A University of Detroit Communications professor has made a documentary about a dedicated group of Tiger Stadium fans who call themselves the Navin Field Grounds Crew. They have voluntarily kept up the basic integrity of the baseball diamond on the site where the stadium once stood. Jason Roche, the aforementioned professor, followed them about their labors and his film will debut tonight at the Detroit Historical Museum. Above all else, what does this say about historic preservation?
It tells us that the best way to preserve anything is not to go around asking others to do it, but to get your hands dirty and do it yourself.
In this case, the Navin Field group have seen to themselves that a cherished piece of Detroit history is somehow kept alive. Sure, we know that Senator Carl Levin has some few million bucks pigeonholed in federal coffers for use in redeveloping the site somehow. But as that hasn't happened yet and as it is increasingly unlikely that it will, regular citizens, the ones interested in baseball and baseball history, have gotten out to do what they can on their own.
They're doing a good job of it too. A drive past Michigan and Trumbull will show anyone that a nice green field, well kept, is in place for the enjoyment of all. There are impromptu ball games, and just friends and families having a catch, all the time there. Out of towners drop by just to see what remains of the history of the Corner. Even Lions fans coming downtown for football have been spotted checking out the grounds, remembering that football was once played there too.
It would seem that the people can be trusted to understand and respect history even when millionaires and Detroit politicians spit on it. That last part is, however, a tale for another day. We have seen real historic preservation, a real concern for our collective past, at work. It is a much more inspiring thing than what any government could do. And it hasn't cost the taxpayers a dime.