Detroit: into the wild

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Being an unabashed fan of abandoned buildings, ghost towns and the middle of nowhere (a preoccupation evidenced by recent blogs), I was fascinated to discover that significant chunks of some Detroit neighborhoods have been more than just abandoned thanks to urban blight and suburban flight; they're being reclaimed by nature and slowly turning back into fields and forests. Excerpts from Detroitblog:

Whole neighorhood blocks cleared of houses by arson and bulldozers have reverted to urban prairies, visible in satellite photos as unusually large green patches in the middle of the inner city. Sidewalks vanish beneath creeping grasses, while aluminum fences between homes become entwined with the branches of dozens of saplings growing as high as the droopy utility wires. Animals normally scared out to the perimeter of the exurban rural areas are wandering back, sometimes finding more greenspace in parts of the city than they do in the increasingly developed parts of the exurbs like northern Macomb County.

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It's gotten to the point that various groups over the years have floated the ideas of turning some of the empty lots around the city into small farming plots for neighborhood residents to farm, reminiscent of Detroit Mayor Hazen Pingree's program that turned city plots into potato farms to feed the hungry in the 1890s. Abandoned industrial sites like the Fisher Body 21 plant, the Studebaker plant, the Continental Aluminum plant and the Detroit Screw Works plant have been overrun by trees growing through walls and roofs, impervious to the chemicals and toxins left behind.

"Roving packs of wild dogs"
Probably the most visible wildlife in the city are the roving packs of wild dogs in Detroit neighborhoods. Groups of usually four to seven dogs, each litter progressively wilder and stranger-looking than their predecessors, roam through even well-kept neighborhoods, occasionally making the news when they attack someone, usually children or mail carriers.

"Post-apocalyptic"
statefair22.jpgThe State Fair neighborhood has all sorts of different, unique pockets, but the common characteristic of the area remains the eerie, spreading countryside that replaced what was long ago a stable residential neighborhood, where people could walk to stores and restaurants and churches in safety and comfort. Today, the neighborhood is post-apocalyptic, having passed through the worst standard stages of neighborhood decline: falling housing values, longtime residents moving to the suburbs, crumbling properties converted to rentals, a growth of criminal activity, abandonment by anyone who can afford to leave, and finally the disappearance of the houses themselves.

March 20, 2007 - 10:00am
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