The late Ralph C. Wilson, former businessman, Buffalo Bills owner, and longtime Detroit resident, would have celebrated his 100th birthday last week. Instead, his philanthropic foundation is donating $100 million to parks and trails in Detroit. Half of this sum will go to the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy’s planned redesign of the West Riverfront Park just west of Downtown. The conservancy will rename the 22-acre park the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Centennial Park after finishing the project.
Of the $50 million going to the West Riverfront Park, $40 million is earmarked for construction costs, and the remaining $10 million will aid the park’s long-term sustainability. The other half of the $100 million gift will expand and protect recreational trails in the city, such as the planned Joe Louis Greenway, a 26-mile greenway through Dearborn, Highland Park, Hamtramck, and Detroit. The Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation has been working together with the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy to figure out what the city of Detroit really needs and values on its riverfront.
The riverfront park is being designed by New York-based Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, who have released designs and renderings for their vision. Van Valkenburgh said of the design, “It was love at first sight when I saw the Detroit River . . . The big idea is that you can actually put your toes in the water of the river, and that there will be a beach around it that if you don’t want to be in the water you can feel really connected to the water. So that forms a kind of center of the park.”
Other features include a small island, basketball courts, a concert space, waterslides, and a space for ice skating in the winter. The park should be ready to open to the public in four years.
Donation to Buffalo, New York
The Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation donated an additional $100 million to the city of Buffalo, New York for parks and recreational trails.