JD Allinder

My Love/Hate Relationship with Lillie Park

In Posts on July 17, 2009 at 6:54 pm

Jane Pond Lillie ParkJane and I took our lunch break today at Lillie Park located at the southeast intersection of Platt and Ellsworth Roads in Ann Arbor. The little known park is 148 acres of woods, marshes, prairies, and three lakes: Haven Lake, Turtle Rock Pond, and Duck Potato Pond. Lillie Park is a model use of city property. A reclaimed gravel pit bordered by I-94 and US-23, the land could easily have been bulldozed and turned into a Wal-Mart. Instead, it’s been returned to its natural state and is lovingly managed by the Pittsfield Charter Township Department of Parks and Recreation. Lillie has playing fields, picnic areas, and several miles of manicured hiking trails. Best of all is the wildlife. Jane and I have observed beavers building their summer home, painted turtles sunning on logs, and (somewhat startlingly) a lone coyote hunting rodents. The park is also home to turkeys, deer, ducks, geese, muskrats, herons, snakes, mink, grouse, hawks, owls, squirrels, shrews, mice, chipmunks, osprey, opossums, raccoons, and a variety of songbirds and insects – all in the middle of the city! Every town should have a park like Lillie.

Jane and I used to visit Lillie Park frequently. There were some weeks during the winter that we stopped in for a couple of hours every day. Winter is the best, because the park is completely empty. There isn’t even any maintenance. It’s just Jane and me and the wild. The place really takes on a primal, every-man-for-himself feel, which I dig.

Jane wading at Lillie Park

The summer is a bit different. Though there still aren’t many people on the trails, I occasionally run into some, and many of them are not dog-friendly. I can never fully relax on the trails this time of year, because I don’t know who might be around the next corner. That said, I do play by the rules (mostly), but the park has so many of them: no swimming, no ice skating, no dog leashes longer than six feet, and this one, the most ridiculous.

No DogsI just think this is the most insane, micromanaging, dog-unfriendly rule I’ve ever seen in a park. Designated dog area? Huh? Canines are natural members of this ecosystem and were here long before people came in and carved out mulched paths for yuppie joggers with baby carriages.

So Jane and I don’t visit as much this time of year. As much as I love the park, I get bent out of shape over all of its rules. No one respects Mother Nature more than I do, but Lillie Park ultimately doesn’t want me interacting with her in a meaningful, authentic way. It’s a shame, because this is such a gorgeous plot of land.

Despite my mixed feelings, I hope you’ll visit the park. It’s especially bleak and unforgiving (in a good way) in fall and winter (and you’ll find me running through the woods with my off-leash dog). Also, if you’re a foodie, check out the Hyundai Asian Market in the strip mall across the street. It’s a great little Korean market with staples like various oils, rices, and tofus, but they also prepare foods on the premises like seaweed salad, black soybean salad, and the best kimchi I’ve ever had. Fresh seafood is delivered Fridays at noon, and the baked goods on the counter are amazing. The owner goes to Chicago each week and brings back these incredible breads from New York Bakery on Lawrence Avenue. The best is a simple white bun filled with lightly sweetened whipped cream. Jane and I split one after each visit to Lillie Park (and today was no exception).

  1. […] behaviorist – so Jane and I started dividing our two-hour visits into one-hour walks at Lillie Park followed by one-hour romps at the dog park. (The two parks are right across the street from each […]

  2. that sign is really a gross generalization. “dogs destroy ecosystems”? I think you should approach Pittsfield Twp and demand documentation!

  3. I love Lillie Park AND dogs, but domestic dogs were never part of the natural ecosystem. Today at Duck Potato Pond I saw a marten, a water mammal known to kill small animals. I would hate to hear that at dog was injured by a wild animal while being off-leash where he shouldn’t be.

    Here is the documentation about ecosystem destruction. Search for Duck Potato Pond.


  4. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment and link, D. Jane and I were at Duck Potato Pond today, too. It was a gorgeous day for Lillie Park.

    I guess our divergence of opinion is over what’s natural. I don’t think there’s any nature situation where a dog doesn’t belong. It’s our attempt to take the nature out of dogs that causes so many problems, and this is pretty much confined to the United States. We’re world leaders in screwing up our dogs. Providing Jane with as an authentic experience as possible is my goal, and that might mean allowing her and the marten to exchange words. You can provide boundaries for dogs, but micromanaging is wrong.

    Also, canines (coyote, fox) have been and still are members of Lillie’s ecosystems.

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