Monday, May 26, 2008

The Tiles?

A reader and former winner of The Sacred Carp Chalice has a question:

"Does anyone remember the 'Tiles'? These huge drain pipes you could walk on/in. My memory is fuzzy, but I do remember it scared the shit out of me for some reason. I went once or twice. I think you could walk to them from Mott Park, although it seemed like a long walk."

Anyone have more information on Flint's subterranean pathways? I do remember a big drain pipe you could walk into near the stairs at Kearsley Park. Very frightening.

15 comments:

  1. I grew up near Mott Park in the 50s. We called it Black tile. As I recall, it was off of Beecher Road, not far from where FOH was later built. We would walk there and play on the top of the tile. It was, I think, a major drain pipe.

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  2. I seem to remember in the late 80's or early to middle 1990's neighborhood kids getting trapped in that drain at Kearsley Park after a terrible rainstorm. Didn't one of those kids die?

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    1. Yes my brother and 3 friends died that horrible day. My mom,linda, sister Mindy,and me Gerry left flint after that day I have only been back to the tunnel twice since July 18 1990

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  3. Yes, one of those kids was trapped in the tunnel during a flash flood. I knew his family at the time, but am ashamed to say that I don't remember his or their name. I just remember his little sister, Mindy. As you can imagine, it was very traumatic for the family and they immediately left Flint.

    Kathy W.

    The city grated up the tunnel after that unfortunate incident.

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    1. Hi kathy, my name is mendy. Jon was my brother and passed away that day along with his two friends Pat and Mike. I happened to stumble across this article while browsing the web. I was only 9 at the time and was wondering how I knew you as my memory is a little foggy since I was so young. I'm not even sure if this message will get to you as this post is so old.... But if it does please email me.... Sunshinemelinda09 @yahoo.com

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  4. My brother, Matt, and I straddled the small stream inside the Kearsley Park tile tunnel many a time. He would go in first and I would follow. When he got far enough in that I could no longer see him because of the darkness, I backed my ass out of there in overdrive. That tunnel just totally creeped me out.

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  5. This was where you went to prove your bravery in the 60's. My friends and I were not that stupid,if you fell off while crossing you would either kill yourself or be maimed for life. This was the main sewer line for the city of Flint running all the way to the waste treatment plant located off Beecher rd. I've recently seen a picture of it but can't remember where. We always heard the legend about the kid who crossed it on a bike but that would have been impossible due to the large joints which protruded outward. I walked out about twenty feet on it before turning back so I guess I was a little ignorant. As far as exploring the city sewers,that was easy. Just find the outlet and crawl in and follow it until you had enough. I got chewed out for this because a nieghbor kid broke out in hives because he had claustrophobia. I even set up a camp in one junction line near Flushing road. When we found this spot it looked like a homeless person (called bums then) had left their dirty magazines behind. The woman who just died in that trailer fire off Pasedena in Flint who was wheelchair bound was one of our group. Her name was Judy Vanhouten. We used her "Give A Show Projector" to light our way and also show an ocasional slide show.There is now a subdivision located next to the Black pipe but this was all field in the 60's. The farthest we ever got going up the sewer lines was about a half mile because straddling the flowing water and being bent over was rough even for a kid. In some locations near the Eldorado Vista subdivision you could actually see into people's basements. Can you imagine looking into you drain in your basement and see someone looking back? Some city friends said there was a larger entrance near the Chevy plant that you could even ride your bike into but I never seen it.I tried posting the map and google photo showing the tile (which is white now)but no luck. We used to get there by going west beyond the church across from McLaren hospital but it can now be reached through the subdivision off of Beecher rd.

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  6. Some photos of the tiles at Kearsley Park:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/92726077@N00/tags/kearsleyparktile/

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  7. What used to be called Black Tile is clearly visible on Google Earth. It crosses a ravine which is the flow path of a creek that once drained a substantial area of ground south of the river. Most of that area is effectively drained by storm sewers now, but the deep ravine is still there.

    Go to the crossing of Ballenger Highway over the Flint River, then look a bit north of due west, about a quarter mile west of the Ballenger bridge.

    In the Google Earth photography, it's white now. I don't know if that's an artifact of the infrared-response sensors that are usually used for Google-Earth-type aerial/satellite photography, or if the pipe did in fact get painted white at some point over the years.

    Regarding the overall discussion, it's useful to be aware of the difference between sanitary sewers like Black Tile, and storm sewers like the one that was accessible in Kearsley Park. Sanitary sewers never have open access, because in generally flat areas like the Flint area they're almost always pumped under fairly substantial pressure. Also, of course, the health-risk issues would be horrendous.

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  8. I think I remember parts of the ravine in a couple of places, but never walked down into it. One was near the Medical Arts Building on the southwest corner of the parking lot, and another was at the end of Hatherly at the west end of the street. Hatherly was once called Bagley, and along with Bagley and Orchard Lane, was essentially the same street. I'm not sure how this may have connected to other low areas or drains, but it is fairly close to that area.

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  9. I'm sure this thread is being closely followed by many other civil engineering nerds like me. 8^)

    So, it's interesting to note that the quite old brick building south of the Third Avenue bridge over the Flint River, as seen on Google Earth Street View (2370 W. Third Avenue), is the final pump facility for the sewer trunk line we call Black Tile, which as Google Earth shows, has a nearly straight shot from there to the treatment plant.

    Often nitty-gritty civil engineering requirements are camouflaged with civic niceties on the surface. My guess is that the sanitary trunk line in question and general development of the Mott Park recreational area took place at the same time, and the route of Sunset Drive along the recreational area's southern boundary was laid out as an access cap for that sanitary trunk.

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  10. There was another fairly nice looking building that seemed to be something like that near "The Rock/Block" near Torrey Rd./12th St. and Hammerberg Rd. on the NW corner. Is that still there? What is/was that for?

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  11. Just want to make sure you guys have seen the other posts on the tiles:

    http://www.flintexpats.com/search?q=Tiles

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  12. I worked in a lab at the V-8 plant for a while. One of the employees had to climb down 50-100 feet of catwalk steps and ladders to get to the drain to test the water in several places. This was also probably along the same drains being discussed on the Rock/Block thread. Where does that drain go and end up?

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  13. "There was another fairly nice looking building that seemed to be something like that near "The Rock/Block" near Torrey Rd./12th St. and Hammerberg Rd. on the NW corner. Is that still there? What is/was that for?"

    Google Earth Street View shows your reference, a light colored brick building located at 2672 Hammerburg Road. I can't quite read the sign on it, but municipal buildings of this type named "Station" are almost always pumphouses, usually sanitary but sometimes storm-sewer in low-lying areas that have had their natural drainage cut off by construction etc. We know that the Hammerburg/Twelfth intersection has its own mini-pumphouse, so probably the light brick building is sanitary.

    I don't know the routing of Flint's sanitary trunk system, and where the line from this particular pumphouse might run. I reckon that map may not have found its way to the internet yet. 8^)

    "This was also probably along the same drains being discussed on the Rock/Block thread. Where does that drain go and end up?"

    Ultimately, one might expect storm drains from that area to flow northward into Swartz Creek, or if large and important enough to run farther north and connect directly to the Flint River.

    (The latter would have been much more expensive to build since pumping or serious tunneling would be required to deal with the interceding high ground, so my bet would be on the former.)

    The Swartz Creek/Flint River watershed extends for miles to the south, east and west from the factories, so there really isn't any other place that the storm sewer drainage ultimately could go.

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Thanks for commenting.
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