The various retellings of the quaint origin story of the naming of the city revolve around how the 1824 founders John Allen and Elisha Rumsey built a beautiful arbor for John’s wife Ann and Elisha’s wife Mary Ann that became Ann’s Arbor and later simplified to Ann Arbor. Tree Town established its roots in the love and appreciation for its green canopy. Nearly two centuries later and true to its nickname, the urban forest gives Ann Arbor a fresh green welcome every spring, shade to enjoy by summer, bursts of color every autumn, and in winter the anticipation of next year’s cycle beginning again.
Outdoor Life in “Tree Town”
The canopy goal set by the University of Michigan for its campus and land holdings is 40%, and by the city, the urban forest planning recommendation is to increase the canopy from the city-wide average of just over 30% to an ambitious 60%. Studies show that an urban canopy reduces mental stress of city living, with additional health and environmental benefits of cleaner water and air, lower cooling costs in summer and lower heating costs in winter. Tree Town is a beautiful place to walk, run, play, and enjoy the outdoors in its numerous parks and outdoor spaces, and makes for ideal cycling as a mode of transportation. It’s no wonder that Ann Arbor ranked No. 1 for Top 5 Car-free Small Metros (City Lab 2019).
Some oak tree groves within Ann Arbor date back to pre-settlement days prior to the 1820s, and in honor of this the city incorporates the burr oak in its seal. In 2014 when the University of Michigan Ross School of Business underwent an expansion, they included the massive undertaking of relocating a 250-year old burr oak. The tree weighed 700,000 pounds, reached 65 feet in height, and cost $400,000 to move. Now happily transplanted to Tappan St. in front of Ross School of Business, the tree stands as a tribute to the community and university commitment to keep the urban canopy and protect these long-lived trees that are threatened nationwide by urban development.
Kicking the leaves, October, as we walk home together
from the game, in Ann Arbor,
on a day the color of soot, rain in the air;
I kick at the leaves of maples,
reds of seventy different shades, yellow
like old paper; and poplar leaves, fragile and pale;
and elm leaves, flags of a doomed race.
I kick at the leaves, making a sound I remember
as the leaves swirl upward from my boot,
and flutter; and I remember . . .