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 about the early history of the land
In early Ann Arbor, the land was used as a stockyard for the railroad and had open pastures. The Huron River eroded little bays along the shoreline, limiting access to the property and narrowing the land. The original Main Street bridge crossed the Huron River, where the pedestrian and vehicular bridge are currently located, spanning the full distance across the railroad tracks. This bridge was replaced with the current M-14 bridge in the 1950's. During this period the land had been used for construction and as staging grounds for M-14. Much of the interior of the park was used as a dumping ground. Evidence of construction debris and dumping is evident as small hills throughout the woods, in areas where nature has reclaimed the land. As a result of these disturbances, many of the plants are exotic invasives. Several areas of the river's edge were filled to provide a larger land surface sometime during the 1950's. A simple box concrete bridge crossed the river on the old bridge abutments, providing access for construction vehicles. Visit this link to view images of the land from before the park was developed.
Despite the harsh history of the land at Bandemer, several natural communities still exist, most likely due to the river frontage. Several areas have been tenderly restored and reclaimed, with a section of native prairie, restored prairie, wooded wetland, restored wetland, mesic forest, wetland detention, stream bed and open field. The 1994-1996 plant inventory indicated that 234 species of plants find home at Bandemer with 157 of them being native species. Another feature along the river is an artesian well located north of the rowing dock on South Bandemer, just west of the river's edge. The wooded wetland was established on piles of construction debris which created pockets of clay trapping standing water throughout the forest. In the center of the woods you will see a large American Elm indicating the open pasture that once existed here. Bandemer is home to a diverse wildlife common to this area, with red fox, deer, squirrel, chipmunk, water fowl, toads, frogs, snakes, and many varieties of birds. Unique to this area, you will also find the Harvester butterfly among the Alder trees and Cliff Swallows underneath the M-14 bridge.
In November 1974, The Lansky's Salvage Yard was purchased with 13.2 acres of land.
In 1982, The Washtenaw Land Conservancy (WLC) enabled the City of Ann Arbor to apply for grant funding from the State of Michigan. The WLC began its involvement by acquiring control of the frontage on the Huron River of the 25.5-acre Johnson-Greene property on North Main Street in Ann Arbor. This acquisition was made possible through a combination of WLC funds, City park bond funds and Michigan Land trust grants. The parcel was transferred to the City of Ann Arbor in 1984.
"Bandemer Trust Fund"
, set up from the estate of Mary Couper Bandemer, was used to purchase the Johnson-Greene parcel along the Huron River in 1985. The gift to the city specified that the bequest was to be used "for acquisition and development, but not maintenance, of open spaces and parks, with a preference towards Huron River property."
In the early 90's a land use consultant was used to study
Ann Arbor's North Main Street corridor main developments and develop three approaches to improve the area. Howard Deardorff, president of Deardorff Design Resources Inc., developed and presented his development alternatives to the North Main Task Force after a two-month information gathering process. The "consensus plan" selected reflected a blend of the most popular elements of the three alternatives.
As part of the consensus plan,
Mayor Jerry Jernigan cosponsored a resolution to approve the application for funds under the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund program to acquire the 8-acre riverfront parcel (Harry Hawkins parcel) directly south of Bandemer Park. The city's Parks, Recreation and Open Space Plan listed the property as a priority for public acquisition. Both the park plan and Deardorff proposals for North Main Street called for uninterrupted bike paths and walkways along the river. In May 1990, the land was purchased.