May Day in Ypsilanti… a beautiful success

I’m sunburnt and in much need of sleep, so this won’t be as exhaustive of a post as perhaps it should be. I did, however, want to say, before passing out, just how happy I am about the way things went today. What I saw unfold this afternoon on Water Street, I’m certain, will keep me inspired well into the fall.

Thank you to each and every one of you who played a part; Jeff Clark, Jason Tallant, Linette Lao, all the children and adults who came out in the snow a few days ago to help prepare the site, the kids of Summers-Knoll and Yspi Middle School who really took ownership of the project and helped immeasurably, everyone who contributed toward the making of the 2,745 seed bombs that were produced over the past two weeks, all my neighbors who came to the site this evening with delicious food to share, the 27 individuals who pledged money toward making the whole thing happen, the incredibly motivated men and women of the Ypsi Free Skool, and everyone who stood happily packed together on the sidewalk, hurling seed bombs onto our burgeoning native meadow this evening.

We live in an awesome little community, and our possibilities are endless. When we work together, as we demonstrated today, we can really make things happen… beautiful things. And, if you don’t believe me, just keep an eye on this little piece of property along Michigan Avenue, as the native plants come back to life, and people begin to spend more time there.

My sense is that a true community commons is evolving.

[All photos, except for the last one, which I took, come courtesy of our friend, the world-famous Doug Coombe.]

This entry was posted in Agriculture, Special Projects, Uncategorized, Ypsilanti and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.


  1. dot dot dash
    Posted May 2, 2013 at 12:01 am | Permalink

    Much more beautiful than May Day in Seattle.

  2. Lisa Dengiz
    Posted May 2, 2013 at 6:59 am | Permalink

    What an incredibly creative and life affirming way to build community! Bravo , Mark!

  3. suswhit
    Posted May 2, 2013 at 7:32 am | Permalink

    What Lisa said.

  4. Grandma
    Posted May 2, 2013 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    What a huge success!!! Can’t wait to see the results. Looks like a lot of fun too, on a sunny May Day!

  5. Edward
    Posted May 2, 2013 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    So, what’s next?

  6. Patrick
    Posted May 2, 2013 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    Thanks for organizing this, Mark. It was a great event!

  7. Mr. X
    Posted May 2, 2013 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    A few benches. A path. A piece of sculpture. A few berry bushes. Maybe a tiny library. And hopefully lots of flowers.

  8. double anonymous
    Posted May 2, 2013 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    Can the sculpture look like this?

  9. double anonymous
    Posted May 2, 2013 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    Or, maybe this.×300.jpg

  10. double anonymous
    Posted May 2, 2013 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    Or, if we’ve got the money, maybe this.

  11. Elliott
    Posted May 2, 2013 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    And not a single eye was lost!

  12. Posted May 2, 2013 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    I’m sorry I couldn’t be there but you probably would have been sorry if I were.

  13. XXX
    Posted May 2, 2013 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    I’ve never seen a real, live maypole. That’s cool.

    More progressive event should incorporate activities for children. Seed bombing is perfect. I wouldn’t be surprised if other like-minded groups didn’t pick up on the idea.

  14. 734
    Posted May 2, 2013 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    This is the sculpture that I’d like to see.

  15. blueeyedpupil
    Posted May 2, 2013 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    I want to thank you for the original idea, and completion of all its components. I had a fabulous time yesterday. It was my first maypole too.
    What a great way to bring Ypsi together.
    I was sorry not to meet Clementine, maybe next time. But was really happy to get introduced to Arlo, hes a sweetie.

    Get some much deserved rest, and dream up some new fabulous idea.

    YOu know what I would love to see? A sidewalk chalk art festival, and it could happen right at Water Street.
    How long before we might see some growth of all the lovely bombs????

  16. Meta
    Posted May 2, 2013 at 2:34 pm | Permalink has some photos as well.

  17. Anonymatt
    Posted May 2, 2013 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

    Congratulations on a huge success!


  18. Knox
    Posted May 3, 2013 at 7:58 am | Permalink

    Are we expecting rain over the next few days? If not, how about a bucket brigade from the river?

  19. Andrew Jason Clock
    Posted May 3, 2013 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

    If anyone would be interested in organizing a sidewalk chalk art event, I’d love to incorporate it into the Heritage Festival.

  20. blueeyedpupil
    Posted May 4, 2013 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    Hey Andrew, lets find a way to make this happen. I could help in some way

    friend me on facebook and we can message about it

    sue ;)

  21. Meta
    Posted May 6, 2013 at 7:53 am | Permalink

    Meanwhile, to the East of the site.

    From today’s

    If the $1.2 million Family Dollar project proposed for the Water Street property in Ypsilanti goes forward, it will be the first development there since the city began began assembling the 38-acre site in 1999 with a vision to turn it into a premier waterfront residential and retail hub for its residents.

    Compared to the grand plan for Water Street that originally included condominiums, restaurants, a waterfront park and bike paths, the proposal for the store is a decidedly modest one.

    But, nearly 14 years after the city embarked on the Water Street plan, redevelopment of the property has been slow to happen after two developers backed out of proposed projects, leaving behind mounting debt and rising uncertainty among residents.

    City leaders have said Family Dollar, despite some residents’ preference for an independent retail establishment, rather than a chain, fits in with the original retail development plan for Water Street. Critics have accused the city of adopting a “beggar’s mentality” to get development on the site.

    The City Council is poised to decide Tuesday night whether to give the Family Dollar plan the green light.

    Core Resources, LLC, the development partner with Family Dollar, will purchase nearly one acre of land for $210,000 to construct a store of approximately 8,320-square-foot at Park and Michigan Avenue.

    Officials have estimated that Family Dollar will pay about $30,000 in taxes annually that would go toward paying down the debt incurred thus far for the property.

    Updated numbers provided by Ypsilanti’s Fiscal Director Marilou Uy show that as of May 3, the city owes $24,764,695 on the Water Street debt, a decrease from 2006 when the city owed close to $30 million.

    To date, the city has paid $4.6 million of the debt. The payments, and interest rate, are expected to increase as the city continues to pay through 2031. The debt repayment schedule shows two payments are due each year and the first 2013 payment of $848,783.75 was due May 1 of this year. The next payment, $435,070, is due Nov. 1.

    Officials have discussed refinancing the debt in the near future.

    So far, the city has used more than $5 million from the general fund to go toward Water Street and has spent $30.2 million, according to records provided by Uy.

    Read more:

  22. 734
    Posted May 6, 2013 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    Paula Gardner ( wrote an opinion piece on Water Street yesterday. In it, she says it’s possible that “nothing” will ever happen on the site. The word “nothing” is a link to an article about your seed bombing of the site. I don’t agree that it was “nothing”, but, from the perspective of some, I guess it is.

  23. Joseph Yaroch
    Posted May 7, 2013 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    Seed bombing is a powerful metaphor for community organizing.

    My Mayday photos are on Flickr.

  24. Cleveland
    Posted May 7, 2013 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    You gotta have some big ole’ testicles to pull this off, bro.

14 Trackbacks

  1. […] is the best possible outcome – a locally owned food co-op in the heart of downtown, next to the small native prairie that we just planted. That, I think, would usher in real, sustainable economic development a lot more quickly than a […]

  2. […] in rain, begins to show signs of lifeBy Mark | May 29, 2013It’s the first real rain since we seeded our acre of Water Street a few weeks ago, and I’m incredibly happy. I’d intended to go out this evening, with my friend Jeff, to […]

  3. […] on Water StreetBy Mark | June 1, 2013I received an interesting email today from a reader concerning the acre of Water Street that we’ve been working on these past few months. Attached to the email were three […]

  4. […] the process is underway, and that makes me incredibly happy.While we’re on the subject of this small parcel of land that we’ve been working on in downtown Ypsilanti, I wanted to share a clip from an article that ran in the New York Times this weekend… And, […]

  5. […] it, will be gathering near the intersection of Michigan Avenue and River Street, just behind the Water Street Commons, at 2:00 PM, to learn about the work of earthworks artists like Robert Smithson and Andy […]

  6. […] Street Commons trail building next Saturday afternoonBy Mark | June 9, 2013Now that the seeds we planted on May Day are beginning to sprout, it’s time for us to move onto the next phase of the Water Street […]

  7. By Ypsilanti Immigration Interview: Scott Straley on July 14, 2013 at 4:33 pm

    […] you helped lift my view of the city and cancel out so much of the negative. To see things like the Seed Bombing really helped me understand that there was a core of people here who loved their city. That speaks […]

  8. […] spin-off? And what are the chances that we might interest you, Ben, in getting involved in our Water Street Commons project? Given your background in native plants, we could really use […]

  9. By Commoning, Public Art, Vandalism on September 4, 2013 at 7:54 pm

    […] five months ago, on May Day, the local community joined together to seedbomb the acre of Water Street at the corner of River Street and Michigan Aven…. The little clay balls were handcrafted by children from Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor elementary […]

  10. […] my laptop, catching up on all the little Commons-related things I’ve been putting off since we first gathered together and started planting seeds on May Day. Most notably, I finally set up a Facebook page, which, by the way, I’d like you […]

  11. By May Day on Water Street on April 27, 2014 at 10:22 pm

    […] how, last year, we all got together on May Day and launched a few thousand seed bombs onto Water Street? Well, if you’re up for it, quite a few of us will be gathering there again on Thursday. […]

  12. […] over 3,000 seed balls, containing 8 species of native grasses and 27 species of flowering plants, and launch them by way of slingshot onto a vacant acre of downtown Ypsilanti known as Water Street. Well, happily, it looks like a lot of those flowering plants are coming […]

  13. […] The flowers that we planted last May are beginning to open up on the Water Street prairie. They aren’t quite as plentiful as we’d hoped, which we attribute to the poor quality of the soil, and the continued presence of invasive species like Spotted Knapweed, but the native plants that we reintroduced to the site are trying to fight their way back, and we’re trying, to the best of our ability, to help them get a foothold. (The Black-eyed Susans seem to be doing particularly well.) […]

  14. […] attempts to reclaim land, like the off-the-books Water Street Common, have been pushed out by city governments in crisis, as […]

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