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Posted on Fri, Dec 14, 2012 : 5:58 a.m.

Ann Arbor school district tries to sell vacant land in Mid-Michigan

By Danielle Arndt

Ann Arbor Public Schools is trying to sell 165.33 acres of vacant property in Mid-Michigan that Tappan Middle School previously used for environmental field trips.


The Ann Arbor Public Schools owns the 165-acre piece of land in Mid-Michigan described as a duck hunter's paradise. The district has been trying to sell the land for the past few years.

Courtesy of Re/Max

AAPS owns the 165-acre parcel of Pure-Michigan wilderness in Missaukee County near Cadillac, a recent facilities report revealed.

Ann Arbor students have not visited the land in at least 30 years, said Randy Trent, director of physical properties for AAPS.

The land used to be used for field trips when Tappan had its environmental program, “but because of the distance, that sort of died over time. ... And now everybody has tighter budgets,” Trent said.

He said the district purchased the land in small pieces. The most recent purchase he could find was from 1940.

The total parcel was appraised and Re/Max currently has it listed at $165,000.


A path leading to Cranberry Lake off property that AAPS owns in Missaukee County.

Courtesy of Re/Max

The parcel is called a duck hunter’s paradise on The terrain is described as mixed, from level to rolling. There also are some low-lying swampy areas, so the property is listed for recreational use.

According to the website, the property adjoins a secluded 200-acre lake, called Cranberry Lake. The Lake is unaccessible from the property, but there is a two-track leading to some state-owned land with public access to the lake, the website says.

The 165-acre parcel is the last of three unused properties AAPS has attempted to get rid of. Trent said AAPS also previously owned property in Traverse City and Canada.

According to Trent’s recollection, the Canadian property was gifted to AAPS.

“I think it was a case where a family member passed away and left us the property. (They) thought it would be a nice place to take students,” Trent said. “I don’t know that anyone ever went there.”

The Traverse City parcel was very small, maybe about an acre, with a small building on it, he said. He thinks this property was at one point gifted to the district as well.

The properties in Traverse City and Canada were sold years ago, Trent said. The Missaukee County property is the last of the surplus land AAPS has. The school board authorized Trent to try to sell the land a few years ago, with the hopes it could help reduce the budget deficit.

Trent said the Missaukee County property is beautiful, but the economic situation of the past few years has made it a tough sell.

Danielle Arndt covers K-12 education for Follow her on Twitter @DanielleArndt or email her at


Danielle Arndt

Mon, Dec 17, 2012 : 5:12 a.m.

There were some questions from readers on this story about what other properties AAPS owns and about the Dixboro school in particular. This story from Saturday addresses some of those questions (for those who may not have seen it) and readers can also download a list of what properties AAPS owns with each building's replacement cost, square footage and acreage:


Sun, Dec 16, 2012 : 1:19 a.m.

gift it to another school district, closer to the location. Write it off on the taxes and call it a deal and a day! Don't sell it for marketing moguls to destroy!


Sat, Dec 15, 2012 : 2:59 a.m.

Cut the price of this "frogland" to $500 an acre and sell it to Ducks Unlimited, Inc, a non-profit corporation.


Fri, Dec 14, 2012 : 10:10 p.m.

It hasn't been used by students for 30 years and they are just now deciding to sell it?

Macabre Sunset

Fri, Dec 14, 2012 : 10:04 p.m.

Just send the superintendent up there to solve the problem. She can declare an end to the "swampland gap" and the land will be worth millions.


Sat, Dec 15, 2012 : 1:51 a.m.

And the BOE and the fat cats of Balas.


Fri, Dec 14, 2012 : 9:50 p.m.

The last parcel, was purchased in 1940? Huh. I guess Ann Arbor's extravagant spending on worthless projects, is generational!


Sat, Dec 15, 2012 : 1:50 a.m.

This might be where the fat cats of Balas go to on their day off?


Fri, Dec 14, 2012 : 8:26 p.m.

Wow, I went to Tappan for Junior High and never knew about this. Talk about keeping a secret. I'm sure some parents would have been willing to donate their time and perhaps some money for excursions up there.

Dog Guy

Fri, Dec 14, 2012 : 7:52 p.m.

Cranberry Lake is only 200 miles from Ann Arbor; the greenbelt slushfund could buy development rights for $165,000 from petty cash and AAPS could continue to not use it forever.


Fri, Dec 14, 2012 : 4:51 p.m.

What about that empty lot near Ellsworth and Stone School that backs up to the condo/townhouse developments? That seems like it would fetch more than $165k and the taxes are probably worse than up north, so good riddance. Also, how is it that this property has been available for the schools to use for all these years, and nobody knew about it? What else are they sitting on with our tax dollars?


Fri, Dec 14, 2012 : 8:33 p.m.

??? I am not talking about this property, I am asking what OTHER assets are owned by the school system that is claiming poverty year after year?


Fri, Dec 14, 2012 : 5:01 p.m.

Your tax dollars? Tell us what your tax bill in 1940 was. " The most recent purchase he could find was from 1940." I will also point out that if EVERY person in Ann Arbor were to get their cut of this money from the sale of the land it will amount to less than $1.50 each. This is typical of those who jump over dollars to pick up dimes.


Fri, Dec 14, 2012 : 4:16 p.m.

Selling off assets is a one time opportunity. It will not solve any long term problem. The school board needs to adjust ongoing spending to match its ongoing income and selling assets will never accomplish this.


Fri, Dec 14, 2012 : 6:02 p.m.

annarboral - In one way you are right, it is a one time income increase, but on another level it is reduced cost for maintenance (e.g. the Dixboro School has an AAPS van outside a couple of times a week) and it is potentially putting taxable property back on the tax rolls. Yes, structural change is required, and some people are going to be unhappy with how it has to be done. The district is top heavy, very top heavy. The district spends too much for many things. Fixing those things will make a number of people unhappy. But it is also a chance to put the best people in the best places, the current administrative structure is fossilized.


Fri, Dec 14, 2012 : 3:31 p.m.

$1000/acre for unfarm-able land? The price might explain why they are having trouble getting rid of it...

Ricardo Queso

Fri, Dec 14, 2012 : 3:30 p.m.

Great location for a new high school!


Fri, Dec 14, 2012 : 1:55 p.m.

According to the Lake City Area Chamber of Commerce "No record of permanent Indian habitation exists in the county other than several circle mounds in Aetna Township – the purpose of which is not known". Well that explains the totally alien character of the Ann Arbor Shool Board. Hey, DARPA might be interested in buying your "circle mounds" if you tell them where the mothership is hidden.


Sat, Dec 15, 2012 : 1:48 a.m.

Uh, might want to check Ann Arbors sister cities. I think the ship is hidden in one of those places. Good luck.


Fri, Dec 14, 2012 : 1:43 p.m.

good thought. instead of cutting selling will maybe stop some of the cuts. nice move.


Fri, Dec 14, 2012 : 1:24 p.m.

Psst! Hey Buddy, what to buy some swamp land, um wait I mean some beautiful recreational land. It's inaccessible, no I meant easy to get to. Oh, just give me the money and we're good.


Sat, Dec 15, 2012 : 1:47 a.m.

Maybe they will throw in a jeep? Heck those things go anywhere. I would love to own that piece of land. Sadly, didn't win the lottery this week. O well.


Fri, Dec 14, 2012 : 1:21 p.m.

The Last? I think not. There is the Dixboro School and other properties that have old school buildings on them that AAPS does not use. 40 acres in Dixboro platted and sold to a developer would probably be worth a couple of million dollars, maybe more. There is other land in the district that the school district should declare surplus and sell, but they will not, it is easier to plead poor than rationalize the land holdings.

Linda Peck

Fri, Dec 14, 2012 : 1:14 p.m.

What a beautiful place! The phrase "get rid of" just somehow does not fit with the gorgeousness of the land. If it were mine, I would have to force myself to part with it, rather than get rid of it. Different values, we have, me and the school district in Ann Arbor, Michigan!


Fri, Dec 14, 2012 : 12:30 p.m.

I hope nobody from the DDA sees this. They will try to sell it to some developer for a 14 story building.


Fri, Dec 14, 2012 : 12:52 p.m.

And raise the parking fees.