Detroit's A.B. Ford Park closed in 2024 as city removes contaminated soil, majority of trees

Rendering of Alfred Brush Ford Park once it's completed. 

Alfred Brush Ford Park will close for much of the year as construction that's been planned for years commences at the riverfront location on Detroit's east side. 

The city will remove and replace hundreds of trees, install several new shelters and a playground, add new walking paths, as well as build other amenities like a pickle ball and basketball court. 

In addition to adding new amenities and features, the city is also removing contaminated soil and importing new dirt to the park. Testing of the ground confirmed evidence of metals that would be a concern when the newly-remodeled park opens later in 2024.

The improvement plan for A.B. Ford Park will completely redesign the 34-acre area, bringing new indoor and outdoor recreation opportunities like a rebuilt community center. The masterplan also calls for creating more connectivity with sidewalks through the park and along the shoreline, as well as enhancing the park with green space by restoring the waterfront to a more natural state.

The entire project was originally slated for $4 million in costs. The scope of the project has since expanded, while newly-available federal funding has enabled the city to plan for bigger improvements. The current projected cost is $18.4 million. 

Residents can expect a result similar to Riverside Park, which sits in the shadow of the Ambassador Bridge. The landscape used to be covered in blight and unused land. Now it's a scenic area along the Detroit River with a basketball court and a dog park. 


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At A.B. Park, which is located within the Jefferson Chalmers neighborhood, work began Feb. 21. From March until September, vehicles will transport soil cap material by the truckload 20-30 times a day. 

It's expected to be completed by this fall.

A.B. Ford Park construction

Plans to improve A.B. Ford Park have been in the works for years after the community was surveyed and it was determined a new community center would need to be built after the old one was shuttered in 2013.

The Buildings, Safety, Engineering and Environmental Department determined later on the entire park would need remediation after testing of the soil found contamination of metals like cadmium, arsenic, and lead. 

According to BSEED's deputy director, the metals found were associated with industrial activity that used to be in the area.

"Testing showed that there were higher than acceptable amounts of metals commonly found in soil across the region, including Cadmium, Arsenic and Lead. It also found elevated levels of semi-volatile organic compounds typically associated oil-based products from previous industrial or automotive activities," said Ray Scott. "It is believed that the contaminants are a result of the activities from the previous use."

Remediation will also include the removal of all the trees in the park after it was found the vast majority were in poor condition. The city decided it made more sense to remove all trees because the addition of two feet of new soil would smother the roots of the existing trees.

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In their place there will be approximately 600 new trees that range from quaking aspen, river birch, and Princeton elm, to sugar maple, bur oak, and dogwood species. 

Find more information about the project here.