(from the Fall 2016 Macomb Now Magazine)
By Denis LeDuc
In the middle of a bustling suburb there is an unexpected slice of heaven. River Bends Park, in Shelby Township, is home to many plants and animals, and is a lovely place for picnics and relaxation. Within the boundaries of the park are many opportunities for recreation, including a sledding hill, an RC race track, a trap as well as a soccer field and baseball diamond. Visitors would never imagine that his public park was once the personal retreat of boxing legend and equestrian, Joe Louis.
Originally called Spring Hill Farm, the property was first owned by Peter Lerick, who was a conductor for the underground railroad. The route was marked by a massive cedar, know as “The Beacon Tree.” Escaped slaves found food, drink and safety, provided by the Lerich family, until they could resume their journey north toward Canada under the cover of night. It was nothing fancy, but it was secure, the log lined cave in the hillside wouldn’t be found until long after slavery was abolished in 1865.