Park’s champions true to inspiration of its namesake

By Sue Suchyta

Sunday Times

     WYANDOTTE — Because longtime Beaver Park champions William and Irene Tilk are as industrious as the land’s namesake, Mayor Joseph Peterson recognized their 40 years of work with a plaque at the Aug. 3 City Council meeting.

     The city-owned park is bounded by Goddard and River roads and the Ecorse River.

     The husband-and-wife team are quick to point out that others who enjoy the land help with its upkeep. “This is a neighborhood with 27 homes,” William Tilk said. “We all help one another.”

      The Tilks moved to the 1000 block of Hazel adjacent to the land in 1953, into the first of 27 houses built in the subdivision. The neighborhood has been close-knit since it was built.      “There are five people who still own the house from when they bought it,” Irene Tilk said. “And kids who were raised here come back.”

     When the open land was donated to the city by the heir of a World War I veteran, it became a dump site. Neighbors rallied in 1968 to have the city end the dumping, remove debris and cover the land with clean fill dirt.

     Environmental tests done on the site after 1995 revealed two concentrations of arsenic and lead that exceeded residential levels allowed by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. When city officials proposed the land for condominium use in 1999, they considered seeking a state loan to cap the area with additional dirt. Neighbors then petitioned the city to have the land designated a legal open space.

     “We had a popcorn rally when we named the park,” Irene said. “We had 50 or so kids from the neighborhood.” Since then a baseball backstop, picnic tables, benches and a trio of concrete pipes that form a simple play area have been added. A 57-year-old tree provides shade.

     While Beaver Park may not be inhabited by any of its namesakes, it does have raccoons, rabbits, squirrels, a fox and birds. “I throw out bread for the robins every day,” Irene said.

     City workers cut the grass while the neighbors do everything else. The Tilks empty the trash barrels weekly. They put in the homemade flag poles and refinish the picnic tables as needed.

     “(City officials) told us to take care of it,” William said. “It’s not officially a park so no one can get hurt and sue.”

     “(Neighborhood children) can fly kites here because there are no overhead wires. We do stop them from climbing the trees,” Irene said. “You can do that in Wyandotte — they do mind.”

     “We don’t want them to get hurt,” William added.

     “We never have any problems,” Irene said. “People clean up every time. It’s personal here … dogs and kids — it’s the biggest thing.”

     Neighborhood residents hope to add a jogging path, sidewalks and a fence to Beaver Park. “Everything we ask for we get,” Irene said. “We have a lot of people who use it.”

     “We’ve been very fortunate,” William said.