Explore: The Parks Over I-696 in Oak Park

Explore: The Parks Over I-696 in Oak Park

(Crystal A. Proxmire, Sept. 6, 2018)

Oak Park, MI- Driving along I-696 between Lincoln and Coolidge in Oak Park and Southfield, one might not even realize they are driving underneath parks – complete with trees, pathways, and playground equipment.

Two of those parks – Victoria Park and Charlotte M. Rothstein Park – are in the City of Oak Park. In recent years Victoria Park got some upgrades when the Michigan Department of Transportation had to do some work on the drainage to prevent icicles from hanging over the freeway below.

Among the improvements was a new playground with lots of fun details to delight neighborhood children.  Pathways through the parks connect the community, which includes senior apartments, synagogues, apartments and homes.  And the Michigan State Police post is located close by as well.

Charlotte M. Rothstein was the first female mayor of Oak Park serving from 1981 to 1991. Prior to that she had served on city council. According to the Jewish Historical Society of Michigan, “During her tenure as mayor, the planned construction for the I-696 Expressway showed it cutting the city literally in two, devastating many neighborhoods, but in particular, the city’s Orthodox Jewish community, which was the largest in the Detroit metropolitan area in the 1980s. Charlotte lobbied the federal government to assure pedestrian walkways and decks would be built to allow residents walking access to the city’s 19 synagogues.

“Her persistence paid off,” said former Mayor Gerald Naftaly, who served as a councilman throughout Charlotte’s ten-year mayoral tenure. “She worked with our Congressional representatives to get our voices heard and heeded. This was crucial to the final approval for the connecting decks that kept our community from being divided, and at the same time, establishing a pair of new public recreational facilities.”

Older trees buffer the neighbors from the parks as well the sound of traffic on the freeway.  On a muggy weekday morning the whir of the cars below was simply background for the loudly chirping cicadas, and the occasional squeal of  children playing or the bark of dogs being walked on the paths.

Driving underneath, only the tops of trees give a hint of the parks that are overhead.

Rothstein Park is 7.2 acrea and includes the play structure, a vita course, plenty of seating and a wheelchair accessible concert state. It is located in the 25308 block of Church Street.

Victoria Park is 3.7 acres and includes a play structure, swing sets, and a tee ball diamond. It’s location is the 25308 block of Church Street.

Learn more about parks in the City of Oak Park on their website.

For other places to explore in Oakland County and beyond check out the Oakland County Times EXPLORE! Section!

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