While Detroit is home to hundreds of parks, the city doesn’t have the resources to maintain them all. Some are left abandoned, overgrown, and filled with litter.
Fortunately, that’s where the Detroit Mower Gang comes in. The group of caring individuals has an affinity for lawn care and using mowers and weed whackers to keep children playing outside.
Tom Nardone founded the group in 2009 after taking his newly-purchased lawn tractor to clean up a local park.
“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 like 72,” he told Detroit News.
So he decided to do something about it, starting a Facebook group to recruit other like-minded people. Now, more than a decade later, members of the Detroit Mower Gang compete to win a championship belt in the group’s annual “Motown Mowdown.”
In these 12-hour competitions, the objective is simple: spruce up the city’s abandoned parks and playgrounds. The person who ends up cutting the most grass walks away with the belt, but mowing and trimming is just part of what they do. The gang also picks up litter, repairs playground equipment, and generally makes these areas safer so families can visit. They’ve used fishing rods to pull trash out of the Detroit River as well through their nonprofit, Enemies of Debris.
This year, 25 volunteers cleaned up Hammerberg Playfield as well as 10 other parks and playgrounds. Sure, it’s a lot of work, but they say the reward is more than worth it.
“The reaction from people when they see what we’ve done is always so special,” said member Hannah VanEckoute. “Sometimes the grass is so tall kids can’t even get into it and then the smile on their faces as we leave is such a great accomplishment.”
What an awesome group! It takes special people to preserve outdoor gems like these for others to enjoy, and the Detroit Mower Gang has plenty!
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