Shortly after the establishment of the Forestry Department in 1903, Arthur Hill, of Saginaw, former lumberman and Regent of the University, presented a tract of eighty acres to the University for the use of the department. The area is about four miles from the campus on West Liberty Road, and under the terms of the deed was designated as the Saginaw Forestry Farm. At that time part of it had so deteriorated that cultivation had been abandoned, and the remainder was still under lease for crop production. In 1904 several coniferous plantations were established on the idle part of the tract. Additional planting was done each year until by 1915 the entire plantable area had been covered. By 1928 fifty-five acres were in forest plantations, consisting of nine coniferous species and twelve hardwoods. The balance of the area comprises a lake of eleven acres, swampy ground, an arboretum, natural second growth on slopes that were never cultivated, and roads. Thirteen additional species were planted in the Arboretum. A detailed history of the various plantations by Professor Leigh J. Young has been published in Volume IX of the Papers of the Michigan Academy of Science, Arts, and Letters under the title, "Growth and Cultural Experiments on the Saginaw Forest."The 1958 encyclopedic survey noted a few additional pieces of historical information (in addition to the information presented above:
The Saginaw Forest — When the Forestry Department was established, one of the immediate needs was for land on which instruction and research in forestry operations could be carried out. The need was met by Arthur Hill, of Saginaw, a lumberman and Regent, who purchased an eighty-acre tract, two miles west of Ann Arbor, in 1903 and deeded it to the University, with the stipulation that it be used as a forestry demonstration and experimental area. The deed also specified that the official name should be "The Saginaw Forestry Farm." By 1919 the development of the plantations had reached such a stage that the name "farm" seemed inappropriate, so it was changed by the Regents, at the request of the Department of Forestry faculty, to "The Saginaw Forest."
Planting of the cleared parts began in the spring of 1904 and was completed in 1915. Later, some of the species proved to be unsuited to the sites on which they had been planted. Other species suffered serious damage from insects and diseases. Most of these unsuccessful plantations have been clear cut, and the areas have been replanted with different species. A few have been kept because of their demonstration value.
The total area of experimental plantations is fifty-five acres, with the balance of the area occupied by the lake, swamp, natural second-growth, roads, buildings, and a small arboretum. Most of the plantings are now so far advanced that the history of their development furnishes much information that can serve as a guide for future operations in reforestation in southern Michigan. Even the failures have been valuable in this respect.
During the summer and fall of 1915, a stone cabin was built for tools and materials and as a shelter for classes and work-crews in inclement weather. It was unfortunate that the need for a caretaker's residence could not have been foreseen, so that a design better suited to the present use of the building could have been adopted. In 1947 the building east of the cabin was erected as a garage and to furnish supplementary living and storage space.
In the hearts of many of the older alumni there is much sentiment for the old "Forestry Farm." It was there that they struggled with grub hoes and spades to establish the first plantations, while arguing vigorously as to the feasibility of starting forests in such an artificial way. There they enjoyed the fellowship of the annual "Camp Fire" in the fall and of the weekend-long "Field Day" in the spring. On the hillside back of the present cabin, they sat and listened to the inspirational talks of "Daddy" Roth. A short distance from the cabin, a large stone with an appropriate bronze tablet was erected by the students in 1927 as a memorial to Professor Filibert Roth, the first head of the Department of Forestry.
Most of the tract of eighty acres consists of level to gentle slopes, with a few short, steep slopes. Toward the north end is Third Sister Lake, covering eleven acres, with about six acres of swamp around the west and south sides. A deep ravine runs southeasterly from the lake to the mid-point of the east boundary. The bulk of the soil is Miami loam.
Stanley G. FontannaTwenty years later, additional historic information about Saginaw forest was provided in the 1977 encyclopedic survey:
There has been some evolution in the outlying forest properties. Soon after World War II, as Ann Arbor grew around the Eberwhite Woods area on the west boundary of the city, negotiations were made in the hopes of trading the 43-acre property to the city in exchange for a tract of equal value further out in the country. In 1946, however, the Regents voted to give the land to the city with no replacement. While part of the tract has been used for a grammar school, 30 acres are still undeveloped and are still used for field classes. A similar fate probably faces the Saginaw Forest property further west on Liberty Road. This 80-acre tract, which was given to the School in 1903 by Arthur Hill of Saginaw, has some beautiful plantations, some nearly 70 years old, and small Third Sister Lake is nicely sited in the center of the tract. It has become a favorite hiking spot for Ann Arbor residents; and, although the School continues to manage it for class purposes, the decision has been made that its principal future assignment will be recreational research and use.