Issues Of The Environment: Washtenaw County Parks Preserving Local History

May 5, 2021

Watkins Lake
Credit Michigan Department of Natural Resources / dnr.state.mi.us

The natural parks found all over Washtenaw County are like a time capsule. They tell tales of local and state history, which is why their preservation is such a high priority. In this week's "Issues of the Environment," WEMU's David Fair talks about the work being done to protect and preserve these areas with Kira Macyda, a park planner and preservationist for Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation.


Overview

  • Washtenaw County Parks holds over 5,400 acres of land, including many high quality natural areas.  Most of the county’s parks also have a less well-known historic significance. 
  • Some of the most historically significant parks include:
  1. Parker Mill County Park - The historic Parker Mill, one of the many mills that once dotted the length of the Huron River, is located within the boundaries of the park. Prior to the Civil War and the Parkers' arrival, Washtenaw County was a lumbering capital as well as the nation's breadbasket.  Located in Ann Arbor, the park features an operating historic gristmill with tours on Sundays in the fall. It also has walking trails and connects to the City of Ann Arbor’s Gallup Park.
  2. Sharon Mills County Park – This is the site of a gristmill-turned-Ford small factory. This amazing park is located on the picturesque River Raisin in Sharon Township. There are also mountain bike/hiking trails, a canoe launch, interpretive signs, and museum tours.
  3. Staebler Farm County Park –Currently, there are walking trails in the southern portion of the park. The Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation department is finalizing the north park’s site plan and hoping to open it in the next couple of years.
  4. Watkins Lake State Park and County PreserveThis is the State of Michigan’s first partnership with a county entity. It has a documented association with the Underground Railroad. It was recently recognized by the National Park Service as a “Network to Freedom” site.
  • Kira Macyda, Park Planner and resident Historic Preservationist for Washtenaw County Parks and Rec, has been instrumental in helping to preserve and document the history of some of the county’s best and least-known parks. 

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at 734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at dfair@emich.edu