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Riverside Park, Detroit MI, USA


The Riverside Park located directly next to the Ambassador bridge that connects the United States and Canada through Detroit, has been a site of continued tension. Following the September 11th attacks the Detroit International Bridge Company who owns the Ambassador bridge tried to restrict access to the park for security reasons. The community took the issue to court and then won. Despite being successful in gaining access to the park it was short lived. In 2012 the Detroit International Bridge Company reported to the city that the soil and groundwater in the park was contaminated with hydrocarbons, nickel, chrome and lead and the park was closed for cleanup. However, residents continue to push for swift action for clean up and a complete reopening of the park. Detroiters continue to use portions of the park for recreation and fishing despite the contamination.

Basic Data
Name of conflict:Riverside Park, Detroit MI, USA
Country:United States of America
State or province:Michigan
Location of conflict:Detroit
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Water access rights and entitlements
Specific commodities:Land
Manufactured Products
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Park had been unavailable to Detroiters for 10 years

See more
Project area:8.09
Type of populationUrban
Affected Population:43,000
Start of the conflict:2001
Company names or state enterprises:Detroit International Bridge Company from United States of America
Relevant government actors:City of Detroit
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Friends of Riverside Park
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Forms of mobilization:Boycotts of official procedures/non-participation in official processes
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Property damage/arson
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Other socio-economic impacts
Project StatusPlanned (decision to go ahead eg EIA undertaken, etc)
Conflict outcome / response:Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:While there was a strong community presence that resulted in a successful litigation for the local community organizations, the Detroit International Bridge Company forced the continued blockade of the area by reporting an area of contamination. This resulted in the area being unavailable to residents until a full clean up can be preformed. The city of Detroit and local EJOs have been searching for grants to continue the clean up of the Riverside Park.
Sources & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Revitalizing Riverside: Community Perspectives on Enhancing an Urban Park
[click to view]

Detroit’s Toxic Legacy – Bankrupt City Faces Environmental Challenges, DC Bureau. org
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Riverside Park contamination must be cleaned up before reopening, Detroit Free Press April 2013
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Sara Orvis, University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment, [email protected]
Last update04/01/2016
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