Matthaei Botanical Garden trees

A Natural Connection

New trails connect green spaces in and around Ann Arbor

Trail marker
A trail marker at Matthaei Botanical Gardens

The Matthaei Botanical Gardens welcomed a new addition during the Victors for Michigan campaign: a paved, two-mile-long hiking and biking path. The new path connects the botanical gardens with a network of trail systems throughout Ann Arbor, providing a nonmotorized link to a long list of destinations that includes U-M’s Nichols Arboretum and Central Campus.

In 1957, the late Regent Frederick C. Matthaei, Sr. (AB ’14, HDBA ’53) and Mildred Hague Matthaei (Taubman College ’45) donated some 200 acres of land along Fleming Creek, along with funds for the purchase of the adjacent Matteson Farm on Dixboro Road. Over time, the land donated by the Matthaei family became Matthaei Botanical Gardens, Radrick Farms Golf Course, and the grounds of the U-M Adventure Leadership Program. The new path winds through each of these three properties.

In addition to grant support, more than 150 individuals and businesses made gifts to the trail, nearing $800,000 in private contributions. The diverse group of supporters includes the botanical gardens’ corporate neighbors Toyota and NSF International, as well as nearly 150 individual donors. The Matthaei family made lead gifts in honor of Regent Emeritus Fred C. Matthaei, Jr. (BSE Ind&ME ’47) and son Fred Matthaei III (BBA ’71). Washtenaw County Parks, the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, and Michigan Department of Transportation provided more than $2.5 million for the trail construction.

Trail and bench
A trail running through U-M’s Nichols Arboretum. The Matthaei Botanical Gardens Trail will connect the botanical gardens to the arboretum with a paved two-mile hiking and biking trail.

Nonmotorized transportation options throughout U-M properties are central to the botanical gardens and arboretum’s strategic goals, says Karen Sikkenga, associate director of Matthaei-Nichols. Primary concerns include the health and safety of visitors and, of course, a lighter carbon footprint. “We’re united with our neighbors in the leadership program and golf course in valuing the environmental and personal health benefits of being outdoors,” Sikkenga said.

More than 135,000 visitors arrive at Matthaei each year. As that number increases, the trail’s value will increase even more. “Currently, more than 135,000 visitors each year carpool, ride a bike, or drive a car to get to Matthaei,” she added. “The new trail will allow them to leave their cars safely behind.”

With no university or city bus options serving the gardens, the new trail will offer increased access for U-M students. “We’re looking forward to how the trail will connect people with Matthaei Botanical Gardens and with other trail systems throughout the area,” said Matthaei-Nichols Director Bob Grese.

“Just as important, we’re all about connecting people with nature, which is what this path will achieve for walkers and bikers as they make their way along the trail.” Grese said. “Any opportunity we have to get  outside and move is a chance to immerse ourselves in nature and experience its powerful benefits.”

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