The Friends of Dicken Woods include over 258 neighbors and residents of the Dicken Elementary School neighborhood, in addition to other concerned citizens of Ann Arbor who appreciate the value of Dicken Woods as an ecological, educational and recreational community asset.
The Friends of Dicken Woods formed in 2002 to protect one of the few undeveloped, privately owned, multi-acrea parcels of property on the southwest side of town. That property is described in the article Dicken Woods. The property was purchased by the City in 2003 and was designated a nature area in February 2004. In 2009, the City began the process necessary to annex the property into the City and rezone it as park land.
In 2003, the Friends of Dicken Woods incorporated. The purpose of the organization is to protect and improve the Dicken Woods Nature Area. The Friends do not collect membership dues. Members have generously provided financial support that allows the Friends to purchase trees, shrubs and wild flower seeds, as well as fund programs in the neighboring elementary school.
In February 2009, The Friends of Dicken Woods marked its fifth anniversary of caring for Dicken Woods Nature Area. During that five years the Friends have maintained a high level of activity in the Dicken Woods, working to protect and improve the Woods.
Each year, the Friends have two major work days, one in the spring and one in the fall. The spring work day is dedicated to planting trees and bushes the Natural Area Preservation staff has identified as native and desirable. Annually, the Friends plant 150 to 200 seedling trees purchased by the Friends. The fall work day is dedicated to removal of invasive species, such as buckthorn, honeysuckle, oriental bittersweet, and autumn olive. Additionally, the Friends have virtually eradicated dames rocket and garlic mustard.
The Friends of Dicken Woods have developed a close relationship with the Dicken Elementary School. Each year, the Friends provide grants to fund science programs which relate to the Woods. The programs are selected to be age appropriate and relevant to each grade’s curriculum. Additionally, the Friends work with the Elementary School in holding its tremendously popular Midwinter Candlelight Walk. Students create luminaries in their art classes and the Friends line the paths into and through the Woods with these candle lit luminaries. Students, parents, neighbors, friends and even an occasional Council Member walk the beautifully lit, snowy paths on a cold winter night. After the walk, all join together in the school’s all-purpose room for hot chocolate, cookies and neighborly conversation.