On a recent run, I found myself at the Island Park trail head to the Cedar Bend Nature Area, across the river from Fuller Park. The parking lot was empty, as were the woods. This was quite the opposite of Nichols Arboretum, where I'd just been. As I explored the roughly ten-foot-wide main trail, along with the steep dirt footpaths cut right into the bluffs, I got the sense that this place was once something quite different. Indeed, that there was a deep history among these old oaks and hairpin turns.
With the guide of two books in the AADL collection -- Pleasant Walks and Drives About Ann Arbor by Judge Noah Cheever, and Riverwalks Ann Arbor by Brenda E. Bentley -- along with the City's parks website, I discovered that my hunch was true.
Cedar Bend is Ann Arbor's oldest park, bought by the (then recently established) Parks Commission in 1905. Cheever describes a grand Boulevard like a "mountain road" that went from (now) Fuller Road to Broadway, which was "a favorite...for students and young people." This Boulevard is now a rutty, densely lined trail, closed to vehicles, that is still quite fun for running and hiking.
Riverwalks and Pleasant Walks describe the then-and-now history of these natural resource gems throughout Ann Arbor, including historic and current maps and photographs. The text from Pleasant Walks is also available to read at the Bentley Historical Library website.