Let’s first start out by saying the work the Detroit Riverfront is doing has been impressive. They’ve been part of making large change on a swath of land that in recent memory was completely unaccessible to the public and opening it back up for everyone’s use.

Their good stewardship has been rewarded, as we reported earlier, with a funding campaign that has exceeded their goal. And they have a public input process about plans for the east riverfront from now until 2050, and other plans running “bridge to bridge.”

But there’s one thing that seems conspicuously missing from plans, especially for the east riverfront being discussed now – and that’s opportunities for Detroiters to actually touch the water.

On a recent trip to Lake Michigan it was abundantly clear how important beach front and access for people to the water is for creating interaction with the water, even if it is just seasonal. You could enjoy great pier walks, and you could go out to the lighthouse, but there’s something about being able to swim in it. To play with your kids in it. People of all races, ages, and kinds communed around and in the great lake.

And since we have water right here, we deserve that in Detroit.

Many people don’t even think about Detroit having so much of a great blue resource, in some measure, because except for a stretch on Belle Isle that’s seen much better days we can’t touch it.

Right now when you peruse the plans online, we have beautiful river walks and developments and amenities, but it seems absurd that kicking off your sandals and sticking your feet in along this awesome multi-mile long expanse just isn’t possible.

Do a Google site search for the word “beach” on the Detroit Riverfront site and you get just four results, talking about the sand at Campus Martius Park and the beach volleyball court that’s built on a parking lot over by the carousel. But no real beach.

Sure, there may be concerns around river current and the like – but there has to be someplace where we can commune directly with our namesake body of water, even if it’s directly across from Belle Isle at a re-imagined Uniroyal site or Gabriel Richard Park, nicely tucked away from shipping.

The Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, since they’re in the planning stages now, should break down that last access barrier and design it so us Detroiters can touch our water again. Yes, it may require additional resources for occasional lifeguards. Yes, maybe we’ll have to do extra work and thinking around it.

But the dividends of positive energy, enthusiasm for our great resource, enthusiasm for the overall riverfront project, and equal access for all of our citizens will be more than worth it.

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