Rochelle Lento of The People For Palmer Park

The Real Stories Behind One of Detroit’s Most Beloved Parks

Palmer Park

People throw the word magical around often, but Palmer Park truly is magical. It’s an oasis of nature within a city landscape. There are butterflies, a small pond and one old wooden cabin that dates back from a time when people lived in cabins.

Of course true test of magic is the ability to withstand the test of time—which Palmer Park has repeatedly done. It’s witnessed periods of boom and decline, come into and out of fashion, and steadfast, it still remains.

We caught up with Rochelle Lento, Board President of the People For Palmer Park, to discuss the park and the organization fighting on the side of magic.

CVh: What is the People for Palmer Park?  

RL: People for Palmer Park (PFPP) is a Michigan 501c(3) nonprofit organization. We’re a membership organization, with a voluntary board comprised of up to 18 individuals who represent various neighborhoods that surround the park. The organization is dedicated to the preservation and revitalization of Palmer Park, for the good of all. We are a grass-roots organization that has been designated by the city as the official adopt-a-park organization, and over the past seven+ years, we have been working tirelessly to improve and revive the park. Over that period, some of our accomplishments include planting an apple orchard of over 500 trees, a new playscape for children, a tennis program reaching over 125 children and teens, a community garden in partnership with Home Depot, major renovations to the Palmer Park log cabin including refurbished stained glass windows and a new front Dutch door, a butterfly garden, major annual events including the Palmer Park Art Fair, Log Cabin Day, Harvest Festival and Winterfest. We have also brought recreation back to Palmer including weekly bike rides, tai chi, yoga and walking. Yes, walking. Also, the Palmer Park Community House, renovated by the city has become a center for community meetings, and home to the Mint Artist Program.

CVh: How’d you get involved? What’s the park mean to you?  

RL: I became involved at the inception of the organization, did some of the legal and corporate structuring for its creation, and was on the founding board. Been involved ever since! I do live in Palmer Woods so this is my neighborhood park.

CVh: For people who’ve never been, what does the park have to offer? 

RL: Ten miles of trails in a wooded virgin forest, now passable because of early efforts of PFPP and volunteers; a historic log cabin in the woods; a hidden handball court! Palmer Park is also home to the City of Detroit’s Mounted Police Unit.

CVh: For those who are familiar, perhaps you have a surprising fact or bit of history to share?  

RL: Senator Thomas Palmer donated the land and built the historic log cabin for his family use and regularly entertained there. He also maintained an orchard and horses on the property.

CVh: What role do volunteers play in the park’s maintenance?  

RL: We maintain our apple orchards, our community garden, and our butterfly garden; we have also planted beautiful flower beds in front of the log cabin; and with the Sierra Foundation, built a rain garden at the south end of the park. Additionally, we do regular clean-ups, and spruce ups in the park and the trails.

Palmer Park Log Cabin Exterior

Palmer Park Log Cabin Exterior

CVh: Recently there was contention over developers who stated a desire to purchase the park’s golf course. What’s the current state of the golf course?  

RL: The golf course is part of Palmer Park, which is deed restricted and must remain for use of the public. The developer has gone silent.

CVh: What would PFPP like to see happen to the golf course?  

RL: We would like it to be a state-of-the-art nine hole golf course, with a training facility and/or driving range attached. So, we would like it to be a golf course again! This is in the Palmer Park Master Plan!

CVh: How can people join the volunteer effort?  

RL: Go to peopleforpalmerpark.org for information about membership and how to get involved. We’re looking for everyone’s involvement!

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