Farmscape In The City
County Farm Park: A Perennial Favorite
While only a Washtenaw County Parks & Recreation park since 1979, the 127 acres comprising County Farm Park have been owned by Washtenaw County since 1836 when the land was purchased to construct a poor house and an insane asylum. Subsequently, the Washtenaw Infirmary stood on the site from 1917 until the late 1970s when it was demolished. In the 1970s the northwest wooded area was operated as Park Washtenaw by the City of Ann Arbor. WCPARC made basic improvements to convert the entire site into a park in the early 1980s and in 1991 the Recreation Center opened.
Today, County Farm Park is known for its rolling meadows, varied terrain, and upland woodland (Britton Woods), which preserve both the rural character of the 19th century as well as elements of presettlement vegetation and wildlife. Native hardwoods, trilliums and other wildflowers, numerous bird and small animal species all coexist here. WCPARC devotes considerable resources and staff time to maintain the variety and diversity of the park landscape. Park Horticulturist Kathy Squiers plants and maintains the gardens to provide a wonderful show of color most of the year. This past spring 23 trees were planted to compensate for the destruction of ash trees caused by the emerald ash borer. Periodically invasive species are removed and the welcome assistance of volunteers helps to control invaders like garlic mustard.
Something for Everyone
Undoubtedly, one of the most popular aspects of County Farm is its looped trail system, a major organizing element of the master plan developed by local landscape architects Ken Polakowski and Terry Brown. The trail system provides panoramic views of the parkscape without the intrusion of the busy city just outside the park. The main system consists of a 0.6-mile inner loop and a 1.1-mile outer loop. In addition, a 1.4-mile parcourse exercise trail features 18 stations to enhance your workout.
Two park pavilions are located in County Farm, one near each of the main entry points at Platt Road (east) and Medford Road (west). The Main Pavilion and surrounding area became much more interesting this summer with the installation of a new discovery playground and accessible community gardens in June. The playgrounds farm theme is evident with its bright red barn play structure, windmill, farm animals, water-play troughs and a safety surfacing pattern reminiscent of field crops. Raised beds, table planters, and trellis boxes provide opportunities for gardeners with physical limitations. Response to this project, which involved considerable community input, has been quite enthusiastic. Project Grow manages the accessible gardens as well as existing community garden plots just north of the Main Pavilion. On the other side of the park, the Medford Pavilion, erected last year to replace its well worn predecessor, is a great place to have a sandwich before a restorative amble through Britton Woods.
If you havent visited County Farm Park recently, come take a stroll through this special urban oasis.