For years, people who pass by the former Washtenaw County Road Commission site across from the Ann Arbor Y have wondered why something hasn't been done to what is universally agreed is an eyesore. The buildings haven't been touched since 2007, when the city departments located there moved out. The grounds are a mix of broken cement and dirt.
The city would like to see something built there, but there are a number of obstacles. For starters, after more than eighty years of housing trucks and fuel, the soil and water table are contaminated.
When my husband and I were first married in the mid-1960s, we often wandered down to Argo Park, which was only two blocks away from our home on Pontiac Tr. We'd go into what was then Wirth's Canoe Livery, in a building which the family also lived in, and put a dime in one of their nickelodeons or sit on the screen porch and enjoy the view of the Huron River.
We were always the only ones there. After we had our first child, we would take him down to the playground at Longshore Park across from Argo, and again we were always the only ones there.
During the warm months of the pandemic, my husband and I took walks in different neighborhoods, often parking in the empty lots next to schools. We noticed that many had nature areas at the edge of their grounds. My interest piqued, I began looking into it and discovered that the Ann Arbor Public Schools were pathfinders in outdoor education--and that much of their success depended on citizen activists who saved and maintained these areas.
One of the things that makes Ann Arbor the city it is are the numerous and diverse parks within its boundaries. West Park is a crown jewel of that parks system, having been for decades a home to recreation of all kinds for the citizens of Ann Arbor. West Park's popularity with people of all types has also brought clashes and the park's history is not without it's dark stories.