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Environmental > News Hits

River talk

Milliken dedication reprises environmental and urban themes


Published 10/28/2009

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That Bill Milliken has always been an insight guy.

As governor from 1969 to 1983, he worked for education reform, urban policy and civil rights. He signed the state's Freedom of Information Act, which allows the public to access governmental records. He ushered through environmental protection measures and continues today to work on state issues from his Traverse City home.

He appeared in Detroit last week where he was honored at the official dedication of the William G. Milliken State Park and Harbor, formerly called Tricentennial Park.

Milliken quipped about the naming. "Having a park in downtown Detroit associated with the Milliken name is a lot better than a building somewhere in Lansing," he said.

Located just east of the Renaissance Center, the newest section of Michigan's only urban state park has a wetlands area, designed with a natural water filtration system that provides a habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife. Foot and bike paths loop around the water and along the riverfront. There is a memorial to Peter Stroh with a reflection pool and rock seating. The park extends by several hundred yards the Riverwalk, which begins about a mile to the east behind Joe Louis Arena.

Hundreds, including Gov. Jennifer Granholm, attended the dedication ceremony where Milliken shared his insight, grace and humility.

"It is a day to recognize the vision of those who years ago could look past the abandoned industrial sites and cement silos and see the potential for a new riverfront that could lead the way to a new Detroit," he said.

We wonder, was the "governor for life," as he's been dubbed, being just a little snarky to out-staters with this line, "If one cares about the future of Michigan, it is not enough to care just about the Great Lakes and the undisturbed areas. To care about the future of Michigan means we all must care about the future of Michigan's cities and particularly Detroit"?

Then he delivered a message that, though not new, has to keep being repeated until it eventually sinks in.

"For far too long, the politics of division have played too large a role in southeast Michigan and throughout the state," he said. "Division by race, division by economic status, division by geography have all been exploited and continue to be exploited by some for their own short-term political gain, pursuing their own narrow personal interests, they have held Michigan back."

Amen, Governor.

News Hits is edited by Curt Guyette. Contact him at 313-202-8004 or

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