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Brush Park BMX: Extreme Sports in a Forgotten Park

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[Photography by Michelle and Chris Gerard]

Parks are strategic gaps in the urban landscape, largely defined by what they're not. They offer densely-packed neighborhoods some much-needed breathing room. How do you make a park disappear? Take away what's around it. That's what happened at Brush-Adelaide Park, a small play area abandoned by the Detroit Recreation Department decades ago. As the surrounding neighborhood disappeared and scrappers made off with most of its play equipment, only a faded wooden sign on a fence distinguished it from the surrounding fields. That's how photographer Joe Gall found the park when scouting locations to build a BMX park last winter. Now known as Brush Park BMX, you'd be hard-pressed to miss it.

According to Gall, neighbors initially "laughed it off" when his group asking if they' d mind seeing the disused park being used as a BMX course. So when the ground thawed in late March, they got to work making the lot usable.

"There was so much trash," said Gall, pointing towards the intersection of Brush and Adelaide streets. "We filled that whole corner up."

As residents began realizing the group was serious, the reactions were mixed. Many were thrilled to see life in the park, while others thought a BMX Park wasn't helpful for a neighborhood working to preserve the few ornate victorian homes still standing. A recent clean-up event, however, drew people together. Posted on Facebook, the clean-up attracted over fifty people of various ages, including some of those who had previously expressed their doubts. It would seem that for some, Gall's use for the park may not be ideal, but it's a step in the right direction.

As the track grows in complexity, more and more people are showing up ride, help out, or just chat while their dogs play. The group is collaborating with a neighbor to acquire an alternate use permit from the city, as the land is currently zoned for redevelopment. For now, construction will continue while seating and landscaping is added. We asked Gall how far along the park is, relative to the group's ultimate vision.

"There's still a ton to do," he said. "Maybe 5%."

· Brush Park BMX [Facebook]