River talk with Bill Milliken

Oct 22, 2009 at 5:17 pm

The renewal of Detroit's riverfront continued this Thursday with the official dedication of the William G. Milliken State Park and Harbor, formerly called Tricentennial Park.

"Having a park in downtown Detroit associated with the Milliken name is a lot better than a building somewhere in Lansing," Milliken said to chuckles and applause.

Located just east of the Renaissance Center, the newest section of the park is a wetlands area, designed with a natural water filtration system that provides a habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife. Walking 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 yard the Riverwalk which begins about a mile to the east behind Joe Louis Arena

The dedication ceremony drew an audience numbering in the hundreds who heard remarks from Gov. Jennifer Granholm and other speakers involved in the park's creation and funding.

But it was Milliken, governor from 1969 to 1983, who drew the standing ovation with his thoughtful speech about environmental preservation, politics and Michigan's future.

Here are some excerpts:

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

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.

For far too long the politics of division have played too large a role in southeast Michigan and throughout the state. 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. To me, the measure of real leadership has never been associated with promoting our differences. For me the measure of real leadership involves searching for common ground as we work to develop responsible public policy. That means not spending our time and energies in armoring our issue differences, but in forging common solutions.

Milliken referenced the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech where he discussed "little black boys and girls" not being judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their characters:

He went on to say that I have a dream that one day little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers. I hope that this park on this magnificent riverfront can be a place in Michigan where little white, black, Latino, Native American and Asian boys and girls do join hands. For people from every race and background, a place where we can dream together about a new Michigan built around a new Detroit and a new century.