Park Address: 1505 Dhu Varren Road Ann Arbor, 48105
Hours and Rules
Open 6 a.m.-midnight with quiet hours beginning at 10 p.m. Refer to Chapter 39 of the City of Ann Arbor Code of Ordinances for park regulations and rules. Contact park rentals for policies and rules related to rentals and special uses and always refer to posted park signage in the park. Smoking is prohibited and dogs must be on leash.
Olson Park is a 54-acre parcel that is jointly owned by the City of Ann Arbor and the Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner. Located on the corner of Dhu Varren Road and Pontiac Trail south of M-14 (see Ann Arbor Parks and Nature Area map for location context), the site’s main feature is a pond that was constructed to manage storm water for the Northeast area. This park has preserved existing natural features, including the wetlands and woods, the creek and pond, while providing active recreational facilities and fields as well as the dog park. The athletic fields are available for use by permit and a basketball court and a rock-climbing playground are located near the parking lot. There is a large shelter with electricity available. Contact park rentals for information on renting the shelter or fields at Olson Park. The park also features single track mountain bicycle trails suitable for beginner and intermediate level riding with some higher intermediate areas. A trail map is provided at the marked trailhead, including instructions for direction of travel on the trails and general rules for all who use the trails. During extremely wet condition or spring thaw, help prevent trail erosion by avoiding non-paved trails. All trails within the park are open to multi-use. There is also a paved pedestrian pathway that loops around the pond.
Olson Park Dog Park is one of three dog parks managed by the City of Ann Arbor. Check out the Dog Park Packet for information on permit, rules and other frequently asked questions. The fenced in dog area at Olson is conveniently located off of the parking lot and is just under an acre (0.74) in size.
Access and Parking
Olson Park has one main vehicle entrance off of Dhu Varren Road with one large parking area. The entrance is located on the north side of Dhu Varren Road between Pontiac Trail and the Food Gatherers (Carrot Way). Additonally, there are several trail entrances off Pontiac Trail and Dhu Varren Road.
Public transportation. There are AATA bus stops on Dhu Varren Road. The (Dhu Varren & Huntly) stop is directly across from the park enterance. The (Dhu Varren & Carrot Way) stop is at the southeast corner of the park, a 2 minute walk to the park property. Check out TheRide Guide for more details.
- Dog park
- Rain Garden
- Unpaved trails, view trail map
- Year round vault restroooms
- Picnic tables, benches, grills, soccer fields, basketball court, little library, a drinking fountain and restrooms-- view the asset map for specific amenity locations.
- Shelter. Visit park rentals for information on hosting an event or renting the shelter at Olson Park.
- Trash receptacles in parking lot
- Seasonal Christmas tree disposal location
There are ongoing and limitless opportunities for volunteering and getting engaged with the Ann Arbor Parks and Recreation Services Unit. GIVE 365 and the seasonal Adopt-a-Park Program offer volunteer opportunities ranging from a 90 minute commitment, to a more long term, ongoing role. Natural Area Preservation also has volunteer opportunities that support their mission and involve volunteers in all aspects of maintaining biodiversity and restoring damaged ecosystems. If you are feeling the call to volunteer or give some time, reach out or explore the websites above to see what’s upcoming or how to get involved.
Report a Problem - A2 Fix It
To report any maintenance issues or other problem during your park visit, please report through A2Fix It. Keep in mind that parks are large spaces and A2 Fix It requests can be difficult to find without detailed information. When reporting an issue in a park please include location details. There is a details and description section near the end of the request process to help you provide this. In addition, users can utilize the pin (website) or X (mobile app) feature to provide specific location information inside the park. Finally, please consider including a wide angle photo or include background landmarks, which helps staff find and fix the problem.
Gifts and Donations
Information on donating to the parks and the Guide to Giving can be found here. Alternatively if you have a special project or park improvement idea that you want to donate your time and energy toward, a great place to start is through Adopt-a-Park and the proposing a special park project guide. For information on donating a tree through Adopt-a-Park, the tree donation guide can help you get started.
On first glance it may appear that the many recreational features were carved into the woods and natural features already existing on this 54 acres of land. It wasn’t that long ago, though, that the park site was home to a gravel mining operation and many of the natural features found today weren’t even present. Extensive illegal dumping was also a problem on the property. The location is separated from adjoining habitats by M-14 to the north, the Ann Arbor Railroad to the east, and Pontiac Trail and Dhu Varren roads to the west and south, but careful planning has led to the restoration of several important ecosystems within the park. The original park, named the Northeast Area Park, was formed in 1996 by joining city-owned and county-owned properties to provide regional park and stormwater management for the northeast area's growing population. In 2001, City Council passed a resolution for the Parks Department to move ahead with development of the park for the recreation amenties that exist today. The park was later renamed for Ron Olson, the former superintendent of Ann Arbor Parks and Recreation and current chief of Parks and Recreation for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
Like its namesake, Olson Park has been on an upward trajectory, with the name change just one among many transformations it has undergone. Today Olson is nearly unrecognizable from the land that was farmed and used as a gravel pit through the 1960s. With the help of water from Traver Creek that began being diverted to it in the late 1970s, the gravel pit pond supports frogs and turtles, and provides a spring rest stop for migrant waterfowl like Common and Hooded Mergansers, and Lesser Scaup. The surrounding fields support toads and snakes that also use the water resources on site. Groundwater emerges east of the pond, providing ideal conditions for fen and sedge meadow ecosystems that provide habitat for Common Yellowthroats and Yellow Warblers along with Willow Flycatchers and Baltimore Orioles. As the park was becoming established, volunteers helping with NAP’s butterfly survey in the early 2000s discovered that Olson had become home to the city’s largest population of wild indigo duskywings (Erynnis baptisiae). The butterfly is generally active from late May through the end of September, so be sure to check it out.
The transformations in Olson Park’s features over time are visible in aerial photographs, and closer observation reveals details about the changes in the composition of the plant and animal life within it. That natural habitats are thriving where gravel mining dominated for decades is a testament to nature’s ability to recover and to blossom despite disturbance in the past. Visit Natural Area Preservation for more infomation about protecting and restoring AnnArbor's natural areas. And read more from the article in which this content was originally published:
2011 Park Focus: Olson Park: from Eyesore to Refuge, by Erin Dreps &Lara Treemore Spears
Olson Park fun fact: the most famous rock to come out of the original gravel pit ended up as the well known painted boulder on Washtenaw (at Hill Street) known as "The Rock." Eli Gallup spotted the limestone in the gravel pit and wanted to use it memorialiaze George Washington's 200th birthday back in February of 1932. Read more here.
Updated July 2022. Email [email protected] for incorrect/outdated information.