Island Park

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Overview

Island Park​ is a 5.6-acre park located on Island Drive and encompasses a 1.8-acre island located in the middle of the Huron River and the northern riverside. View the Ann Arbor Parks and Nature Areas map for location context. The park consists mostly of open space with riverside trees and shrubs. The park contains two picnic shelters​ on the riverside, a Greek Revival shelter on the island, a play area, picnic tables and grills, benches, a restroom facility (open seasonally), and paths through the island and along the riverside providing connections to Cedar Bend Nature Area, Fuller Park​ and Riverside Park​. For paddlers coming down the river by boat or tube, Island Park is a must stop to picnic, play or wade in the river. There is a designated boat landing for paddlers who want to embark or disembark at Island Park. Please note that the public is asked to avoid landing on the island as it is both difficult and damaging to the river shoreline. ​

The Huron River flows through Island Park, connecting Ann Arbor to its origins in Big Lake (78 miles upstream in Springfield Township) and to Lake Erie, 52 river miles downstream. Mink and muskrat are often found along the banks of the river. A popular fly fishing location is where the river bends just downstream from the island. The Huron River basin has more than 1050 lakes and ponds, most of which were formed by glaciers. Traver Creek joins the river just upstream of Island Park. For more information about the Huron River watershed and the condition of the river and stream, visit the Huron River Watershed Council.

River Access

Island Park is a wonderful place to arrive by boat or tube.  Use the designated boat landing just past the island on the north side.  Boaters are asked to not land a boat on the island as it can erode the shoreline. For information on renting a tube, visit www.a2gov.org/tube. For tubers who started at Argo or parked at Wall Street, it is a short hike back​ to your starting point. ​​

 

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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.

PFAS "Do Not Eat Fish" Advisory

The MDHHS has issued a “Do Not Eat Fish” advisory for the Huron River and advises people and their pets to avoid foam on the Huron River. Learn more about PFAS information from the City of Ann Arbor here​.​


Park Hours

6 a.m. – Midnight

Amenities

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Picnic Shelters​

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Playground

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Restro​oms

 

Landing for kayaks, canoes & tubes

 

Grills

Picnic Tables​​​

 

Landfill, Compost​ &​​ Recycling Bins​


 
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Access and Parking

Island Park has two designated parking areas located along Island Drive, near each of the two shelters and respective bridges that lead to the island. These two bridges connect the island to the northern riverside, and an additional bridge connects it to Fuller Park on the southern side of the river. Island Park is bordered by the Cedar Bend Nature Area​ to the north. There is a river access point/boat landing on the northern riverside. There are 40 paved parking spots on Island Drive and an additional dirt lot by the Cedar Bend Nature area. Fuller Park has additional parking. Street parking on Island Drive is prohibited. 

Public Tran​​sportation

There are two bus stops within a 7 minute walk. One on Maiden Lane (Fuller & Maiden) and the other in front of the Fuller Park pool (Fuller & Fuller Park - walk through Fuller Park). ​​Visit TheRide for routes and schedule details and check out the parks ride guide. ​​


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History​​​

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.​​

In the late 1890s,  The City of Ann Arbor acquired the property now known as Island Park and Cedar Bend Nature Area (at that time known as Cedar Bend Park). The purchase was made in small parcels from several people. In May of 1905, this property was turned over to the newly formed Park Commission. Cedar Bend Park, by far the largest park in the city at that time, received the greatest amount of effort towards developments. A special sum of $500 was provided for making a drive and a general appropriation of $1,500 for the care, maintenance and improvement was made. In December of 1905, a landscape architect, O.C. Simonds, was hired to lay out the drive and its embellishments. At this time, this park was used extensively for pleasure riding, driving, picnics and swimming. O.C. Simonds noted that it was important to keep the native growth as "no landscape gardener can plant as well as nature has planted."  He was passionate about preserving the river banks and nature for future generations and did extensive design work for the Ann Arbor park system (read: Notes on O.C. Simonds and Ann Arbor's Parks). He advocated for the development of the drive for public access and viewing of the river bank. "What is more restful to the tired than a walk or drive along the beautiful river." ​​

In May of 1914, bids were taken for a park shelter and these ranged from $798-$1,700. After some review the contract was awarded to John Koch, the low bidder, for $780. Total cost of the new shelter was listed in the financial statement for 1914 as $859.64. As a result, an elegant shelter house was built by John Koch in 1914. Included in the structure were public restrooms for Island Park. The view from the Wall Street bridge appears as fanciful as any classical "folly" in an 18th Century landscape. This shelter remains today and is known as the Greek Revival shelter.​

The western concrete bridge was built in 1918. In 1998 the Island Park concrete footbridge was restored and a plaque on the bridge reads: "This bridge was originally build by the City of Ann Arbor using engineering and park employees for the design and construction. It has withstood floods and many footsteps over the years.

Flooding ​has occurred throughout the years. View 1937 flood photos here and here, high waters in 1942, 1943 and later flooding in 1969. ​

Over the years, Cedar Bend Park and 'the Island' as it was called, became separated into two properties giving Island Park distinction as its own park. Another shelter was built in the 1930s near the concrete bridge on the mainland and today remains known as the "old shelter". You can also view volunteers painting this shelter in 1968. Proof that volunteers have a long history in helping care for the parks!

In 1962, a new shelter had been constructed on the mainland to house larger restrooms accommodating the large crowds this park would draw on the weekends. View the dedication ceremony pamphlet here. A resident named Adolph Diehl had left the City of Ann Arbor five, $1000 New York, New Have and Hartford railroad bonds for the purpose of erecting a shelter house at Island Park. These bonds were held for some time and interest received was invested in U.S. Savings bonds. When a favorable market developed the council authorized their sale. The cost of the shelter was estimated at $30,000 with the Diehl Trust Fund contributing $7,377 toward the shelter. It still stands today and while built in 1962, remains known as the "new shelter."

In 1964 the Greek Revival shelter was repaired and painted and the wooden footbridge leading to Fuller Park was built. Also that summer twenty mallard ducks were obtained from the City of Three Rivers, Michigan and released at Island Park. These ducks were fed by the parks department personnel and the general public. Francis Baker was a dedicated parks employee who tended to the grounds and was known to be the guardian of the flock. The flock thrived and in 1966, the number of ducks had risen to about 150.


A warm spring arrives in 1969 and local residents are photographed visiting Island Park.

For additional history notes, you can review this history summary recorded by parks staff in 1973.

In 1984, the Greek Revival shelter on the island was repaired again, opening the shelter up for interpretive panels and capping the original roof. By this time, the shelter had become a photogenic landmark on the Huron River shoreline. It has appeared in various advertisements, commercials, articles, on the cover of the local phone book and in thousands of wedding and graduation photographs. In the mid-90s this Classic Revival pavilion was designated as a historic structure by the Historical District Commission and the Ann Arbor City Council. It remains today known as the Greek Revival shelter and is the oldest shelter within the Ann Arbor Park System. In 1995 the shelter was completely renovated to its original architecture by removing the capped roof, restoring the original parapet walls and hand tooled trim. This restoration project was funded by a grant from the Michigan Equity Fund.

Recent Developments

In 2011, the Greek Revival shelter received more renovations. Also, in 2011 the concrete bridge had significant repairs.

​In 2013, the Island Park boat landing was put in ​by the Huron River Watershed RiverUp!​ initiative.

In 2015, Canoe Imagine Art​ was a public art project that celebrates the history and attributes of the Huron River and the City of Ann Arbor Park system using canoes as inspiration. Four works of art were selected through a juried and public vote. Canoe-vue by Jeff Zischke is located at Island Park along the river, near the boat landing.​

 

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