The City of Ann Arbor park system comprises over 2,200 acres of land, spread out over more than 160 parks and natural areas. The majority of the Ann Arbor park land is comprised of natural areas such as woodland, prairies, and other unmowed areas. Approximately 25% of parks is made up of green space used for active recreation such as playgrounds, game courts, gardens, picnic areas, facilities, and athletic fields. Stewardship of park land is a collaborative effort that includes park and city staff, volunteers, park visitors and other organizations. Everyone has a role to play in caring for our shared green spaces. Staff are responsible for managing the various and, at times, competing community priorities that include accessibility, aesthetics, recreation, sustainability, and conservation. Natural Area Preservation, GIVE 365, and park operations teams are always striving to be innovative and responsive to community input and values. The Parks Department is also fortunate to collaborate with the City's Office of Sustainability and Innovations, as partners working toward community-wide carbon neutrality goals.
In early 2022, Ann Arbor City Council unanimously approved Resolution R-22-094 - Resolution to Support The No Mow May Initiative, which encouraged property owners to voluntarily refrain from mowing during May. This initiative was guided by the desire to protect pollinator populations while they are emerging in spring and looking for a food source. A 2023 resolution renamed the initiative as a Resolution to Support Pollinator Habitat in Ann Arbor. Read the 2023 MLive article 'No Mow May 2.0.' Ann Arbor encourages residents to let lawns grow up to a foot tall, to learn more about this resolution. Pollinators include insects and birds that help carry pollen from flower to flower. They are crucial to fertilizing our local plant life as well as fertilizing our fruit and vegetable crops. Visit the Pollinator-Aware Yard Care information on the Office of Sustainability and Innovation's webpage to learn more about the initiative. The Parks Department was unable to participate in the first No Mow May in 2022, as time was needed to initiate community engagement, plan logistics, and coordinate with maintenance crews.
In May 2022, GIVE 365 hosted a public survey to determine community support regarding ideas and expectations for mowing in Ann Arbor parks. The survey had 171 responses that varied greatly in opinion. View the RAW DATA Parks Mowing Survey to read responses or the No Mow May Recap for a summary.
Alternative Mowing Pilot Program 2023
GIVE 365 is initiating a pilot program in 2023 and partnering with park operations staff to test alternative mowing practices at eight parks. This pilot program will explore mowing practices that diverge from established mowing cycles. The eight pilot sites differ greatly in scope and application. Some of these sites will begin mowing in June, with one site piloting an annual/one time mow and another site being an alternative lawn demonstration garden. View the PDFs below to see a map and summary of how this will be implemented at each park.
This pilot will allow staff and the community to explore the outcome of changing mowing practices such as grass length, community response, maintenance challenges, observed ecological benefits, and more.
Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 734.794.6445 to speak with staff regarding this pilot program.
When mowing resumes, please note that parks are typically mowed on a 14 day cycle. This is how long it takes for mowing crews to visit all mowed park properties. There are occasional disruptions to this cycle, primarily due to weather. Heavy rains and melting snow in the spring can lead to wet conditions that cause mowing machinery to become damaged, stuck, or unable to access certain areas.
We will be assessing all aspects of this pilot and the community is encouraged to provide feedback. Please visit our feedback form to submit your observations specific to each location.
Our Ann Arbor Parks are home to over 60 garden beds that are actively managed by staff and volunteers. These gardens add vibrancy to our park spaces and make them more inviting to all. Many of these gardens contain native plant species that have evolved to thrive in our local environmental conditions and support our local pollinator populations.
In 2021, Mayor Christopher Taylor first signed the National Wildlife Federation Mayors' Monarch Pledge. This is a commitment to create habitat for the monarch butterfly and other pollinators. Monarchs are an iconic species whose populations in eastern US have declined by 90%. Natural Area Preservation (NAP) submits a report each year to share the action steps that have been taken to increase pollinator habitat.
The city's two municipal golf courses, Huron Hills Golf Course and Leslie Park Golf Course have each allocated an acre to plant milkweed through the Monarchs in the Rough Program. Milkweed plants are host plants and the primary food source for monarch caterpillars. This program partners with golf courses to promote plants in out-of-play areas that support pollinators. Huron Hills and Leslie Park courses are also home to bat houses, mallard nests, and turtle nests. Read a 2019 MLive article, Ann Arbor golf courses helping combat monarch butterfly endangerment, to learn more about how the golf courses support monarch butterflies. You can also visit the Leslie Park Golf webpage 'beyond the course' to learn more about the Audubon International certification that Leslie Park Golf Course holds.
Several parks contain rain gardens that capture stormwater runoff from parking lots, game courts, and other impermeable surfaces. Rain gardens provide wildlife habitat, support pollinators, reduce erosion, and improve water quality in the Huron River. View the Public Rain Garden Map to see where the rain gardens are located or visit Washtenaw County's Green Infrastructure map for the most up to date details.
These gardens are maintained in collaboration with the Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner's Office. Visit the GIVE 365 webpage if you are interested in volunteering to help maintain one of our park rain gardens.
Our city parks receive thousands of visits per year by people who come to run, bike, walk pets, picnic, and otherwise enjoy their Ann Arbor parks. With this level of traffic, managing waste is an essential aspect of maintenance. Unfortunately, litter can accumulate, especially during periods of high visitation. Having an adequate number and type of waste disposal options is an impactful way to decrease litter and divert waste away from the landfill.
Visit parks recycling to learn which parks have waste stations with compost, recycling, and landfill receptacles. These stations include an informational banner to help visitors decide which receptacle to use for their waste. Waste stations are monitored by GIVE 365 to analyze the level of contamination.
Reach out to [email protected] to suggest an appropriate location for an additional waste station in one of our city parks.
Consider participating in the Trash Trailblazer volunteer program if you are interested in helping to manage litter in the parks.
Human activities and high water flow have led to accelerated erosion along the Huron River. Shoreline erosion causes issues including loss of park land along the river, destabilization of infrastructure, and damaged wildlife habitat when the suspended sediment is deposited downriver. Installing a buffer between the shoreline and flowing water can restore these areas and avoid further damage. Reestablishing vegetation is also extremely important to reduce soil erosion.
In 2022, GIVE 365 conducted shoreline restoration projects in partnership with the Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner's Office at Gallup Park and Island park. These restoration projects included removing some of the existing non-native vegetation. Erosion-control material made from compostable straw and coconut was installed to cover the ground. At Gallup Park, a coconut coir log was installed in the water, along the shoreline. Native plants were planted into these materials, along with native seed that was scattered over the area in both parks. These areas will be monitored to determine successfulness and additional shoreline areas will be considered for restoration.
The two city owned Golf courses, Leslie Park Golf Course and Huron Hills Golf Course, have incorporated sustainable design through several large, streambank stabilization projects:
In the fall of 2020, construction started on the Huron Hills Golf Course project that resurfaced a historic creek, now called Benz Creek, to address flooding and water-quality issues. You can read more about the background of this project here or view the project summary and outcomes here.
Additionally, in 2013, a streambank stabilization project through Leslie Park Golf Course also created positive environmental impacts. The efforts made have earned Leslie Park Golf Course certified as an "Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary golf course" for achieving a high standard in environmental quality. Read more about this honor here.
Integrated Pest Management
Natural Area Preservation staff manage the parks Integrated Pest Management system. To learn more about what this is and what pests and invasive plants are being managed within Ann Arbor parks, view Ann Arbor's Integrated Pest Management (IPM) system for city parks.
The City of Ann Arbor also shares some general information about citywide Integrated Pest Management.
In June 2022, Ann Arbor City Council passed a resolution to purchase and install solar power systems at nine city sites. These sites include Buhr Park, Cobblestone Farm, and Burns Park Senior Center, among others.