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Posted on Sat, Aug 6, 2011 : 5:59 a.m.

Allen Creek Greenway vision gets vote of confidence from Ann Arbor City Council

By Ryan J. Stanton


This graphic representation shows what a greenway anchor park could look like at 415 W. Washington St., one of three city-owned properties along the proposed Allen Creek Greenway.

After decades of talk about developing a greenway system with public parks along the historic alignment of the Allen Creek in Ann Arbor, it appears the city is getting serious.

The Ann Arbor City Council voted unanimously Thursday night to offer a firm endorsement of the creation of the Allen Creek Greenway.

The council's resolution directs city staff to assist the nonprofit Allen Creek Greenway Conservancy during the development and implementation phases.

Mayor John Hieftje said the city is gearing up to seek grant money from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund for a greenway anchor park at 415 W. Washington St. He noted the trust received a large influx of cash last year and is looking for projects to fund.

"It fits almost perfectly with the guidelines of what it is they're looking for," Hieftje said. "It's probably going to be easier to move the greenway portion of that new greenway and arts center development a little quicker, a little faster, than it's going to be to move the arts center."


John Hieftje

The city has been working with the Arts Alliance and Greenway Conservancy since last year to explore ways to transform the city-owned property at 415 W. Washington St. into an arts center and greenway park. In addition to state funding, Hieftje said the city expects private donations to come in from the community and from foundations for the greenway.

The Greenway Conservancy is one of three organizations — including the Allen's Creek Watershed Group and an informal group of citizens called the Friends of the Ann Arbor Greenway — that are working to turn the greenway concept into a reality.

Generally speaking, it would be a green walking and bicycle pathway located in the Ann Arbor Railroad right-of-way, running from the University of Michigan athletic complex to Argo Dam and the Huron River, according to a description on the conservancy's website.

The long-term vision includes "anchor parks" at three city-owned floodplain/floodway properties: the northeast corner of First and William streets, 415 W. Washington St., and 721 N. Main St. Other sites would be added later as they become available.

Greenway Conservancy board members Jonathan Bulkley and Ray Fullerton appeared before the City Council Thursday night to talk about their advocacy and fundraising efforts.

Bulkley said the University of Michigan made it clear last fall that it would meet with the conservancy once the city had demonstrated its full commitment to the greenway. An initial meeting with the Ann Arbor Railroad also indicated the railroad wanted a statement of support from the city before entering into serious discussions about the greenway.

Bulkley said the council's resolution helps in that regard and also helps provide assurances to potential donors that the city is committed to working with the conservancy on implementation of the greenway.

Council Member Carsten Hohnke, D-5th Ward, said the resolution approved Thursday night is consistent with actions the council has taken previously in support of the greenway.

"This is a long-term vision for the city along one of the most significant topographical landmarks that we have," Hohnke added.

The Allen Creek Greenway would extend from Stadium Boulevard, through downtown Ann Arbor to North Main Street and the Huron River and would connect to the already established and heavily utilized Huron River Greenway and Border-to-Border Trail.


A map showing three city-owned sites that could become greenway parks.

Courtesy of Friends of the Ann Arbor Greenway

The Greenway Conservancy is now consulting with landowners along the alignment of the greenway and submitting proposals for funding the construction of the first segment of the greenway.

The conservancy is collaborating with the developer of the Near North affordable housing project to establish a segment of the greenway at Summit and Main Street.

The city first recognized the idea for an Allen Creek Greenway in a July 1981 parks plan. The idea also was included in the May 2009 revision of the Downtown Plan, which states the following goal: "Foster the development of a system of linked open spaces on the floor of the Allen Creek valley to create an amenity which encourages residential investment and provides an improved transition between the downtown core and west side neighborhoods."

In 2001, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, the Washtenaw County Drain Office and the Huron River Watershed Council officially adopted the Allen's Creek Watershed Management Plan created by the Allen's Creek Watershed Group, which called for the creation of a greenway in the Allen Creek floodplain. Officials say a greenway could significantly reduce flood hazards for residents and businesses on the west side of Ann Arbor.

In August 2005, the City Council passed a resolution to create a task force to plan a new greenway. The council directed then City Administrator Roger Fraser to begin substantive discussions with the Ann Arbor Railroad to gain its cooperation in the creation of a greenway along the railroad right of way. The Greenway Task Force met for nearly two years and delivered its final report to the City Council in March 2007.

In July 2009, the City Council passed a resolution to preserve city-owned property at the northeast corner of First and William streets as open space, noting the importance of the site relative to the greenway. In February 2010, the council passed another resolution calling for an innovative process of community collaboration to explore a greenway park and arts center at 415 W. Washington, another city-owned property.

The city's Parks, Recreation and Open Space Plan and the Non-Motorized Transportation Plan now recognize the future creation of the Allen Creek Greenway.

Ann Arbor resident Matt Grocoff of GreenovationTV created the following video making a case for the Allen Creek Greenway:

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's e-mail newsletters.


Ming Bucibei

Sun, Aug 14, 2011 : 6:36 p.m.

Vote out all incumbents !!! The council and mayor are a pack of (to misquote lenin) useless idiots!! They just pour taxpayer dollars into a black hole!! Ming Bucibei


Sun, Aug 7, 2011 : 1:03 p.m.

It's actually a good time to buy up some of the blight houses while prices are down, like the boarded up one at end of W Kingsley.


Sun, Aug 7, 2011 : 2:40 p.m.

That one is actually forbidden to be renovated or remodeled due it its location in the actual flood plain (constant flooding issues in the basement, etc). The city already has a lock on that property and I *believe* plans to install a park/garden eventually.


Sun, Aug 7, 2011 : 4:43 a.m.

more pie in the sky stuff.Isnt it ironic to any one else that we cant afford police or fireman but we cant live without art or digging up an old creek


Sun, Aug 7, 2011 : 2:03 a.m.

Nice idea. I'm for it. However, maybe we should give pause to the gentlemen's comment that "our cities are no longer industrial". Hmmm. Yes, our jobs have all moved to China! We can beautify the city where industry once was, but let's not become a nation where we build nothing of our own and are dependent on other countries for basic things like steel.


Sat, Aug 6, 2011 : 8:43 p.m.

What graphic?


Sat, Aug 6, 2011 : 7:39 p.m.

Parks are nice and art is nice, but they come AFTER public safety. Police and firefighters and safe streets and bridges are essentials that should come BEFORE the "nice" but not necessary items in our city.


Sat, Aug 6, 2011 : 7:28 p.m.

What part of "we're broke" at the federal, state, and local level don't people seem to understand? The money being proposed for this, no matter where it comes from, could be spent on something more essential.....don't ya think?

Bob Heinold

Sat, Aug 6, 2011 : 6:56 p.m.

All very sweet, PC, and very smart on the surface about grants. BUT what about fixing the roads?! -Ward 5 taxpayer

Vince Caruso

Sat, Aug 6, 2011 : 6:44 p.m.

The Allen's Creek Watershed Group is glad to see this development in the recognition that the Allen's Creek can not be ignored but must be worked with to improve our west-side's environmental and economic future. It has long been recognized by urban planners that the floodplains are not appropriate for development and become blighted areas of a city not because what moves their but because it is unsafe and unnatural. If we would do a meaningful hydorlogic study of the watershed it would become obvious the flood hazard reduction benefit of a greenway not to mention the other beneficial effects. All the logical reasons for not doing a study have been addressed just the illogical reasons remain which may require a change of guard to have those removed as well.


Sat, Aug 6, 2011 : 11:10 p.m.

How bad was the water problem in this area when we got " of rain a couple weeks ago? Would the park have made it better? I doubt it!


Sat, Aug 6, 2011 : 7:29 p.m.

Some people see things the way they want them to be while others see things the way they really are.........


Sat, Aug 6, 2011 : 6:32 p.m.

Even if the construction is not paid by the taxpayers, I want to know if TAXPAYER DOLLARS will be used for the upkeep and maintenance of these greenways. We can't even really afford to maintain all the parks we have. If taxpayers will be the bread and butter for their upkeep, NIX these projects. Fix the bridge and the main city streets.


Sat, Aug 6, 2011 : 6:28 p.m.

Such a shame they couldn't get the carwash, too. Then we'd have a park worthy of the name. As it is, it seems probably too small to be attractive to many users.


Sat, Aug 6, 2011 : 4:50 p.m.

Just another in a long list of examples that the powers that be in this town are not in touch with reality! More parks and more art. But fewer and fewer city services! Heads in the sand public "servants".

Les Gov

Sat, Aug 6, 2011 : 4:27 p.m.

The actual Allen Creek is incased in concert and buried out of sight. Today the actual Allen Creek is nothing more than a drainage ditch that runs through downtown under the ground. I find it humorous that someone is attaching "Green" to the name Allen Creek, when the creek is treated as nothing more than a sewer. "Officials say a greenway could significantly reduce flood hazards for residents and businesses". If this is their true intentions then they should reopen and restore Allen Creek and not treat it like a sewer.


Sat, Aug 6, 2011 : 8:24 p.m.

The decision to put the creek underground was certainly very unfortunate. But surely you can imagine how difficult it would be to bring it back above ground now... with all the businesses, road crossings, and the train track, it would essentially be allowed to be nothing more than a concrete ditch anyway. I certainly agree how nice it would be to have a creek/park system running through town though.


Sat, Aug 6, 2011 : 2:38 p.m.

Question about this. AmTrak does not go thru this area. It goes north of this area. So, are we making this for the ones who drive the commercial trains? A nice stop for them? There may have been at one time a stop in this area via train, but nothing in the last 100 years or so. Plus, if the mayor is cutting services where is this money coming from? The state does not have it. The Parks dept are slashing to make ends meet. So, are going to be voting on another mileage? I really hope not. Good luck with this idea because with all the budget cutting I don't see where this money is coming from nor this idea getting off the ground.


Sat, Aug 6, 2011 : 8:21 p.m.

This has nothing to do with the train track. It simply unfortunately happens to also run right down the allen creek flood plain. So to construct a greenway means working with them to put some sections of path on their land.


Sat, Aug 6, 2011 : 1:55 p.m.

The projected park design , with it's path lined by dense trees, looks a lot like Bandemer and will likely be similarly appealing to flashers and other sexual predators (as well as dealers , users etc.). We can only hope that the city will use the 1% of eventual construction costs budgeted for public art to invest in some of the beat cop "performance art" suggested by the many commenters on the public art story .


Sat, Aug 6, 2011 : 1:17 p.m.

I love green ways - but could we get the bridge fixed (for crying out load!)


Sat, Aug 6, 2011 : 1:09 p.m.

I like the idea of a park system but with unemployment high, tax revenues decreasing and the financial health of the City, State and country in peril is this really a priority? Maybe the City, State and Federal Government will bring back the Civilian Conservation Corps from the Roosevelt Depression and update it for the Obama Depression!


Sat, Aug 6, 2011 : 2:43 p.m.

If this Civilian Conservation Corps pays for it out of their own pockets I am all for it. Otherwise we need to rethink and prioritize the funding for better uses. The park idea is great if it comes out the pockets of the ones who want to do it themselves. No more taxes.

Silly Sally

Sat, Aug 6, 2011 : 12:43 p.m.

A broke city that cuts vital services wants to turn a parking lot or field into a park, and spend millions to build an underground structure, the BIG DIG, to replace the lost spots.And have over taxed taxpayers fund it all.


Sat, Aug 6, 2011 : 11:21 a.m.

This is great news. I certainly hope that the southern end doesn't stop at Stadium, but continues at least a little farther to South State.