Posts Tagged With: HNPA

Bridges, Trails and Vandalism in the Holliday Nature Preserve

A couple of weeks ago a friend and I, both members of the Holliday Nature Preserve Association, took a walk into a section of the Holliday Nature Preserve off Newburgh Road north of Warren Road.  What we found shocked us beyond belief.  Some group had installed bridges and trails in the Preserve.  These were not simple bridges of fallen trees or made by dropping a couple of 2 x 4s between riverbanks by a couple of kids or narrow trails.  There were three very solid, bridges consisting of pressurized lumber and very competently installed.  The bridges measured 23×4 feet, 16 x 4 feet and 9×4 feet.  There was also a trail about four feet wide in spots and nearly a mile long that appeared to be created with an ATV and a riding mower.  The trail obliterated wildflower areas in spots and even crossed an EPA Supersite that lies in the Preserve.

In addition, the letters “MBT” (Mountain Bike Trail?) were stenciled in fluorescent green paint on what seemed every possible surface: board walks installed by volunteers during Rouge Rescue, onto trees, and the bridges.  And if that wasn’t enough, to ensure no one got lost, pieces of florescent tape were affixed to tree limbs up and down the trail.

No group has claimed responsibility and nothing has appeared on any mountain bike websites as of this point. A rogue group of mountain bikers seems to be the likely culprits since bike tracks were clearly visible and this group has been very vocal in its support of a mountain bike trail in Holliday, even though mountain bikes and motorized vehicles are strictly prohibited.

But why this unknown  group would go onto public property and build bridges and a trail system is beyond me.  The Preserve is not their property and they did not have permission to work in it.  As I mentioned in an article on the HNPA website, they wouldn’t dream of going into a Michigan State Park or a regional Metro Park or even a Westland city park without permission to work.  So whatever possessed them to think they could do this in a Wayne County Park?

The Holliday Nature Preserve runs along a tributary of the Rouge River in Westland.  It’s basically a ribbon park, only a couple of hundred yards wide in spots.  The Preserve was created in the 1960’s thanks to a gift from Arthur Richardson in the name of his uncle William P. Holliday. (See my blog on the Preserve’s history for more information.)

Houses, apartments and even businesses back up to the Preserve putting it under intense urban pressure from everything from kids building tree forts to homeowners treating it as their backyard (some have even installed playground equipment or tried to drain wetlands).  Mountain bikers are another threat as they enjoy riding up and down the walking trails and even have built small bridges.

However, never before has any group gone in and adversely impacted the Preserve in so short a period.

And, this time, they apparently went too far because when HNPA reported the work to Wayne County Parks, employees responded quickly, cutting up the bridges and posting signs from the sheriff’s department ordering that no more work take place in the Preserve.

HNPA is pleased by the fast response.

The question remains of why some group would go to the time and expense (this was a fairly expensive and time-intensive project).  Perhaps they felt they were doing EVERYONE a favor by extending the trail system and building bridge across streams to give the public better access to various sections of the Preserve. If they did, they were very wrong. In fact, they may have done all mountain bikers and even groups like the Michigan Mountain Bikers Association a disfavor by their arrogance.

And why aren’t mountain bikes allowed in the Holliday Nature Preserve? That’s a subject for another blog and for our next HNPA newsletter.

Categories: ecology, General, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

A bit of Holliday History. Part 1

aerial photo of Holliday PreserveThe William P. Holliday Forest & Wildlife Preserve is a 580-acre (give or take a few) passive recreation area in Westland, Michigan, a western suburb of Detroit.  The Preserve is a linear park that runs along Tonquish Creek (the green area at left).  It was established in 1964 by Arthur Richardson in honor of his uncle for whom the Preserve was named.

Now I have an interest in history and am a member of the Holliday Nature Preserve Association, a volunteer group that gives hikes, hosts clean-ups and works to improve the Preserve, so my interest is personal.  In addition, I edit our organization’s  newsletter and run its website.

The other day, I ran across several articles on the history of the Preserve.  Apparently Richardson, who was born in Michigan, but moved to New York where he died in 1938, established a trust that left much of his estate to Wayne County.  There was a catch however:  The county would need to establish a park in his Uncle William’s name and ensure it remained unspoiled so as to give people an idea of what Wayne County looked like in the mid-19th century.

The gift Richardson offered the county amounted to $1.445 million.  That was a lot of coin 50 years ago and county fathers took it, although they knew doing so would remove a large portion of Nankin Township (now the city of  Westland) from development.  Plus, although Westland is now one of the state’s largest cities, 50 years ago the area in question was heavily wooded and located in a township that had, at least then, a surplus of  undeveloped land.

It wasn’t until 1958 that the bequest became before the county’s Board of Supervisors, who approved it, and began to purchase land along the Tonquish Creek, a tributary of the Rouge River, for a Preserve.

Plans at the time called for six shelters, 70 camp stoves, nine council fires, 17 pedestrian bridges, six parking areas, 2.5 miles of service drives and 10 miles of nature trails.  It would take much of a decade for the land to be purchased or taken through the process of eminent domain, and the work completed, though plans were scaled back considerably by the time the Preserve was dedicated on July 2, 1964.

One interesting tidbit.  Apparently Richardson, who was born in the downriver city of Wyandotte, used to take hikes with his uncle in the woods and fields of Wayne County; however, it seems Richardson never visited Nankin Township and the area that would ultimately become the Preserve thanks to his generous donation.

Just as spending time enjoying nature with his uncle made a lasting on Richardson, the experiences visitors to the Preserve share with their children might do the same.   And we think Arthur Richardson would like that.

Categories: History | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Releasing a Press Release

Today I sent a press release to the Westland Observer.  It concerns a hike I am leading on Halloween morning in a nature preserve in Westland, Michigan.  It will be both a hike and a history lesson because I will also be talking about the death of Chief Tonquish, a local Indian shot dead 190 years ago because of a stolen loaf of bread.

I’m leading the hike on behalf of the Holliday Nature Preserve Association.  I’m their webmaster, newsletter editor and, since we have a page on Facebook and I write this blog, their social media semi-expert.

Now I will keep my fingers crossed that Sue Mason from the Observer likes it and uses it.  Then I will need to keep them crossed to hope the weather cooperates on the 31st so people come out and join me.  It’s no fun hiking alone or in the rain/snow.  By the way, here’s the press release:

It happened 190 years ago this month: A stolen loaf of freshly baked bread, an armed posse in pursuit, and the death of a great Potawatomi chief along a creek that now bears his name in a nature preserve that may hold his bones.

Join members of the Holliday Nature Preserve Association (HNPA) on Halloween, Oct. 31 at 10 a.m. for a leisurely hour-long hike along the Tonquish Creek in Westland to enjoy the fall colors and hear the story of the death of Chief Tonquish  and the mystery of his burial site.  The walk is free and everyone is welcome.  Light refreshments will be served afterwards

The event takes place at the Cowen entrance to the Preserve, which is located on Central City Parkway, west of Wayne Road.  There is a small parking lot at the entrance and a larger lot directly across the street.  The walk will be held rain or shine so participants are advised to dress accordingly.  Sturdy walking shoes are also suggested since trails in the Preserve can be slippery and uneven.

HNPA was organized in 1988 and consists of volunteers dedicated to the William P. Holliday Forest & Wildlife Preserve.  The group seeks to nurture a greater appreciation of this unique local natural resource by hosting walks and working to improve the experience of visitors through Preserve maintenance and improvements conducted in partnership with Wayne County Parks. This is one of three walks scheduled by the group through December.

More information about the walk and the HNPA can be found on the group’s website at or via email at

That’s it for now, folks.

Categories: General, History | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Blog at