and this is how a city is born –
urban planning at its finest.
from july 3rd-october 30th, i spent much of my free time walking the parks in ann arbor. i was initially surprised that there were over 150 parks in the city, but happy to discover the number. and so, with no sense of direction, and no expectations, other than to see what was out there, i wandered into the woods and stumbled into the greenspaces, open to whatever came my way.
some of the things i discovered about the parks –
ann arbor has 152 parks, along with other recreational and activity spaces
not all of the parks were easy to find or to access, information and directions were vague at times – there were many secret entrances. during this adventure, i had to climb though brambles, through backyards, across driveways, park illegally, go over and under fences, across ravines, around hills, between fences, over water, under low trees, and behind school yards.
the parks total over 2,000 acres (more on that tomorrow)
they range in size from the tiniest pocket parks (postman’s rest and depot) to the largest- birdhills (161 acres) and the nichols arboretum (123 acres)
many different people/organizations help to care for them – the university of michigan school of natural resources, the boy and girl scouts, garden clubs, sportsmen’s clubs, land preservation groups, businesses, neighbors, schools, churches, anonymous individuals
they are used for all kinds of celebrations, get togethers, meetings, activities, sports in every season, as well as solitary endeavors
all kinds and ages of people and animals use the parks
there is a lot of water involved – rivers, creeks, streams, lakes
lots of trees, wildflowers, corn, berries, pine cones, apples, orchids, peonies, lilies, mushrooms, thistles, brambles, green spaces, vines, grasses, ravines, hills, fields, marshes, meadows
lots of rocks – from boulders to gravel
play areas of all kinds – for toddlers through adult sports enthusiasts
lots of structures – tree houses, forts, damns, benches, tables, huts, camp sites
lots of animals of every kind
incredible histories and memorials
lots of neighborhood parks – each has at least one park within it
at times i felt like i was in someone’s intimate space, like showing up and sharing their yard with them
other times, i was the only one in a large, incredibly beautiful space, in the middle of the city, or just on the outskirts, but deep in the woods, hidden away and far removed
some of the things i discovered about myself:
i am stronger and have much more stamina than when i began walking
i am apparently bite and injury resistant – never was bitten by any insect, animal, or human, only got scraped after my slide down a hill
i love walking deep in the woods in quiet solitude
it takes me about 40 minutes before i am deep in my zen zone when walking and then i could walk forever
i also love being amidst the wildlife and human activity in the parks at times
i went through 1 and 1/2 pairs of shoes
i discovered interesting lost/abandoned items along the way – mittens, socks, flip flops, shorts, underwear, glasses….
i am now a bit wealthier – (found 28 cents along the way)
i am able to walk in all weather conditions
i still have a horrendous sense of direction but always find my way back home
i found so much more than i ever expected, including an incredible sense of peace, and feel changed in ways that will stay with me forever
each and every park has a story, each one has its own personality, each one has very loyal caretakers, each one is valued by the community, each one is clearly loved by someone.
it was a long, but wonderful journey and when i finally reached the end of the list, it was bittersweet. along the way, i learned much about my city, the people who live here, the spaces within my community, the nature that surrounds me, and even more about myself. thank you to ann arbor for providing such amazing places of beauty for all of us .
“many a trip continues long after movement in time and space have ceased.”
“hutchins office – night deposits”
“i find if you are in an office, the crisis finds you.
if you’re not in the office, the crisis finds somebody else. “
*city of ann arbor tree nursery, ann arbor, mi, usa
provides and nurtures saplings for city parks and streets
along with mulch, logs, and all things to do with trees.
*when i visited the parks’ nursery, there was no one there, and i loved happening upon this unusual ‘office’ setting. it looks like it could have been a staff meeting day, as there were 2 chairs sitting together. as i continue my walk through the parks, i now have 9 left to go, and i’m quite sure that i will be finished by my goal of halloween.
many parks that i visit
are quiet and solitary experiences
and then there are others
teeming with people and life
and noise and activities
of all kinds
both have such an important place and purpose.
“parks and playgrounds are the soul of a city.”
― marty rubin
gallup park, ann arbor, michigan, usa