Otters and beavers and bear slides are coming to the riverfront. The Detroit Riverfront Conservancy officially broke ground on the Ralph C. Wilson Centennial Park after many years in the making. The $75 million project is expected to be completed in 2024.
The park sits on 22 acres west of the Riverfront Towers, close to Corktown. Major features of the park will include:
- A four-acre playground with the aforementioned bear slide, along with otter, beaver, and other creature structures,
- A multi-use sport house structure with basketball courts,
- An expansive lawn and hill for performances, sledding, and events,
- A water garden for kayaking, and more.
The park also has a partnership with Huron-Clinton Metroparks, who are donating $6 million to the park for educational programming and operations.
The Ralph C. Wilson Park was designed by New York-based landscape architect firm Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA) after an international design competition. MVVA also designed the Brooklyn Bridge Park in New York and Maggie Daley Park in Chicago.
In 2018, the park was named after the Ralph C. Wilson Foundation donated $40 million in capital and a $10 million endowment to the park. A similar park is being planned in Buffalo, New York.
“We have known for years that this part of the riverfront had tremendous potential, and the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation encouraged us to dream big,” said Matt Cullen, chairman, Detroit Riverfront Conservancy. “Parks like this only happen once in a lifetime. Ralph Wilson Park will rank among the best parks in the country and have a profound impact on neighborhoods, and generations of Detroiters will gather together here and make memories that last a lifetime.”
The Ralph C. Wilson Park is one of the bigger transformational projects in the city right now. It will also help another of the Conservancy's goals - expanding the Riverwalk to 5.5 miles. The park will also connect to the Southwest Greenway and the Joe Louis Greenway.