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September 18, 2013

Discover Detroit’s hidden gardens

By Linda Shepard
C & G Staff Writer

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Lafayette Greens, a community garden located on Michigan Avenue and created by Compuware Corporation, provides produce for charitable donations.

The lush flower plantings lining the Detroit Riverwalk, Campus Martius and Eastern Market — along with some bountiful urban community gardens — are often undiscovered by those who live outside the city.

The Master Gardener Society of Oakland County plans to explore nine public and community gardens in Detroit on an upcoming tour.

“We were thinking that many people in our garden society haven’t been to Detroit — they have chosen not to go, and have no reason to go,” said Shelley Lake, of the Master Gardener Society of Oakland County. “We thought that was silly. We are giving people an opportunity to go downtown.”

Along with the public gardens of Campus Martius and the Riverwalk, garden enthusiasts will visit Lafayette Greens, Rivard Plaza, the Milliken State Park Nature Trail, the Earthworks Urban Farm and Capuchin Soup Kitchen, the hoop gardens of the Greening of Detroit Project, community gardens in Corktown, and the Heidelberg Project. A garden visit in the Brush Park historic neighborhood is planned, along with tours, shopping and lunch at Eastern Market.

“People are really excited about going,” Lake said. “Perhaps they wouldn’t go on their own — it’s too bad that things have gone so awry.”

Linda Yellin, founder of Detroit’s Feet on the Street Tours, will serve as tour guide through Detroit’s prominent, nostalgic, historic and cultural garden destinations. The society plans to explore the best of Detroit’s gardens — along with local food, art, architecture, history, music and neighborhood landmarks along the way — on a one-day custom coach trip.

Yellin said Detroit’s community gardens have increased triple-fold in the past few years and now total in the thousands.

“Some are as simple as a corner lot,” Yellen said. “It beautifies the neighborhood, gives people the opportunities for fresh food and brings the neighborhoods together.”

Tucked between two iconic restaurants and a resplendent historic hotel, Lafayette Greens is a tribute to Detroit’s spirit of renewal. On a half-acre, Lafayette Greens provides growing space, donated fruits and vegetables, and a place for people to relax and enjoy greenery.

“It is a good example of what some neighborhoods are doing,” Yellin said. “Community gardens have been going on since the beginning of Detroit. What has increased is the amount of land that is accessible and the awareness of buying local. People are into local gardens. It is a way to use space, and people want to know where their food is coming from.”

Although the Sept. 7 Oakland County Master Gardener guided tour was sold out at press time, Yellin said she is planning a Come Hungry, Leave Happy, Learn Healthier guided tour Oct. 1.

“We also arrange private group tours,” she said.

For more information about the Master Gardener Society of Oakland County, visit www.mgsoc.org/. For more information about Feet on the Street tours, visit www.feetonthestreettours.com.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Linda Shepard at lshepard@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1065.