Brownell-Holmes

Brownell-Holmes resident turned a vacant lot into a community staple

FLINT, MI -- On the corner of Barbara and Allison in the Brownell-Holmes neighborhood sits a small parcel of land that belongs to a private owner, Robert Logan. But thanks to Logan's maintenance and community spirit, his neighbors know the plot as "Logan Park," a public gathering space that's open to any community members who want to use it.

Logan's plot, just over a tenth of an acre in size, sits mostly empty with the exception of two park benches, a few scattered trees, and a large pot of flowers.

Up until the city demolished it in 2013, an abandoned house used to sit on the lot. Though not big on its own, Logan’s property is surrounded by two other parcels with a similar history. Together, the three make up almost a half-acre of empty, flat land.

According to the Flint Property Portal, which is operated by the Genesee County Land Bank Authority (GCLBA) and the city of Flint, the property to the north of Logan’s is owned by the GCLBA itself, while the property on the east is owned by another Brownell-Holmes resident. 

Despite only one of the three empty lots being his, Logan took on the upkeep of the lot owned by the GCLBA. For the last five years during the spring, summer and fall months, he has mowed the two lots weekly.

For Logan, it was a simple decision. North Flint has had an embattled relationship with the GCLBA. Over the years, an increasing amount of abandoned land has drained the GCLBA's time and resources, leading to patches of unkempt, GCLBA-owned land being scattered across neighborhoods like Brownell-Holmes. 

Since Logan lives across that lot, he decided to take matters into his own hands. 

“When I cut that lot across from my home, I cut that lot too, because if you cut across one lot and not the other, that makes the whole neighborhood look shitty," he says.

A resident of the area since 1978, Logan, like so many of his neighbors, takes pride in his community.

“I apply my efforts to trying to keep my community, my property in presentable shape. When that lot was cleared, they stopped mowing the lawn, they stopped taking care of it, and by six weeks the entire thing went to shit,” Logan says. 

Logan says Brownell-Holmes is close-knit. In his eyes, the extra time and resources it takes to care for the other lot are worth it if it helps the neighborhood. Paired with the equally well-maintained property to the east, that corner of Barbara and Allison, green, sunny and inviting, has become the perfect gathering spot for Brownell-Holmes residents who now know it as Logan Park. 

That’s not how the story usually goes. If you walk on any privately owned and undeveloped land, whether you’re in a city like Flint or in any of Michigan’s vast wooded areas, it won’t be long until you come across red and white signs with bold lettering saying “NO TRESPASSING” or threatening prosecution.

Logan decided to take a different approach. After all, trying to keep his land private would be futile, given his fellow humans' penchants for both meeting in wide-open spaces and breaking the rules. 

Instead, he decided to make his land public and embrace the name Logan Park. In Logan’s own words his property is “a park where you can come sit." 

"We’ve got benches," he says. "You can go sit out there. You can read your paper.”

According to Jeanette Edwards, president of the Brownell-Holmes Neighborhood Association (BHNA), Logan sees his land as much more than a park. He sees it as his legacy. 

“Mr. Logan is a wonderful man,” Edwards says. “He’s been a huge part of the (BHNA) and a few years back he told me, ‘Jeanette, the block club can use this for whatever they want. They can do anything they want with it.’" 

For years, Logan has stuck to his word. Even now, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Logan has offered up his land for BHNA’s socially-distanced monthly picnics. Edwards says Logan has also talked to his family about continuing to make the land available to the public after his death.

During months of having to stay inside and away from others, Logan Park has grown to be a beacon of the hope, hard work, and goodwill that Brownell-Holmes residents have spent years fostering

Read more articles by Santiago Ochoa.

Santiago Ochoa is a freelance reporter and communications student at UM-Flint. He is the project editor for On The Ground community reporting series and currently serves as The Michigan Times' Editor-in-Chief. Santiago has worked with publications and organizations like The New York Times, the Interamerican Press Association and Flint Beat. You can reach him @santi8a98 on Twitter and Instagram and email him at [email protected]
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