As I stepped out the door, I did my best to channel Little Women author, Louisa May Alcott, who once declared: “I like adventures and I’m going to find some.”
I set out to tackle three Metroparks in one day. That may sound like a daunting task, but, as you can see by the map above, the parks are located fairly close together and I had already accomplished a similar Parksapalooza feat back in 2020 and survived. Besides, I would rest up a little while driving to each successive venue.
My first stop on Saturday, July 2, 2022, Willow Metropark, is the topic for today’s post.
It was forecast to be a hot-and-sticky holiday weekend, with potentially severe storms to cap off the 4th of July and kick the heat and humidity down a notch or two, (of course … when we all went back to work). Just moments after I parked the car, a bead of sweat rolled down my face simultaneously with seeing this sign about sledding – well no chance of sledding today!
This venue is not far from Detroit Metro Airport and a steady stream of airplanes interrupted the stillness of the morning. Here is one of many planes whisking passengers to their respective destinations for the three-day weekend.
I had two primary reasons for visiting Willow Metropark today – to visit the dilapidated Washago Pond and to see the Detroit Institute of Arts “Inside/Out” collection of reproductions that were on display at this venue. I had already visited the DIA collection of five reproductions in my City, earlier in the month.
What happened to Washago Pond?
The first and only time I had visited 1,531-acre Willow Metropark was after fellow walker Arnie urged me to visit. He enjoyed riding his bike on the 15-mile bike trail connecting this trio of Metroparks. Arnie, who was in his early 80s at the time, told me his favorite spot of the three venues was Willow Metropark’s Washago Pond. If you’re really adventurous and have a comfy bicycle seat, you can opt for the 49-mile round trip that includes Lake Erie Metropark, my favorite Metropark.
At Arnie’s insistence, I decided to visit.
These photos from my 2020 post show this Park’s jewel, a scenic 17-acre pond, an idyllic setting, just perfect for a lazy Sunday ride on a paddleboat …
… or a leisurely afternoon of fishing.
But, fast forward to May 2021 when a pipe beneath the water, part of the control structure of the pond, developed a leak, causing it to drain through the Regan Drain to the Huron River. The water level in Washago Pond had receded noticeably by the morning of May 19th. Imagine the stunned faces of Willow Park workers when they came into work that morning and instead of paddleboats bobbing gently in the water while moored in their wooden slips, they were resting on the Pond’s sandy bottom. Two days later, the pond was almost completely dry, having gone from a stellar view and fun way to while away a few hours to a vast wasteland.
This is how Washago Pond looked just one year later at this visit. A sign explained the misfortune.
Any water in the Pond was just from recent rains.
You know how your garden and yard weeds multiply if you don’t tend to them regularly?
I follow the Metroparks on Twitter, plus get an e-mail of news and events at the 13 Metropark venues, but had not read any updates on Washago Pond recently. Clearly, from the looks of things, they had not yet started any repairs. I saw a Metropark worker in a golf cart whizzing around and waited for him to near me, then waved him down to ask the status. (Yes, Your Roving Reporter, must stick her nose in the newsy updates of all her walking venues.) I was surprised to learn that Washago Pond’s underwater structure was beyond repair, so they were going to just let grass grow over it permanently. Wow – I decided to cross this venue off my list unless I ever use the bike trail, as there is really not much else to see here. But wait ….
Hmm – a sweet fawn and I walked right past it?!
I left the Pond and ambled along the bicycle path and then heard some noises so I turned around to investigate. Down the hill is where I met a nice family of five attempting to ascend the steep incline.
One of their sons was just learning to ride a two-wheeler without the training wheels and they were encouraging him to make that slow climb up the hill. Because he had a lot of trepidation, I walked down and encouraged him too. So, after he made it to the top we all applauded and Dad clapped him on the back, said “that’s my boy” and the youngster just beamed. Mom was towing another child and an older child was up ahead. This is the pathway looking down and a sign advising of the sharp incline.
I told the parents this was just my second time here, as it was better as a biking venue, than a walking venue. The Dad asked me what photos I’d taken with my camera at Willow Metropark so far that morning and I advised just photos of the pond and told them about the misfortune with it. They were surprised as they usually ride at other Metroparks and, like me, had only been here once before. Then the Dad said “you have your camera – shoot some video of the fawn that came right up to us just before we met you!” Excited, I said “where – you were right behind me?” He laughed and pointed and I said “I just came from there, so I’m going to double back and find that baby!”
I never saw that fawn, but next went in search of the art reproductions and to be honest, I wasn’t all that successful in that venture either, finding just two of four in the already searing-hot sun.
Art in Park.
After visiting the sad remains of Washago Pond, chattin’ it up with the bikers and hunting down a fawn, it was getting warmer by the moment and I had not located any artwork yet. I saw the same friendly worker, again on his golf cart. I asked about the DIA reproductions, only to discover one was nearly in front of my face – oops.
So these art reproductions were what I was looking for …
… but I only found two of them and the sun’s glare on a too-dark painting and a huge shadow did not make for great pics by me.
I was at Willow Metropark about 90 minutes, then went to Oakwoods Metropark followed by Lower Huron Metropark and those visits will be the next two posts. Thankfully both those were woodsy venues, so I knew it would be a tad cooler (and hopefully some critters as this trek was kind of boring).