Runners in the Ville and COVID news
Posted on 07/29/2021
Mayor Brian Turnbull Northvillians,
After talking about activities in our Northville Community, an NHS Athletic Hall of Fame Coach and friend, Ed Gabrys, reminded me of all the running activities that have taken place in the Bennett Arboretum on the parkway. This inspired me to share some of that information along with a few historical nuggets – Northville has been known for many things through the years, and it makes for an interesting list:

• For a number of years starting in the early 1900s, Northville was one of the top industrial areas in Michigan.

• Our city was the maker of planes, furniture, bells and vehicles. Plus, it was a stomping ground of Henry Ford.

• Visitors to Northville came via stagecoaches, trolleys, trains, and eventually automobiles to visit the Fish Hatchery, one of the first in the nation; and the dairies, which provided ingredients for our patented condensed milk facilities and ice cream spots.

•  The Ville had a 90-foot ski jump that attracted world record holders to compete here. 
• Notably, our beloved city hosted state meets for cross country back in the day, with its topography and green spaces running across the Bennett Arboretum on Hines Drive. More on this theme in a moment.

First, let’s look at the COVID updates:

• The Delta variant of the coronavirus is in Michigan but is not yet the dominant strain, according to MDHHS. The state is monitoring the variant. "The Delta variant currently makes up about 83% of the country’s new coronavirus infections, and it comes as states struggle to meet herd immunity goals.” (WXYZ Detroit)

• The number of COVID-19 cases across the country is rising, and three states have contributed to more than 40% of all recent positive cases: Florida, Texas and Missouri. Florida is accounting for 20% of positive cases for the second week in a row. Those states also have some of the lowest rates of vaccinations. (USA Today)

• All Michigan families who are eligible for food assistance benefits are receiving an additional monthly payment in July, MDHHS announced. More than 1.25 million people (close to 700,000 Michigan households) will benefit under approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Services. (

COVID-19 confirmed cases: Northville has had 261 cases/8 fatalities, Township: 2,235 cases /51 fatalities, Michigan: 1 million cases/21,000 fatalities, the nation: 35 million cases/616,000 fatalities, and global: 195 million cases /4.2 million fatalities. (

Now let’s look at why many consider Northville the running hot spot for the State, with its open green spaces…

• Cross Country Running has been part of the Northville DNA almost since our beginnings, with the distinction of being the highest point in Wayne County along with having the county’s only natural lake.

• Originally, most Cross Country State Meets (1922-1948) were held at EMU’s campus in Ypsilanti. The University was always known as a track and field and cross country powerhouse.

• From 1949 to 1971, Washtenaw Country Club (also in Ypsilanti), hosted the state competition.

• In 1972, Northville was selected as the third location in Michigan history to host the state meet in Cass Benton Park’s Bennett Arboretum. Still to this day, it’s an outstanding area for all Northvillians to recreate and enjoy the green spaces and views of the Rouge River. I strongly encourage you to walk through this unique collection of 100s of tree species (one of the oldest arboretums in Michigan) that have been there for one hundred years.

• Henry Ford was instrumental in constructing this parkway that hosted the state meet. He connected two of his much-loved cities (Dearborn and Northville) by constructing a parkway (Hines Drive), along which he built many of his hydro-electric powered Village factories and even his own residence. The Bennett Arboretum is on the Northville Township side of this parkway.

• From 1973-1995, various sites and courses were used for state meet competitions. Since 1996, the Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn hosts this competition.

• And, did you know…
o In 1923, the official distance for the cross-country race was 2 miles.
o In 1970, the distance was increased to 2.5 miles.
o In 1972, it was increased again to 3 miles – the distance for which I still hold the record, as Gabrys, my former coach, reminded me. I feel very honored and privileged to have done so.
o In 1980, the 3 mile race became a 5K (3.1 Miles) – the official standard.

• Over the years there have been plenty of local state champions that called the Bennett Arboretum course their home (for both girls and boys). This includes Northville, Stevenson and Churchill in Livonia; Catholic Central in Novi; and Plymouth/Canton high schools. Many other teams consider Northville their home course.

• Cass Benton Park has been a favorite spot since it opened close to 100 years ago. It has always been a favorite area for picnics, sports events, walking and recreation. By the 1950s, the tobogganing hill in Northville was a popular winter meeting place, while the frozen lakes along Hines Drive were used for ice skating. During the summer, sandlot baseball was a popular pastime with Cass Benton being one of the Detroit area’s favorite fields.

• By the 1960s, Cass Benton Park had become the prime venue for high school cross country teams willing to test themselves with its challenging hills. Well-attended invitational meets and regional competitions for both high school and collegiate runners were frequently run here and still are. Michigan high school cross country is now in its second century of competition, and Northville contributions are a big part of its history.

As you can see, running and our open green spaces have always been an attraction for those near our “Hamlet in the Hills.” I encourage you to get out and enjoy the open spaces and the Ville’s topography as well as relax in our unique Bennett Arboretum with its weeping willows.

Keep that Northville Running Faith!

Brian Turnbull
Mayor – Northville / 248.505.6849

Runner and NHS logo