Gardeners transform site of former Detroit school

After Defenders expose scrapping damage, community plants gardens

DETROIT – A blighted Detroit neighborhood once stripped by scrappers has been beautified thanks to some dedicated gardeners.

The Local 4 Defenders first exposed the scrapping problem at old Finney High School last year.

Previous report: Defenders help catch scrappers in the act

The scrappers were caught in the act and arrested by police, but the damage had been done.

The shocking images from that report inspired some community members to get involved and make a big change.

Carol Rodgers went to the school and still lives in the neighborhood.

"I hate to see it destroyed like this," she said. Still, Rodgers said she would rather see it boarded up than left vulnerable to scrappers and slowly rot away.

Sick of seeing trash pile up around it, Marie Cierpial and sever other gardeners took over the land surrounding the school. Now, corn, sunflowers, tomatoes are all growing in the shadows of the abandoned school.

"I get people who honk their horn and say, ‘Looking good.' Very encouraging. I've had a young couple stop and ask if they can stand by the sunflowers to take a picture. So a lot of people are enjoying it," Cierpial said.

She's also hired others to help.

"I'm enjoying myself," Curtis Walker said. "The neighborhood looks nice."  

Walker tends the garden as his payment for free fruit and vegetables.

"I take the broccoli, mainly. Sometimes the green beans, cabbage," he said.

Most of the vacant land around the school is still owned by the city, but the gardeners have obtained garden permits.