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In the Motor City, The Rubber Meets the Road in Abandoned Houses

Old tires have been stacked from the basement to second-floor rafters in a blue-collar neighborhood left sparsely populated during the exodus from Detroit during the Great Recession.

A blighted neighborhood in Detroit has become an illegal dumping ground for tires. Thousands upon thousands of tires have been stuffed into abandoned houses. (Screenshot: WDIV-Channel 7 video)
A blighted neighborhood in Detroit has become an illegal dumping ground for tires. Thousands upon thousands of tires have been stuffed into abandoned houses. (Screenshot: WDIV-Channel 7 video)

What’s the newest tourist attraction in the Motor City?

Tires.

So. Many. Tires.

Thousands of tires have been stacked from the floor to the rafters in abandoned houses along Mapleridge Street on Detroit’s east side, a blue-collar area emptied out during the Great Recession and left fallow – but a fertile dumping ground, apparently, for spent rubber, WDIV-Channel 7 reports.

The television station’s report prompted action by blight-fighting city officials, who began rolling the tires to the curbside for pickup by Wyandotte-based Silver Lining Tire Recycling.

The spectacle has attracted gawkers, Titus  Kegler, 23, told MLive. "People have just been coming through, literally taking pictures and everything,” he said.

Kegler said the illegally dumped tires Mapleridge aren’t just a pockmark on the neighborhood, but a potentially dangerous situation for him and other residents who remain.

If one of the piles of tires caught fire, the rubber could smolder for weeks.

"It's messed up, man" Kegler said. "All these tires. There's too many abandoned houses and if this caught on fire it could catch the whole block on fire.”

Cleaning up the mess could take weeks. Volunteers are rolling up their sleeves to roll the tires to the curb, where they’ll be picked up.

The  Rev. Darryl Gaddy Sr. of Victory Fellowship Community Church showed up with a cadre of volunteers earlier this week to help clean up the tires, that spilled into driveways and backyards when the houses were full.

“It’s a shame that the residents of the community or those people of the community see our community as a dumping ground, but I would say that because our community is a blessed community, we have people working to eliminate the blight and revive those things other people don’t see worth reviving,” he said.

The problem is recurring, some residents said, with tires re-appearing overnight.

Tires have been cleared from the abandoned houses, only to be filled back up again.

Neighborhood resident Timothy Johnson, 25, said he spied a man in a gray truck preparing to dump tires, but put the truck in reverse and left the neighborhood when he was spotted.

Alexis Wiley, a spokesman for Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, told MLive that whoever is dumping the tires neatly stacked them “in a uniform way (that) maximized every inch of space.”

City officials say they’re determined to find out who’s dumping the tires. Neighborhood resident James Carter told WDIV he thinks it’s local tire shops, who don’t want to pay the disposal fee.

illegal tire dumping isn’t just a problem in blighted neighborhoods like the one on Mapleridge.

“It’s a huge problem across the city and we can’t afford to ignore it,” Wiley said.

>>> WDIV and MLive have video and slideshows illustrating the magnitude of the problem.

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