Dorais Park Velodrome - Detroit, MI
Posted by: scrapcat
N 42° 26.540 W 083° 02.746
17T E 331749 N 4700917
Quick Description: Built near an urban hill known for soap box derbies, the Dorais Park Velodrome was home to decades of bicycling champions before it was lost to neglect. Then, in 2010, a group of renegade mowers found it again.
Location: Michigan, United States
Date Posted: 4/21/2012 7:15:52 PM
Waymark Code: WME98Q
The Dorais Park Velodome (also called the Detroit Velodrome) is one of two outdoor velodromes located in Michigan. Unlike its affluent neighbor in Rochester (visit link
) Dorais Park is located in the gritty and oft-forgotten perimeter of Detroit.
According to Bicycling Magazine (visit link
"In 1967, a man named Mike Walden, a legend of Michigan cycling and a world-class track coach, believed in the future of Detroit and designed a velodrome and built it in a flat area not far from Derby Hill. The Chrysler Corporation donated the land and helped with the resources. Chrysler could do that kind of thing back then. Walden's goal was to finish the velodrome in time for the 1969 U.S. National Track Championships. They were in fact held on his track, and John Vande Velde, a two-time Olympian and father of current cycling superstar Christian Vande Velde, won a couple of events that year. After the championships, Walden had himself a top-notch facility at which to train racers capable of competing with anyone in the world."
The track hosted bicycling events for 21 years until it was eventually destroyed by urban decay and damage due to unlawful car racing. With the pavement cracked and buckled, with the lack of funding to maintain, and with the increase in urban blight, the track was abandoned and forgotten. Until 2010.
In 2010, a renegade band of mowers called the Detroit Mower Gang, whose mission statement is to reclaim unmaintained areas of Detroit for its kids, found the abandoned velodrome. Over a period of several months - read their epic battle here (visit link
) - they cleared the land of shrubbery and trash, reopening it to the local residents.
Alongside the Greening of Detroit organization, in 2012, the Detroit Mower Gang and local volunteers planted hundreds of trees around the perimeter of the velodrome and installed an urban garden in the center field.
At the same time, another local organization formed to revive the abandoned velodrome in a series of races called Thunderdrome! This annual event is for "mopeds, pit bikes, scooters, minibikes, bicycles, mountain bikes and go-karts and all other sorts of dangerous wheeled things" to raise awareness and funds to rebuild Dorais Park.
You can read a wonderful write-up about soap box derbies in Dorais Park at GC23HCJ (visit link