Olson Park


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Olson Park is a large 54-acre park that is jointly owned by the City of Ann Arbor and the Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner. The park is located on the corner of Dhu Varren Road and Pontiac Trail just 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. There is also a small rain garden by the pavilion. This park has preserved existing natural features, including the wetlands and woods, the creek and pond, while providing recreational facilities and athletic fields as well as the Olson Park Dog Park. A basketball court and a rock-climbing playground are located near the parking lot. There is a large picnic 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 bike 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 very wet conditions 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

​​This 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.

Park Notices

Unless otherwise posted per City Council resolution, when a park is closed, no person shall remain in or enter it other than to quietly sit or walk.​

Refer to Chapter 39 of the City of Ann Arbor Code of Ordinances for park regulations and rules.

Park Hours

6 a.m. – Midnight



Drinking Fountain






Basketball Court



Picnic Tables


Dog P​ark


Rain Garden


Landfill & Recycling Bins


Unpaved Trails


Paved Path


Soccer Fields


Little Free Library


Bike Racks


Picnic ​Shelte​r



Access and Parking

There are several parking lots in the park, all accessible from the park's main entrance on Dhu Varren Road​.

The park can be reached on bicycle and by walking using Dhu Varren Road and Pontiac Trail, as both roads have bike lanes and sidewalks.​ A small part of Dhu Varren just east of the park (where the road crosses the train tracks) has bike lanes but does not have sidewalks.

Public Transportation

​There is a bus stop at the park's main entrance. Visit TheRide for schedule and route details or check out the parks ride guide. ​​​​​​​



Ann Arbor's city parks sit on the ancestral and traditional homelands​ of several indigenous Native peoples. Read a land acknowledgement​​ from the city and learn more a​bout the early history of the land here.​​

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 ameni​​ties 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.

An aerial view of the land that became Olson Park in 1947

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 (NAP) for more information about protecting and restoring Ann ​Arbor's natural areas. Read more from the NAP Newsletter article in which some of this content was originally published:

2011 Park Focus: Olson Park: from Eyesore to Refuge​, by Erin Dreps and 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 memoriali​ze George Washington's 200th birthday back in February of 1932. Read more here


Volunteer in the parks

Looking to make an impact in a park or nature area? Ann Arbor Parks and Recreation provides volunteer opportunities for almost every interest, ability, and commitment level.

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A2 Fix It

A2Fix It - Service request tool

A2 Fix It is an online system you can use to report any maintenance issues or other problems during your park visit. When reporting an issue in a park please include detailed location information in the "details and description" section near the end of the request process. Pictures that provide location context are very helpful.

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