Posts Tagged With: holliday Nature Preserve

Go Where There is no Path

Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Middle Branch of the Rouge River in early spring

I know the above is really a metaphor, but I took it literally the other day.  I now know WHY it works better as a metaphor.

On a cool, cloudy afternoon I headed off to walk in the Holliday Nature Preserve in Westland, Michigan. I’ve written of the Preserve before; it’s a 500+ acre wildlife and forest natural area that runs along the Middle Rouge and Tonquish Creek and is under the jurisdiction of  Wayne County Parks.

I took my dog Bella with me (I’ve written about her too in these pages). That was really a no-no for a couple of reasons. One, it’s against Preserve rules and two, the route I wanted to take was not made for man or beast–especially a beast on leash.  That’s because for this route was on a steep slope on the south side of the river between Farmington and Wayne roads.

I chose the more difficult route because an old-timer told me he had found arrowheads and pottery on the slopes of a sandy hill somewhere near here.  In addition, I’ve heard a story that tribes of the Three Fires Confederacy–the Ottawa, Ojibwa and Potawatomi–used to meet near here to trade and talk.   I have also heard talk that when the Holliday Park Townhouses were built near this site a generation ago, ruins of a village or encampment were found, but kept quiet so as not to slow construction.

So with winter gone and the ground still free of  spring vegetation I figured might find that hill and stumble across something of historical value there too.

One of the many trees that blocked our path during our walk

So Bella and I walked.  Or should I say we clambered over and under and around fallen trees on the side of a very steep incline with a fence at the top and the cold river below.  The trees that littered the ground were the remains of Ash trees that had been killed by the Emerald Ash Borer that has decimated this species in much of Michigan.  And of course, having a dog on a retractable leash was not pleasant as we were not of the same mind in which route to take and many times during the 90-minute walk I had to reverse course so that dog, leash and I were not separated by lumber.

At one point as we neared the end of our adventure, Bella tensed and stared ahead at full alert.  I figured she saw, smelled or heard something.  As we slowly moved forward,three white-tail deer scampered away, much to Bella’s delight.  Only the leash kept her from joining them.

We eventually made it back to the car.  No injuries but no Indian artifacts either.  Part of the problem is that dead leaves still cover the hillside.  They not only made walking difficult, but covered the ground so thoroughly, even  an axehead couldn’t have been seen, even if such an item had been there.

So I may do the walk again after a heavy spring rain washes the leaves away.  And  this time, I will do it the easy and the legal way: sans dog.

Categories: ecology, History | 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

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