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Volunteers take on Detroit airport beautificationVolunteers take on Detroit airport beautification

The word “arise” holds special meaning in Detroit, where annual Arise Detroit activities seek to spur volunteerism dedicated to community programs and projects.

On Aug. 5, approximately 250 volunteers from the Detroit metropolitan area came together at Coleman A. Young Municipal Airport to tackle a project organizers had named “Arise KDET Beautification Day,” an initiative augmented by donations ranging from trash bags and safety equipment to a roving food truck that brought hotdog lunches to the workers, wherever on the airport they were deployed.

The event’s principal sponsor was the Friends of Detroit City Airport organization—its name a reflection of how the city-owned airport was referred to until 2003, when it was renamed to honor the memory of the late Mayor Coleman A. Young, Detroit’s first African-American mayor, who served from 1974 to 1994.

 “We actually got the fence line looking pretty good,” said Michael Zabkiewicz, the chief pilot and general manager of Air Eagle, a corporate flight department based at the airport.

Although the work cutting back and removing overgrown foliage from the fence line, with help from professional crews hired by donors for the occasion, represented “a small fraction of what needs to be done,” it accomplished the day’s goal of improving the appearance of the more outwardly visible portions of the airport, he said.

Airport beautification was a community activity at Detroit, Michigan’s Coleman A. Young Municipal Airport on Aug 5. Some 250 volunteers turned out for the “Arise KDET Beautification Day” project. Photo courtesy Michael Zabkiewicz.

“We wanted to get the area that’s seen the most cleaned up the most,” he said, noting plans to continue the work the following week.

The volunteers went to work well equipped for their day’s efforts thanks to approximately $5,000 in project funding “raised within a week” from individuals, organizations, and companies, Zabkiewicz said.

Avflight, the airport’s fixed-base operator, provided breakfast. Restaurant group National Coney Island donated lunch and sent a truck to distribute food to work locations on the airport, rather than require volunteers to abandon their posts for a possibly long hike back to a distant central serving spot. Supper was covered by a local Italian restaurant.

With most of the Detroit area’s air traffic now served by nearby Detroit Metropolitan/Wayne County Airport, Detroit City Airport sometimes finds itself the subject of policy conversations that raise the question of whether its in-town acreage might serve non-aeronautical uses. Events such as this suggest that community support for the airport remains strong.

The cleanup was not a political event, Zabkiewicz noted. However, a petition was available to be signed, seeking a return to the airport of the Davis Aerospace Technical High School, which was relocated off the site in 2013 as the city struggled with financial problems, he said.

“We think the school is key to keeping our airport open,” he said.

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz

Associate Editor Web
Associate Editor Web Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is a 30-year AOPA member.
Topics: Airport Advocacy, Airport

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