Gangs have long been an issue for large metropolitan areas like Detroit. But I doubt you’d expect a gang to get up to the kind of activities that the Detroit Mower Gang does. It’s no secret that Detroit doesn’t have much money to spend on things like maintaining its numerous parks and playgrounds, but the DMG has gone rogue and mixed John Deere mixed with Robin Hood. They have taken the vigilante mentality of a biker gang and married it with the altruistic heart of a charity to make the city a safer and more fun place for its children.
Tom Nardone is the closest thing to a leader this ragtag group can claim. His approach was an unconventional one; he stated “I am forming a group of people to help keep the unmowed areas of Detroit’s parks from falling further into disrepair. Don’t get me wrong, this will not be a group of goody-goodies. This will be an outlaw group that does what it wants, when it wants. The only difference between us and the Hells Angels is that we will ride lawn mowers and smack-down grass and weeds.” This sort of impassioned call to action I think is what gets the public amped to lend their weed-whackers to the cause.
Unlike the Hell’s Angels, to join the Detroit Mower Gang you don’t need to know a secret handshake or take a tire iron an opposing gang member’s knees. DMG volunteer Andy Didorosi lays it out plainly, “You don’t have to sign up, you just show up.” The Facebook page and website of the group keeps potential volunteers up to date on their projects and anyone with an interest is welcome to lend a hand. You don’t even necessarily need to provide your own mower, the club has invested about 2000 dollars in refurbishing second hand lawnmowers for newbies to use. The Detroit Mower Gang is really about the participants having a great time together just as much as it is about doing something they believe in that makes a powerful difference for a city that was slated to close about 77 of its parks before the club intervened.
What the DMG does is not exactly legal but not exactly illegal, Andy Didorosi slyly points out “If you went through all the proper channels you would get absolutely nothing done”. And they certainly do get things done; they have taken their brand of rebel gardening to venues as diverse as racing tracks, parks, playgrounds and lots. They don’t just clear plants, they add new ones as well. They also do minor repairs like painting playground equipment and raising funds to replace missing swings.
The Detroit Mower Gang is a uniquely American creation. The do-it-yourself spirit of our country and sense of civic pride and responsibility comes together to improve a mitten city that certainly needs a little love.