that coalition take root and become a voice for parks throughout the City. With funding from the Knight Foundation, the DPC will be presenting a series of Freedom Festivals in Detroit parks, including Palmer Park, in August through September of 2022. The festival will feature storytelling, music, dance, art to share unsung stories of history and social justice.

We are so grateful for the volunteerism that has emerged and continues to support our efforts.  We welcome University District residents to get involved, whether to volunteer at an event or cleanup, join a committee, or become a member and donate. The continued support of many community volunteers helping at clean-ups, events and more is unsurpassed. This community pride in Palmer Park is a dream come true! To volunteer, email info@peopleforpalmerpark.org and to learn more and join, visit peopleforpalmerpark.org

by Rochelle E. Lento, PFPP Board President and Barbara Barefield, PFPP Board member/Events Chair

Photos by Barbara Barefield

Aerial photos by Nick Worden