Park it elsewhere

"He has the money, we don't," said Detroiter Nathaniel Griffith as he mused over the recent closing of Dodge Pits Dock and the Bill Muncy Memorial Park at the request of Roostertail owner Thomas Schoenith.

"I ask maybe once a year for the park to be closed on time," said Schoenith. "Now I'm labeled a racist. What did I do wrong?"

The early closure Oct. 5 of the dock and park next door to the riverfront catering hall has prompted debate over who controls the strip of land that looks out on the Detroit River. Department employees who spoke on condition of anonymity said it has also prompted a parks department internal investigation. They said the question is not into why the park was closed but who leaked work orders showing that it was closed longer than officials initially stated.

In late September, Schoenith wrote to parks director Ernest Burkeen asking that the park be closed to ensure that a private $1,000-per-couple event would not be disturbed by the partying on the docks.

"We are endeavoring to put our best foot forward that night to ensure suburbanites will return to the city," wrote Schoenith. A similar letter was sent to the police seeking added protection.

The day after the event, City Councilwoman Brenda Scott asked for an explanation. Burkeen responded with a memo saying, "This site presently is not posted with a closing time. On Monday, October 5, 1998, it was closed for that one night only, approximately one hour before darkness."

According to orders issued workers, however, the park was closed three days before the event, and did not reopen until Oct. 6.

"This happens a lot," said James Alexander, who frequents the park. "They lock the gate and put up a barricade to keep us out."

Schoenith, who said his business needs to draw $8 million annually from the suburbs, told Metro Times that he didn't want the park closed for three days.

He added that the group holding the Oct. 5 event probably won't come back to Detroit because of the negative publicity around this year's affair.

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