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Detroit And Fans Clash Over Upkeep Of Tiger Stadium Site

Just as it appears that the NFL lockout is finally ending, a lockout of a different nature has been happening in Detroit.

Since what was left of Tiger Stadium was demolished last year, the city fenced in the lot that remained, resulting in the grass and weeds growing out of control. A group of fans took it upon themselves to take care of the Tiger Stadium site, pulling those weeds and trimming that grass.

NPR followed the group for its "All Things Considered" program, speaking with one of its organizers, Dave Mesrey.

"We couldn't stand the sight of six and seven-foot-tall weeds all around the perimeter. So we got together. I organized something last summer called the great Tiger Stadium weed-out."

(Mesrey is a former colleague of mine, and it's no surprise to me that he's one of the forces behind this. The man loves the Tigers and the team's rich history. I spent a lot of time talking to him at staff meetings about Mark Fidrych.)

The group eventually adopted an unofficial name: The Navin Field grounds crew, named after an earlier incarnation of the ballpark.

But the city of Detroit doesn't think so much of the public service the volunteer grounds crew is providing. Technically, the crew is trespassing on city property. On several occasions, police have escorted the workers off the lot.

A representative from Mayor Dave Bing's office explained the stance toward the grounds crew:

It's not a special events space. It is not a park. It is a piece of land that we understand that has a lot of connections to people, but it cannot be set up, nor is it zoned to be as such.

Of course, the city is surely worried about liability, in case an accident or other such incident occurs on the lot. But the grounds crew is also helping out by doing work that the city has no money or resources to perform itself. Isn't that a good thing? And why not just let people have their memories and maintain what connection remains while no actual development takes place on the site?

In the meantime, the crew and the city are trying to work out an agreement which allows the grounds work to continue. Unfortunately, Detroit isn't budging from its stance that baseball isn't allowed to be played on the field. That seems to be missing the point entirely.

You can listen to the report or read the transcript here.