DETROIT (WXYZ) — Tom O’Brien has been part of the Brightmoor neighborhood on Detroit’s west side since 1974.
“Brightmoor was a whole different game back then, a lot of blue-collar people but a great little community,” said O’Brien.
And even though Tom now lives next door in Redford, he still loves bringing his dog Connan for walks at the Etheldra Mae Williams Park.
“It’s so unique to watch a neighborhood with so much violence and crime in it to be transformed into people getting along and talking to each other,” said O’Brien.
With thousands expected to attend the 2nd annual Burgess Street Food Festival, the park’s founder and manager, Michael Williams, says the park only recently started to play an important role within the community.
“So four years ago, what was this place?” asked 7 Action News.
“Four years was effectively ruins. We had some houses that were burnt out. We had people who would come and illegally dump. We had some abandoned vehicles and stolen vehicles. Whatever you can think of was that wasn’t supposed to be here, was here,” said Williams.
Michael partnered with the Blight task force to take care of the debris. Coordinated with the housing department to demolish abandoned houses and worked with the Detroit Police Department to reduce crime in the area.
“What makes the Brightmoor community unique?” asked 7 Action News.
“Before the last eight years, I never knew about Brightmoor. I came here to look for a building suitable for building a museum. And I stumbled upon the typography you have here in Brightmoor,” said Williams.
Now the nearly 11 acre park, named after Michael’s mom, is helping the community thrive again.
“This is something that will not only honor her, but it will continue to honor or create a legacy for our family,” said Williams.
“What’s next?” asked 7 Action News.
“We are going put in a walking path, we are going to put in a bird aviary, we want to put in a reflecting pond. But we are going to make this a natural setting for lots of wildlife, and we want to make this a beautiful place for lots of people to come and enjoy,” said Williams.
For more details about the park and you can donate time and money, head to williamspark.org.