Before Doctor Leslie donated the land for Leslie Park Golf Course, he and his wife had been running the land as a farm. On this farm, he planted wheat, corn and other annual crops, but a large portion of the land was devoted to orchards. They had cherries, pears and apples, as well as blueberries and raspberries. The area where 5, 6, 7 and 8 are now located was predominately pears, apples and cherries. A small portion of this orchard was retained when the course was built. It was originally a 12 row by 12 row section, with a few trees outside of this square. That would have been 144 trees.
The Orchard looking toward #8 green from #6 fairway.
When I started with the City of Ann Arbor, there were less than 100 of these trees left. Through the previous 40 plus years, the trees naturally died out. Since the purpose of Leslie Park was to be a golf course and not an orchard, this was not a priority. The life expectancy of these trees is not overly long, and since they were planted around the time of World War II or before, it became clear to me that if nothing was done, we would lose the entire orchard. Since this was an integral part of the strategy for playing holes 6 and 8, as well as an homage to the former use of the land, we decided to start replanting the orchard.
Planting trees in 2012.
The first step was to decide what to plant. The "holes" in the orchard were filled in with a mixture of Bartlett pears, Comice pears, Honeycrisp apples and Red Delicious apples. The apples were added to bring about some of the historical feel to the orchard, even though this part did not have any apples. We started slowly on the 8 fairway side. This was to get a feel for how to proceed and give us some experience with the different trees. In 2010, we planted 16 apple and pear trees. We soon discovered that the deer love the apple trees but leave the pears pretty much alone. We started to experiment with deer deterrents and finally settled on cages. The following year, we planted another 18 pears and apples, along with 12 cherry trees.
The cherry trees are added to the northern section of the orchard, near #7 green. In 2009, there were 6 cherries here and stumps for 30 more. Over the past seven years, four of these old cherries have died. Unfortunately, the last two do not appear to have survived the harsh winter. Then, this spring, one of them fell over.
The two old cherry trees still do not have leaves.
Only one original cherry tree remains.
This pear has seen better days.
This is an apple tree we planted in 2014.
Since 2009, we have planted 48 apple and pear trees, as well as some cherry trees. Only 71 of the original pear trees are still alive. The gaps in the old orchard are now almost filled. When that happens, we will only be replacing the old trees when they die.
As a golf course manager, you have to stay one step ahead. As an ancient Chinese proverb says, "The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is right now."