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Gabriel Richard Park Will Be The Next Riverfront Makeover

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Photography by Chris and Michelle Gerard

As if opening a splash park and extending the RiverWalk weren't big enough achievements for one summer, the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy is preparing for construction at Gabriel Richard Park. For the unfamiliar, it's the blur of green and trees visible as you zoom from Jefferson onto the Belle Isle Bridge.

Later this summer, Gabriel Richard Park can expect a new "environmentally friendly" parking lot, additional bike paths, increased lighting, and more benches. It might sound like a relatively mundane upgrade package, but the changes should help unlock one of the riverfront's most overlooked spaces.

The Detroit Riverfront Conservancy originally renovated Gabriel Richard Park (GRP) about a decade ago. The huge space was landscaped, a butterfly garden was planted, benches installed, and a small pavilion erected. If you're looking for a serene, quiet place on the riverfront, GRP is a great spot.

Unfortunately, the park is tough to access. Because the RiverWalk is stalled a few blocks west at the Uniroyal site, pedestrian/cyclist access often requires crossing busy streets. Without nearby parking, motorists face a similar predicament. The result is that GRP is often surprisingly empty, even on nice days. The basic improvement plans are below:

Parking Lot: The new 36-spot parking lot will replace the abandoned Brodhead Armory parking lot on the park's eastern end. According to a 2012 press release, the "environmentally friendly" parking lot will allow for rainwater to be captured and redirected to landscaping. The park might have to wait another few years to link up with the RiverWalk, but at least the lot will provide easy access via car.

Paths: A colored concrete walkway will extend from Jefferson Avenue into the park, replacing the current gravel path. The path will make access easier for cyclists and pedestrians coming from the east.

Lighting/Benches: Added lighting will enhance the park's meandering paths and stone labyrinth, making the whole thing more welcoming. Benches will line the path from Jefferson.

Expect construction to finish up sometime later this fall.
· Gabriel Richard Park [DRC]
· Conservancy announces final phases of east riverfront construction [DRC]