4 • THE CHRONICLE OF PHILANTHROPY
OCTOBER 7, 2010
RACIAL RIOTS. White flight. Disappearing manu- facturers. High crime. The Dequindre Cut was surely going to follow Detroit’s all-too-familiar tale of desolation and deterioration. The Cut was a long stretch of abandoned
railroad lines that periodically served as a dumping
ground for corpses—that is, until the Dequindre Cut
was resurrected last year as a 1.35-mile-long urban
recreational pathway that is a popular draw for bicyclists and picnickers who stop to admire its abundant
graffiti art. Intended to connect the city’s riverfront
and its Eastern Market, the stretch of land was developed thanks to support from the Green Ways Initiative,
at the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan,
which awards grants to projects that create trails and
paths that will improve access to culture, spur economic development, or protect the environment.
Begun in 2000, the program has awarded about $18-
million in grants to 75 projects carried out primarily
by municipal governments. At least 100 miles of greenways have been created in the past 10 years.
Despite the program’s name, its main purpose is not
environmental conservation, says Tom Woiwode, its di-
rector. “For us, Green Ways is a bit of a euphemism in
that the connection—the link—is the most important
for us. The green part is actually not quite as signifi-
cant as making those links between communities.”
Such links are important because of the racial divi-
sions that Detroit has endured for decades. The city is
the most segregated major metropolitan area in the
country, according to the most recent Census figures.
GreenWays was conceived as a means to help break
down those barriers, says Mariam Noland, president of
the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan.
To that end, the program has been successful. Almost a third of the region has developed interconnect-ed greenways and about $100-million in government
support has been used to build them.
Mr. Woiwode says that he has encountered doctors
who have moved their clinics closer to the greenways
as part of encouraging patients to exercise; some restaurant owners near the paths say they have seen
their revenues increase by as much as 30 percent; and
businesses have begun to offer additional services
such as bicycle rentals to accommodate demand. The
Green Ways program has garnered the attention of other cities, such as Charlotte, N.C., interested in creating similar efforts.
However, the money to continue supporting the
Green Ways program, which the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan raised largely from private foundations, has almost run out. Unless it can
secure more financial support, says Ms. Noland, the
community foundation will stop supporting the program for now.
Ms. Noland says that GreenWays is essential to
erasing the barriers the region has erected over the
span of decades. “What we’re building is a spider web
of these connectors, where people get on a bike and
they don’t know if they crossed the boundary into De-
troit or into a suburban area,” she says. “So it is a com-
munity-development strategy that is playing out on
the landscape and changing behavior.”
Here, cyclists ride through the Dequindre Cut.
Breaking Down Barriers
in a Segregated Region
by Creating Green Space
Courtesy of the Community Foundation
for Southeast Michigan
THE FACE OF PHILANTHROPY