City, State, and National Agencies Partner to Revitalize Fort Wayne

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The City of Detroit, National Park Foundation, and National Park Service Midwest Region have begun a strategic planning and community engagement project to improve recreational and cultural opportunities at the Southwest Detroit’s Fort Wayne. The 83-acre site on the Detroit River features a star-shaped fort built in 1843.

Recognizing that 80 percent of Americans currently live in urban areas, NPS deployed urban fellows to Detroit and nine other U.S. cities to provide programming help and expertise.

“NPS is keenly aware of our need to reach out to urban partners to create close-to-home recreational and cultural opportunities and to steward historic assets of national significance such as Historic Fort Wayne,” says Jeff Reinbold, NPS assistant director for partnerships and civic engagement. “The waterfront location makes this asset accessible to local and national residents, as well as, international tourists.”

Reinbold oversees the Park Service’s Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program in Washington, which supports several other ongoing recreation projects in Detroit.

The Kresge Foundation, which aims to expand opportunity in America’s cities through grantmaking and social investing recently awarded a $265,000 to the project through its Detroit Program.

“For nearly 175 years, Historic Fort Wayne has stood as a cultural and historical landmark, today attracting some 150,000 visitors a year, from neighborhood soccer leagues to Civil War re-enactments,” says George Jacobsen, senior program officer in Kresge’s Detroit Program. “As we think about its place in the fabric of Detroit now and in the future, Historic Fort Wayne holds great promise as an active and connected point for the Southwest Detroit and broader communities to recreate, as a space to celebrate contributions of multiple cultures, and as a potential location to support the development of small and creative-sector businesses.”

NPS Urban Fellow David Goldstein, an anthropologist and Park Service ranger who grew up in the Detroit metro area, will serve as the interim project director before a consultant is hired in the spring of 2017. The grant will fund a consultant to work with city officials to develop a comprehensive strategic plan, including a timeline for implementation, by December 31, 2017.

Fort Wayne, with a rich Native American and military history, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971. The historic site has been owned by the City of Detroit since 1974, and is operated by the Parks and Recreation Department with assistance from the non-profit Historic Fort Wayne Coalition. The National Park Service provides guidance regarding use and restoration of the historic property.

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