grass roots.



detroit mower gang – these volunteers compete to maintain detroit’s old parks

As small budgets and bureaucracy leave playgrounds and parks uncared for in Detroit, a group of twenty-five volunteers known as the Detroit Mower Gang is taking matters into their own hands.

This past weekend, volunteer lawnmowers competed for a championship belt awarded to the person who cuts the most grass during their 12-hour Motown Mowdown. They kicked off at Hammerberg Playfield, an un-owned park on Detroit’s west side, tackling the overgrown lawn, repairing swing sets for the neighborhood before splitting up to cleanup 10 other abandoned playgrounds in the city.

“No one owns this particular park, it just fell through the cracks,” said Tom Nardone, 50, of Birmingham, who started the Detroit Mower Gang in 2009. “We just try to keep it alive. … Without a group, you couldn’t mow this park with a mower in a couple of days.”

A decade ago, Nardone bought a lawn tractor off Craigslist and took it to a park on Interstate 75 and Eight Mile Road. He started a Facebook group to find others who could join the project and eventually, it turned into a mower gang, he said. “When the city was getting close to filing for bankruptcy there were more than 300 parks in Detroit and the city said it could only care for 72.”

Last year, the founders formed a nonprofit called Enemies of Debris and also host trash fishing, where the same group pulls trash out of the Detroit River. The group said there have been fewer lots scouted each year because the city is catching up to them. “We hope they put us out of business,” Nardone said laughing. “We could start a bowling league or something.”

“i like the grass roots people the most.”

-doug ford



credits: optimist daily, – sarah rahal, max ortiz – photo

58 responses »

  1. What a heart-warming and truly beautiful story. Thank you for letting us know and please pass on your readers’ Thank You to them, if you have a way of doing this. Kiki salutes them from Switzerland 👍🏻🌿🌾🌱

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Reminds me of an eagle scout in our town who created a similar outdoor cleaning team. Reporter wrote a nice story for the local paper highlighting the good deeds.. then a grievance of some kind was filed by the county workers which included monetary damages (for the money that they would have made picking up the trash) .. Can’t make this stuff up. 😕 But still..if they can do it up in Michigan, that is truly a wonderful thing! There are good people all around us.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. what wonderful civic mindedness; great quote: in every community, so it seems, even in the most trying of times, perhaps more so in the most trying of times, good people rise to the occasion; it reasserts one’s faith in humanity

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Grass Roots. – The Detroit Standard

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