By Sofia Lynch
And Evans Koukios
As the weather warms, Washtenaw Community College students will begin to feel the itch – eyeing the sunlight outside as they are confined to their desks and fluorescent-lit classrooms. But have no fear, not far from WCC there are many parks for outdoor activities, or just relaxing in the sunshine – some so close one could even make a break for it between classes.
There are multiple parks surrounding the WCC area that offer an array of different outdoor options, like bird watching, photography, or even kayaking. And if leaving campus doesn’t appeal to you, biology instructor David Wooten reminds students that WCC has its own scenic trails to be explored.
Whether wildlife watching or just relaxing, Washtenaw County – and beyond – offer multiple options for stretching your legs and getting some sun in.
Matthaei Botanical Gardens and the Nichols Arboretum
These two U-M nature areas are very popular amongst Ann Arborites. The Matthaei Botanical Gardens is home to many different kinds of plants, all from different climates of the world in its conservatory, and also has nature trails available 7 days a week. The MBG is located conveniently close to WCC at only 2.5 miles away. The Nichols Arboretum is not quite as close, but is considered a hotspot of Ann Arbor. Located on the Huron River, many come to “the Arb” for the views and the relaxation.
County Farm Park at Washtenaw Ave. and Platt
Formerly home to an insane asylum in 1836, these 127-acres of meadows and woodland offer more than the average park. There are garden plots for rent, nature trails for biking and hiking and colorful play structures for children and adults. There are also pavilions, barbecues, and picnic tables available for summer picnicking, as well as, a perennial garden, which displays 50 flowers and grasses in a unique garden designed by a local artist. The Meri Lou Murray recreation center offers information about all the county facilities, and also has a pool, track, weight room, cardio room, and many other gym amenities. Outside the recreation center is a path that leads right to County Farm.
Frog Island and Riverside Parks
These parks offer scenic views of the Huron River on bridges overlooking the nature area. Wildlife in the rushing Huron waters is abundant. Frog Island contains an amphitheater, a running track, and a soccer field. Riverside Park, the location of the infamous Heritage Festival, is connected to Frog Island and depot town by a wooden bridge. Besides hosting events and providing a riverside relaxation area, it hosts activities such as bicycling, dog walking, picnicking, running, fishing and sunbathing.
Located just 30 miles north of WCC in Milford, MI, Kensington draws crowds of visitors because of its vast size, golf course and picnic areas, but also draws photographers in droves because of its wildlife. Ben Salvador is a car designer by day that lives in Bloomfield Hills and says: “The reason that I come to this park in particular is the odds of seeing a variety of wildlife. It is more than any other nearby park. I’m almost guaranteed to come home at the end of the day with a variety of images.” Kensington is also situated Kent Lake, and provides many outdoor water activities, like swan-shaped paddle boating, and a water park. The park also has camping opportunities, disc golfing, many paved trails for exercising and exploring, and much more.