Sep 6. 2011

Detroit mower gang

by Hélène

What would you do if your own city didn’t have the manpower and resources to maintain its parks and playgrounds?

Some “Detroiters” (mostly from the suburbs) came last year with this idea of forming a mower gang. Their occasional Sunday occupation: embarking the mower in their car and getting together with a dozens of folks to mow a public space devoted to the little ones.

When we found about them we got totally excited. We thought we should simply join one of their sunday’s gatherings to get to know the troop.

As we arrived on the O’ Shea playground (in wild Western Detroit), just by I 96 highway, we realized we wouldn’t be the only ones recording and shooting. Guess who was there too? Andrew Zimmern and his Travel Channel crew were on the field shooting the next episode of Bizarre food. Them too had found about the gang… And had asked their members to prepare some weird barbecue delicacies to be filmed after the mowing. We got our share of racoon and barbecued beef heart too! No matter how many big cameras surrounded Tim, Tom, Stephen and all their friends welcomed us very warmly.

All the mower gang members (except for one couple) live outside 8 Mile. Most of them are the kids of the white flighters who left Detroit after the riot of 1967. Why would some people mow grass from a place they actually don’t live in? Well, even if most of the gang members don’t go to Detroit on a daily basis (when you live in Detroit suburbs you really don’t need to go to Detroit – note from the redaction), they all feel deeply connected to the city. They seem to confirm the hate/love relationship that “the D” keeps with its suburbs. As one lady mowers stated: “We live about 2 miles outside but we always come to the city. We take the kids downtown, show them the buildings of Detroit, walk by the river, take them to various neighborhoods.

“Detroit needs the suburbs and the suburbs need Detroit”.

To the question if she’d be ready to move in to Detroit. She hesitated and replied: “Possibly. It’s a discussion I had recently with my husband. We could… in certain areas. But when you have small children you don’t want to think about the negative aspects of living in a city… But if it was him and I, we could live in the city. I love Detroit, I really do”.

So what’s the gang’s motivation? It looks like this bunch of suburban guys (with and without kids) want to see playful landmarks being used. They want to have fun and do something that make them feel good about the city they live close to. As most Detroiters, they don’t rely on the (bankrupt) city services and prefer to do it themselves… Their biggest achievement? The rehabilitation in 2010, of the old Detroit velodromewhich is now appropriate again for racing. The next big race is on Sept 11th for those who feel like racing!

There are way more Mower gang pictures available on our Flick’r, click here to view them all.


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