Ann Arbor mayor to lead inaugural Tree Tour Bike Ride
Mayor John Hieftje says he doesn't have a fancy bicycle, but it gets the job done.
"I have a pretty boring bike actually," he said. "It's got fenders - it's a commuter bike - but it gets me around town very well and comfortably."
Michael Conlin of the Tree Conservancy said his group hopes to show the mayor people care about Ann Arbor's tree canopy as much as they do biking. The route for Saturday's ride is posted at www.AnnArborTreeConservancy.org.
"I'm a bike rider and also a tree lover, so I guess it fits in well with me," Hieftje said of the ride. "They asked me to lead this for them on Saturday and it'll be the first ever and something we hope to continue. We'll be highlighting some of the great trees in our city and doing it on our bikes."
Conlin says all are welcome for the leisurely ride to visit some of Ann Arbor's largest and most interesting landmark trees and to promote biking in Ann Arbor neighborhoods.
Cam Knight - a local tree care contractor, bicycle enthusiast and former city forestry staffer - has selected the trees and will talk at each site about the history and details of each one.Â
For instance, do you know where the Lady Bird Johnson tree is?
"I actually don't know myself," Conlin admitted. "But apparently Lady Bird Johnson came to town back in the '60s and dedicated some type of special tree and it's still up."
In a recent interview, Hieftje said his favorite Ann Arbor tree had been a huge elm at his childhood home, but it died several years ago. Picking up on that, the Tree Conservancy decided to organize the ride partly to help the mayor find a new favorite tree. The Ann Arbor Bicycle Touring Society gave input on the route.
Conlin said he's not sure how many people will come out for the ride - perhaps 15 to 20, he guessed - but he's hoping the good weather will entice a few more.
"It's a fun event, it's not a political thing," he said. "Ann Arbor is known as Tree Town, the city logo has a tree right in the center, and what we're trying to do is raise awareness of the great tree canopy we have here in Ann Arbor."
The Tree Conservancy was founded in June by a group of concerned citizens for the purpose of protecting Ann Arbor's urban forest. Conlin and other residents grew concerned after the city began cutting down trees in the Virginia Park neighborhood earlier this year.
"The city was going to do quite a bit of tree removal and several people got involved," Conlin said. "There ended up being a community meeting that approximately 75 homeowners attended and city representatives were there. And the Ann Arbor Tree Conservancy formed out of that meeting."
Partnering with the city, the Tree Conservancy recently started a tree planting program in the Virginia Park neighborhood that it hopes will branch out to other areas of the city.
"We're going out, contacting homeowners, finding out if they'd like a tree or two planted near their home, and then we're coordinating with the city," Conlin said. "And the city's going to actually come out and prepare the soil and then, of course, bring out the trees and plant them. We've been really quite surprised at the number of homeowners that want to have trees put in."
Saturday's riders will meet at 2 p.m. at Allmendinger Park at the parking circle off Pauline between Hutchins and Edgewood. The ride will end at Washtenaw Dairy on Ashley Street.
Conlin said riders of all skill levels will be able to keep pace with the group, but he encourages all to bring their water bottles. There is no cost.
A rain date is set for Oct. 11 at 2 p.m. For more information, call 734-761-8642.
Ryan J. Stanton covers government for AnnArbor.com. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 734-623-2529.