Financially distressed Detroit is now depending on volunteers to manage its city parks, landscapes and other green spaces. As a state-appointed emergency manager oversees public functions of the city, a group of volunteers who are calling themselves the “Mower Gang,” is taking care of landscaping and neighborhood parks as traditional public works programs have been reduced or eliminated altogether.

The city’s parks were in danger of becoming an eyesore until volunteers stepped forward. In some parks, the weeds had grown so high that children could not play safely. “When the system fails us, you have to become the system,” said Mitch Logan, 48, a film producer who does landscape work as part of the Mower Gang. Through word-of-moth and participation on Facebook, the Mower Gang has grown to over 20 volunteers.

“I understand how the budget works but I’m mad at the city,” said Tom Nardone, a Mower Gang founder, about the deterioration of city parks. Local government is $327 million in debt, forcing cutbacks in just about every public service from police to public transportation. Other groups of volunteers have planted trees and taken park restoration work into their own hands.