Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

Time for Greenway Feedback

27. July 2006 • Dale Winling
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flickr photo by adaennIt’s that time again—time to rate the greenway taskforce and the work they have been doing on the concept of connecting parks in the Allen Creek floodplain.

August 2nd, 6:30pm, Courthouse Square Ballroom.

The Allen Greek Greenway Taskforce will hold a meeting to hear reactions from the public on the evolution of the Greenway to date. More specifically, to discuss preliminary proposals for the treatment of city-owned properties in the Allen Creek valley and the connections between them.

For more information, please visit or

Help shape the Allen Creek Greenway

Presentation and Public Comment

The Greenway to Date ~ City Sites and Connections

Wednesday, August 2nd at 6:30pm

2nd Floor Ballroom, Courthouse Square

100 S. 4th Ave. at E. Huron


6:30 pm Registration and information displays
6:45 pm Presentation
7:45 pm Q & A
8:00 pm Public comment
9:30 pm Adjournment

Flickr photo by adaenn

  1. It’ll be interesting and pleasant walking next to a busy commuter rail corridor.

       —Brandon    Jul. 27 '06 - 06:40PM    #
  2. In the spirit of conspiracy theory….

    I was recently forwarded a copy of a “secret” e-mail, sent out by the Old West Side Association to their cabal of wealthy and influential denizens. The e-mail, which urges attendance at the Greenway Task Force meeting, states in part:

    “CRITICAL ISSUES: As you consider the options shown by the Task Force, there are some important questions to keep in mind.

    • Should existing public land remain public in the form of Greenway parks, or should it be sold off to private developers?

    • Are these 3 floodplain sites the best places for substantial new private development? Or should they be dedicated to public open space and community uses?

    • Is the floodplain a good location for housing?

    • Does an Allen Creek Greenway have greater value as a green transition zone between close-in single family neighborhoods and other more dense areas of town, or as just more developable real estate?

    • How green should the Greenway be? For some, an asphalt path is good enough—what do you think?

    • How do we create a living legacy for Ann Arbor’s future generations? How do we create something that’s a unique and enduring expression of the best of Ann Arbor?”

    Now, I don’t have time at the moment to deconstruct every single Orwellian turn of phrase, but I’ll take a shot at “How green should the Greenway be? For some, an asphalt path is good enough—what do you think?”

    What do I think? Do you mean, do I DEMAND a “Full Scale” greenway? Golly gee willikers I do! And I want gondolas in the creek, and free massages at various resting places along the way. And I want a petting zoo, with llamas (but downwind and out of sight of my house). I want miles and miles of uninterrupted green space, where all you can hear is the tweeting of birds and the laughter of children. And I want the money for it to fall out of the sky. And I want it now! Now! Now! Now! Now! But I think the photo Dale chose to accompany this post pretty much answers the question. Along much of the “Greenway” there isn’t even room for an asphalt path.

    So what do I really want? Or what does this e-mail oh-so-coyly encourage me to want? I want three blighted pieces of city property (two of them within blocks of my home) cleaned up at city expense, with the city then obliged, one might say obligated, to plant and maintain these areas, in perpetuity, as parks for me and my neighbors. And we need these parks as a “transition zone” (buffer) between our very valuable homes and the dangers that lurk in the inner city.

    The “Full Scale” Greenway is not only a tragically bad idea for a hundred reasons, it’s also a fraud. Once the city commits to preserving those three areas (and I’ll bet the proponents would even “settle” for the two on the OWS), the greenway notion will vanish as an unworkable fantasy.

       —Parking Structure Dude!    Aug. 1 '06 - 07:35PM    #
  3. PSD—thanks for drawing our attention to the greenway conpiracy/fraud. Orwellian is the exact right word for those questions, which are not questions at all, but instructions to Old West Siders in how to argue for the greenway.

    And they are absolutely ridiculous. For example, they ask whether the Allen Creek should remain public or become developable real estate. This question was answered a long time ago, when Allen Creek WAS developed. It isn’t public land right now. My house sits on Allen Creek. Opening the creek and turning it into a greenway would mean tearing down existing development. Which gets to the question of “is the floodplain a good location for housing?” Maybe not, but there are already houses there. I live there, as do all of my neighbors. It sucks that we have to pay flood insurance, but it’s too late to change the fact that we are already living here.

    I totally agree with PSD’s assessment of the “full scale” greenway as a fraud. It is an unworkable fantasy because I, for one, am not going anywhere. And why hasn’t anyone noticed that the “friends” of the greenway all happen to live right across the street from one of the lots that they are trying to get the city to maintain as a park, rather than developing into something useful? This city has enough parks. Downtown is where development belongs and, last I checked, First and William was still considered downtown. If people don’t want to live near shops and high-density housing, they can move to Hell (Hell, MI, that is).

       —Emily    Aug. 2 '06 - 07:28PM    #
  4. Great blog Emily!

       —John Q.    Aug. 2 '06 - 08:35PM    #
  5. emily, last i checked, first and william was almost 100% in the floodway. that’s not acceptable for development either by FEMA standards or those of responsible waterway management.

    please read up on the greeneway ideas posited by various advocacy groups (sierra club, fotaag) before assuming the worst – none involve vast land grabs, destruction of homes, etc.

    the basis of all greenway advocacy is rooted in argument over which makes ann arbor a better place to live and work. basically, what drives quality-of-place: urban development first, or compelling places to live first?

    only by having this discussion openly and in public can we come to a decision as a community about the direction and manner by which we’d like to see our town grow.

       —bob kuehne    Aug. 3 '06 - 04:43PM    #
  6. I think the question is not urban development vs. compelling places to live. It’s clearly “the moral equivalent of kicking puppies” vs. “compelling places to live.” A comment against the greenway is just like kicking a puppy. Or a cat for Sonia.

    Please, someone think of the puppies.

       —Dale    Aug. 3 '06 - 05:27PM    #
  7. Bob,

    I would argue that urban development helps make Ann Arbor a compelling place to live. If it was just a matter of being a University town or having a lot of parks, you can get all of that in East Lansing. All of the good stuff that you get in Ann Arbor comes from the fact that is has a dense (for Michigan) urban core that supports a lot of stuff that otherwise wouldn’t be here. The university, the parks, the density, the culture all are interwoven and the idea that you can yank one piece of that out and not impact the rest isn’t realistic.

       —John Q.    Aug. 3 '06 - 06:02PM    #
  8. Thanks, John, for saying exactly what I was thinking! I chose to live downtown because I find development compelling. I enjoy being able to walk to the farmers’ market, and then pick up some fish at Monahan’s on my way home. Walking to school and work each day keeps my fiance and me feeling good and looking young. Last I checked, compelling means irresistably attractive, in the sense that a magnet compels metal shavings to move toward it. Development is compelling in the sense that centers of activity draw people in, forming strong communities.

    I understand that what one person might find compelling might be totally unattractive to someone else. If I had small children, or if I drove an SUV, I might be more compelled by a subdivision in Canton, where I could feel that my children would be in a safe environment and where I could get maximum use of my suburban utility vehicle. People who want to live this way shouldn’t move to downtown Ann Arbor. Downtown is where development belongs: the more we develop in town, the less we will have to develop out of town, which will reduce sprawl, reduce traffic, and preserve the countryside for people who don’t enjoy living in close proximity to others.

       —Emily    Aug. 3 '06 - 06:48PM    #
  9. I would also have a lot more respect if greenway proponents weren’t so transparently NIMBY. There is a place for greenways in urban communities. There are legimitate questions about building in floodplains. But most of that appears to be a smokescreen for some people who are manipulating those issues to mask their real viewpoints (Hmm…sounds like CARD!). That’s why I think Emily’s viewpoint, as one of the people from the neighborhood, is important to hear in this debate.

       —John Q.    Aug. 3 '06 - 07:01PM    #
  10. I couldn’t agree more, John. I’ve said this several times, but I row on Argo Pond and run on both sides of the river, and I think Ann Arbor has a terrific greenway already—“the real Ann Arbor greenway,” I call it.

    The best way to go about this, I think, would be to start from the river (where there is less development to contend with) and work towards downtown, building and extending trails incrementally as the city maintains and invests in its parks.

       —Dale    Aug. 3 '06 - 07:22PM    #
  11. “There are legimitate questions about building in floodplains. But most of that appears to be a smokescreen for some people who are manipulating those issues to mask their real viewpoints.”

    That comes close to summing up the public comments at the city’s greenway presentation last night. Greenway supporters generally appeared to take comfort over the reality of floodplain problems and a related concern over possible sewer drain issues. One committee scenario for 415 W. Washington included affordable housing built vertically above the floodplain (a la the new ‘Y,’ I guess) was attacked as being environmentally irresponsible to lower income people who might live there; no helpful suggestion was offered, however, as to where else new affordable housing might be developed near the central part of town. Also, the idea of using a portion of the N. Main property for a modest depot as part of a regional transit plan was talked about as a ‘scary’ amount of construction so near to the neighborhoods off Summit St. An expression of continued interest in the Washington St. property by Kiwanis, as well as a plea by a local artist for cheap rental space to replace the demolished tech center bldg. were met with silence. (Politically, it’s easier to gain support by opposing parking structures than it is to do so by publicly strong-arming non-profit charities and struggling artists.) As for me, this was a first-time encounter with the greenway committee’s scenarios and, on quick first impression, the partial greenway options seemed thoughtful.

    What stood out was the strikingly selfish tone in many comments favoring a “full” greenway – the presumption that their preferred land use as park not only trumps – but ‘naturally’ must exclude – any & ALL other possible uses. No construction, even for non-profit or community use, should corrupt these acres. Faced with the possibility that these parcels might also include cheaper housing or a new mass transit stop or an expanded Kiwanis, some proponents expressed a sense of siege, as if they were stuggling against a mighty current of greedhead development. There were a few moments that brought to mind a comparison with those activists of the resurgent religious right who claim to feel constantly marginalized & besieged because they live in a society where abortion still remains legal.

    This could all merely reflect an application of the demand-everything-for-ourselves strategy in hopes of gaining a fruitful compromise later. I nonetheless feel a bit sad, since I’ve met a few of these people in years past and know that they mean well. But it’s like finding out than an old acquaintance has begun to dabble in Scientology.

       —hale    Aug. 4 '06 - 01:34AM    #
  12. Well, here’s the easiest way to figure out if the Greenway or full-scale proponents are a bunch of selfish twits.

    Ask them one painfully simple question:

    Can we install this greenway on somewhere else in town that isn’t adjacent to your home?

    What about a connector north of town as Dale suggested? Or how about one that runs east-west? Have we even tried to find other places for this? Can we sell the three lots in question, and purchase land for an even larger park(s) or greenway in a more needy area of town?

    I’ll save you the trouble of asking any of these Greenway advocates these question: The answer to all of these above questions is a big fat no.

    That’s how you know that this is about selfish desires, rather than community needs.

    Now if these Greenway supporters start admitting that the Allen Creek area may not be the best place for this thing, and start looking for better sites, then I’ll start supporting their efforts.

       —todd    Aug. 4 '06 - 02:02AM    #
  13. Todd—although some of the “full-greenway” commenters from last night live a number of blocks away from any of the 3 sites, your point is well taken. Because, for the core few who have been the driving force behind all-greenway crowd, it does appear to be mainly a matter of location, location, location.

    Which for whatever reason reminds me…. since presenters acknowledged that an active railway makes for a lousy greenway path, there was mention – as I fuzzily recall – of using Ashley and First Streets as greenway “connectors” to help link the 3 properties. I recall even more fuzzily that this provoked a side comment about bicyclists in danger of being hit by delivery trucks while pedaling along the ‘greenway path.’

    A few parks-only proponents, in trying to come to grips with the lack of connection in their connected greenway, pushed what amounts to a contortion of Dale’s idea above. That is, these 3 sites are to form a major basis for a downtown greenway-in-progress which future OWS generations will eventually complete. Also, in regard to selling the 3 sites so as to buy bigger parcels elsewhere to form a more coherent, functional greenway, I believe they’d tell you firmly that, yes, the city must buy these bigger parcels while also KEEPING the 3 sites – it’s an obvious choice, as you should know, well worth any funds from the city budget. If in the end the various land pieces are safely connected only by lengthy skywalks, so be it.

    Lastly, consideration should be given for the likely need to place a series of cairns along Ashley and First, lest greenway foot hikers lose the path amid the concrete & brick scenery. It would be fun to have a psychedelic version near the Fleetwood’s outdoor seating area, and some goth-looking stones outside the Blind Pig. Further south on Ashley, the cairn could consist of a vertical stack of red shoes; elsewhere, we could just let neighborhood kids paint them. Alternately, struggling artists and lower-income renters who have nowhere to go can earn a few spare dollars as greenway guides for the tourists (- an idea which some other poster, on some other thread, has previously suggested).

       —hale    Aug. 4 '06 - 07:59AM    #