Make This Better: Ripper’s Valley

This is the first in what will be an ongoing series of posts as we temporarily install these letters across the city to generate some conversation and creative thinking around how we can indeed make this (place) better. You can check out the process of making these letters in this archive of posts.

Ripper’s Valley is visible from the Riverfront bike path, which happens to be how I first became interested in it. As an avid cyclist, I very frequently ride down this section of the Riverfront path and quite often see a bustling community of families, a diverse range of cultures, a balanced number of mothers and fathers, grandparents, babysitters and children using the play equipment and nearby benches during the day.

However, within feet of this area is a dead-zone. The entrance to the railway cut is dark, looming, and segregated from the Riverfront Park. In my experience, children venturing toward the entrance are most often called back by their parents and reprimanded to stay within the direct area of the play equipment.

I discovered the slang term used for this location by asking around within a group of peers about the space. Many of them called it Ripper’s Valley, referring to the infamous serial killer Jack the Ripper. The temporary installation of these letters attempts to counter that experience and reference. The act of existing in this space after sundown, providing lighting, watchful eyes, and perhaps deterring illegal or harmful activity from manifesting for the duration of our stay possibly subverted the current condition and environment of the park. We wanted to ask ourselves: How could you make this space better? What about other city residents? What could we do as a community to make it better?

And,  it is possible to imagine something different here, something that could transform it into a place. Imagining this cut with a few slight changes, children could be encouraged to enter into and engage with the space and play in the natural environment with an understanding of what used to be there and the larger picture of why this history is important. Historical preservation of the cut as an interesting point in Windsor and Detroit’s international trade relations, a former connector between the international border, would instill a sense of place that is not currently found in the park.

That’s why I chose this site as a place I would like to change somehow, and through awareness of the important history of the site versus its current condition, we hope to spark a conversation about the potential to do something great here.

24 Replies to “Make This Better: Ripper’s Valley”

  1. the space could radically transform into a desired landscape. it doesn’t take 6 consultants and 2 terms of office to decide. the foliage could be kept with a surface and lights being added. i would like to see small concrete patterns embedded in the grass and not asphalt as to deter motor devices and really use that heavy steel bridge as a portal to a participatory, becoming and occupied space.

  2. Great post! The second photo turned out great. The letters really connect the two places together, don’t they? Also, ‘Rippers Valley’ sounds extremely scary but somehow I am more inclined to visit it…

  3. Michelle, I really enjoyed the idea you brought up around actually transforming the space… it feels completely possible and really necessary. I agree with anonymouse, this could be an easy site to not only propose, but to actually realize some drastic improvements. I’d love to see some of the history you mentioned really brought to life.

    Anxious to see what sites everyone else chooses. The letters look really great!

  4. Thanks everyone!
    The letters did turn out awesome, I’m excited to re-install them at another site and continue building the repertoire of things to make better.

    I have been working on an extensive research project involving the abandoned railway cuts leading to the Detroit River in Windsor. I encourage everyone to go out and walk along these cuts (from the Detroit River to Wyandotte Street, one runs along Cameron, the other one along Caron) and experience them for yourselves.

    If you’re interested in hearing and/or sharing more about the histories, conditions and potentials in these spaces, stay tuned for a downloadable PDF book, or contact me directly. (

  5. these actually look like cool spaces without needing to be fixed up…the letters should have read, GENTRIFY THIS

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  7. Hahaha, “gentrify this” –> funny enough, our politicians wanted to! This area was to become the infamous marina and inland port that king eddie finally ditched after realizing “the residents have spoken.” Mmmmm multi-million dollar urban planning project to territorialize downtown. Ceezer’s to the east, marina to the west. I was to expect a gate put up along Ouellette…..

    You’re right p, this is a cool space that does not need fixing up or beautification. Planters do not belong here. Black kitschy metal benches do not belong here either. I repeat asphalt is a crime. This is a terrain vague that can only exist as such if left as an anonymous reality within our spare change strip tease downtown.

    Is anyone interested in taking an ideas-walk through this space?

  8. Really impressed with this – admire the linkage of art/design and typography to create conversation in the ‘real world’.

    Best of luck with the project – wish I had thought about it for some places around here…


  9. Some trimming of the greenery, cleaning up all the debris, and pathways up to University avenue and access to Wyandotte (or even all the way to College) would be amazing for both this and Gateway park. In fact, if you walk through Gateway park, it is easy to imagine what this could become.

    Could this space be made better? Yes. Does it need asphalt? Not necessarily – but a gravel bed would help make it look like an actual path that people would use.

    I also always see the UFO sculpture there and think that someone should paint the support pole with glow-in-the-dark paint.

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