Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Remembering and Reviving Riverbank Park



Riverbank Park in downtown Flint shortly after it opened in 1979.


UPDATE: Thanks for all the feedback on this post asking for recollections of Riverbank Park. Now you can do even more to help revive this downtown landmark. Cade Surface writes:


I was wondering if you might give a shout out to the “Riverbank Park Revival” project entry for the “Let’s Save Michigan” placemaking contest. “Let’s Save Michigan” is an organization dedicated to economic development in the state based on the creation and reservation of vibrant communities, transit, and public spaces. This contest was created so communities could take an underused or overlooked public space and help it become an important public place. Riverbank Park was submitted and accepted as a prime candidate, but now it is up to a public vote to decide who moves on to the final round of judging. If you’d be so kind, I think your readers could add to our momentum. All they have to do is follow this link  http://letssavemichigan.com/placemaking-contest/entry/riverbank-park-revival-project-flint/ and enter their email address to vote. They can also vote once per day! 

Here's the original post:


Cade Surface, a recent UM-Flint graduate and current Carriage Town homeowner, is conducting research on Riverbank Park for the Flint River Corridor Alliance to assist with several projects related to programming and maintenance work at the park.

The park was designed by esteemed landscape architect Lawrence Halprin, although many debate how much work he actually did on it. I've had very mixed feelings about the park over the years, but it has really grown on me lately. The reduction of the water level through downtown has left many features dry and unused. It would be great to see the park up and running at full capacity again.

Cade is asking the readers of Flint Expatriates to offer up any memories or thoughts on Riverbank Park, as well as any old photos or memorabilia. He'd like to document the history of the park as part of the efforts to help restore it. You can comment on this post or email me any digital photos or thoughts. I'll pass them along to Cade. Or you can send info directly to Cade at csurface(at)umflint(dot)edu.By the way, longtime readers might remember Cade as the guy who once gave me a tour of his frat house. He's a good guy. Let's try and help him out. (He bought a house in Flint, after all, so let's show him a little gratitude.


Early fundraising and promotional materials.



"Sponsor a piece of the park."






An early concert shortly after Riverbank Park opened with the short-lived Duane Hatchett sculpture visible in the background.

31 comments:

  1. Q: What's big & yellow & goes crash in downtown?
    A: The sculpture.

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  2. I remember The Archimedes' screw didn't work, and further inspection revealed that it was installed backward.

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  3. Cab Calloway played the park & The Hyatt grand opening!

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  4. A Facebook reader said Dizzie Gillespie played the park as well. Not sure if it was the same event.

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  5. I am David Tamulevich, part of the duo Mustard's Retreat, along with Michael Hough. My memory is that we were part of the first official performance at the park, opening the concert for Rick Nelson. We have a couple photos ...of us...and one of Rick, I believe..low quality snapshots....but..a great memory!

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  6. Hey David, thanks for the comment. Sounds like a great show. If you've got a scanner, feel free to send any digitized photos of the concert, or any other shows you played around Flint. Love to post them.

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  7. 1985 maybe? I saw Martha Reeves in June and Spyrogyra in July at Riverbank. There was also a Downtown Jazz Fest, where Sherm Hemsley? played, but don't know if that was at Riverbank.

    That was the same year the Water St. Pavillion opened.

    And, for more facts you really didn't care to know, it was the last year you could not wear a seatbelt legally.

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  8. If I remember correctly in the early 70’s the Flint Area Conference Inc. (FACI) board, of which I was an active board member, took on a project to beautify the banks of the Flint River which passed through our downtown (Center City).
    This was done for several reasons: (1.) In earlier yeas (Example: 1943 a Flint River flood downtown, cut city in half), the city experienced flooding along the banks of the Flint River. Therefore we needed flood control. (2.) As part of an extensive revitalization plan of downtown because the Genesee Valley opened in 1970. (JL Hudson’s (Macy’s) in April (1970) the rest of the Mall in August, 1970). Downtown businesses began a down hill spiral immediately after the mall opening. Therefore the extensive revitalization plan. (3.) U of M Flint downtown campus, Waterstreet Pavilion, Autoworld, new Citizens Bank Building and Hyatt Hotel all looked like they were in the planning stage or were in the process of completion. All of these projects were on the banks of The Flint River or adjacent. $180,000,000 total projects in 1970’s dollars.
    At that time, the city of Flint had a devoted mayor, the late James Rutherford, a civically involved newspaper The Flint Journal. FACI and the city put together one of the most powerful urban planning teams in the United States, the late Brian Rapp, Frank Pattituci and James Sheaffer.
    The FACI board heard about The River Walk in San Antonio, TX. which began as a flood control project and the city also needed urban revitalization in its center city. We heard it was a huge success. Myself and other FACI board members and some city planners went to San Antonio to see their River Walk.
    Long story short we hired (with Mott Foundation donation) San Antonio’s River Walk architect, Lawrence Halprin and began working with the US Army Corps of Engineers, State of Michigan and other governmental agencies to replicate what we saw in San Antonio.
    Flints Riverbank Park opened in 1979. We added a large metal sculpture by artist Duane Hatchett on the riverbanks. Unfortunately shortly after it was installed, Flint had a storm and the wind toppled the sculpture and my memory is it never was resurrected.
    At the time of our Riverbank Park was being built FACI was working with the Hyatt Hotel chain in Chicago to open a hotel on the southwest corner of Saginaw St and the new Riverbank Park. At the same time coincidently San Antonio was also planning a Hyatt for their River Walk project. Both cities opened a Hyatt in 1981.
    Michael D Melet

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  9. I think you mean Sherm Mitchell, grumkin. From another topic-nobody ever answered the question as to whether or not Garrett Ebmeyer played Jazz also.

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  10. Michael, thanks for the info. Say hi to Nancy and Rob for me.

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  11. I was at the Rick nelson concert. Good memory.

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  12. I attended the 1985 Deep Purple concert at Atwood Stadium.
    Richie Blackmoor was with them. Memories.......Rich Boyd

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  13. I just took a tour of downtown through the Michigan Historic Preservation Network. We stopped at the park for a while and I could just imagine what it could have looked like with the fountains running. I do not recall seeing the Archimedes' screw, has that been removed? I wish those looking to restore the site best of luck! It sure could be a popular place again now that the old hotel is inhabited once more.

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  14. The screw didn't work too well and was removed.

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  15. The city sold the screw as scrap. This reminds me of the time during the Stanley Administration that Flint was being logged! Select trees of value were marked, sold, and then removed by a forestry company.

    They should have filmed Ax Men in Flint.

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  16. Greatest Riverbank Park performance ever:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P987XGWqpTE

    Forget "Mark, Don, and Mel"- "Dan, Al, Andy, and Tim" is the real deal...

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    1. Man, after everything the good people of Flint have suffered through, that weak-ass band has to take the cake. What utter garbage.I really felt sorry for the audience and for Flint watching that.

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    2. Yeah, this band sucks. Why don't you play some Uncle Kracker or real rock n roll or sumpthin'.

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    3. Talk about going to extremes. Are those our only two choices?

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    4. Yes, those are your only two choices... wait a sec, okay... I'll give you one more choice- Reverend Right Time. Welcome to Flint.

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  17. King Cobra Jazz Festival. Early 80s muggings and violence. Drinking and graffiti. World's Longest Mural. The Amphibians LIVE in 1988. Mr. McFeely and Jim Nabors LIVE in 1986. Bullets and knives in the fabridam. Dudes watching tv at night in the park using one of the active plugs. Casimir Pulaski statue. 100,000 downtown for fireworks. The Scepter of Flint. UAW Tile Memorial destroyed by neglect. The catapult. Surf Flint Beach!! Feral Dogs. Massive fires.


    When you "bought a piece of the park" they gave you a certificate telling you exactly where to find your sq. ft.

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  18. "You Can't Go Skateboarding In Riverbank Park" by Dr. Schwartz Kult- Check out the Flint Underground Music Archive:

    http://www.takenoprisoners.info/

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  19. I spent a lot of time down there back then. I used to stop in and chat with the workmen restoring the Durant-Dort office and factory #1. My band Azure Blue played on the stage there once for an anti nuclear rally back in the late 80's. I do know that a lot of graffiti and trash was always left there-from the very beginning. It would be nice if it were kept up so people could feel at ease visiting the area. The oldest history of Flint took place at that exact spot and is fun when you truly understand that history while your standing where it took place. It would be nice if they put placards around the area explaining what existed at different times in history. I'm thinking particularly of Todd's Tavern, Crapo mill and even Jacob Smith. And don't forget the original holders of this piece of land and the old Indian wars fought along these banks. You can go to Michigan County Histories and read the entire book covering the years 1828-1885. You can find the direct link on my blog Gordy. Thanks for the memories.

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  20. Rare Earth also played there!

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  21. michael westermanMay 22, 2012 at 10:33 PM

    king cobra flint jazz festival.went to a couple. if only i bought the t shirt...

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  22. My dad took me to the coneys in that area, and he also told stories of how they helped the down and out.

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  23. Maynard Ferguson, and his band, was to play a concert there but it rained. So they gave an impromptu performance in the lobby of the Hyatt.

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  24. On my way upstate from Detroit (visiting northern Michigan from Georgia), I stopped by to take a look at the Grand Fountain - there was a public works guy and his summer work crew in there cleaning it up for an event this weekend. While we were there, they turned it on for us, though he explained that it was running at under capacity so not all the water features were running. It's amazing, unique, and Flint is lucky to have it!

    I plan to write a nice letter to the mayor and whoever else would stand to benefit from a nice word or two - hopefully that will bring it to mind for a few minutes. I got the impression the public works guy was not optimistic about finding funds to get the pumps back to full capacity again.

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  25. The letter would be a nice gesture. As you can imagine, being mayor of Flint is not an easy job, and he could use some words of encouragement, especially at the moment.

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  26. Yeah, "...the short-lived Duane Hatchett sculpture" was an impressive sight to behold, especially up close... The problem was that when the wind came whipping through that section of the river at high speeds, the sculpture just couldn't handle it... It was very aerodynamic to say the least... It would make a great kite design, perhaps with a lighter material...? :)

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  27. Saw Elvin Jones Jazz Machine 20 yrs ago there at King Cobra Jazz Fest. You can't take that away from me ever..

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