On August 8th, The Mower Gang visited the abandoned velodrome at Dorais Playground in Detroit. This velodrome has been lying dormant since 1989 or so. It had some serious overgrowth and we decided to tackle the job.

We had 3 guys committed to a full day of mowing and weed whipping. We also had an entire vanful of powertools and yard equipment. I thought the task was going to be easy. Boy was I wrong. It was a gang-war of epic proportions. But in the end, the Mower Gang won another turf war at one of Detroit’s most overgrown parks. Here are some before and after pictures and a few stories to go with it.

This area is turns #1 and #2 - We started here and things went wrong early. I think we expected these weeds to just roll-over and die, but that didn’t happen. I guess 21 years worth of roots don’t come up easily. The weed whips were having a tough time, so we decided to change one of them over to the brush cutter attachment.

While all of this was happening, our lawn tractor died. You can see that we were only able to mow a small area around the apron of the track. Ouch. Without a mower, we turn into the wacker gang and nobody wants to see that!


This is the back straightaway, we did better here. With Mike on the brush cutter, me on the weed whip, Rob on the saw, and Norbert on the blower we cleared this rough area.


The entrance to turn 1: We did alright here. Not only did we remove the weeds, but we removed a bunch of rocks, tires, and spray cans from the infield. Here is a note to graffiti artists. “I’ve got no problem with you spray-painting a velodrome that has been abandoned for 20 years, but next time, throw your old cans away”. We must have found 20 spray cans and 50 tires out there. Guy was on tire duty and he even braved a couple of hornet’s nests to collect all of the tires.


This is between the velodrome’s turns three and four. You can see the giant cracks here. For this reason I don’t think that the Dorais velodrome will never host another big cycling race, but it is still a fun place to visit and you can definitely ride laps around the place.

What is Next For The Velodrome?
Honestly, I’m not sure what is next for Detroit’s Dorais Velodrome. Although the event had a decent turnout from the bicycling communities of Detroit, it doesn’t seem like any of them are willing to take over the care for this abandoned spot. The work we did will probably last for the rest of the year, but next year another batch of strong weeds will find their way through the cracks.

When I get my lawn tractor running again, I may head back to the velodrome to finish mowing the infield. A good mow would help the infield quite a bit.

People were asking if the Mower Gang will be taking care of the velodrome. I’m not sure if this is the right place for us. The location suffers from a lack of visitors, especially children. I think the Mower Gang should stick to projects that help people that can’t help themselves, like kids. This project seemed like a way to revive something that should have never died, but it also felt like we were doing work so that a group of 40 year old cyclist could have a good time. Those guys are perfectly capable of doing work themselves.

What is Next For The Mower Gang? For now, the Mower Gang will move on to our next location, Riverside Park in the shadow of the ambassador bridge in Detroit. We will be doing a park mow, cleanup, and playground repair session on August 28th at 1 PM. I hope you will attend and have fun. We are particularly interested in anyone who also owns a lawn tractor or mower and wants to run it wide open in a park setting.

I am also considering the idea of mowing a maze or labyrinth in one of the fields at Rouge Park. If you have any thoughts, let me know.

Thanks for visiting. Contact me through the e-mail on this site (where it says “Join The Gang”)

signed, Tom.