‘The island has many stories to tell’

Feast on nature, history with Apple Island tours

By: Sherri Kolade | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published May 17, 2017


Gina Gregory, president of the Greater West Bloomfield Historical Society, wants you to stop and smell the flora and the fauna.

During the annual Apple Island Tours, set for 10 a.m.-3:30 p.m. May 20-21, attendees can do just that, and learn about the 35-acre island’s history.

People can take part in the annual island tradition more than three decades old, which Gregory said is an experience to enjoy.

“It’'s very pleasant, (with) over 400 varieties of flora and fauna that grow there,” Gregory said, adding that guests can learn about the history of the island and enjoy a spring walk in the woods, “which is always a pleasure.”

Tickets cost $15 for adults and $10 for children ages 5-12. Kids younger than 5 are not allowed, for safety reasons. The roughly three-hour round trip’s last departure will be at 3:30 p.m. Attendance is first come, first served.

Gregory, also the chair of the tour, said that new this year, the Michigan Society of Professional Surveyors Reenactment Group will present the story of the original survey of the land and a surveying camp from the 1820s. The presentation will include authentic instruments, equipment and stories at the Orchard Lake Museum that same day, 3951 Orchard Lake Road, throughout the day.

“These surveys were vital to the settling of Michigan, its entry into the Union, and are the surveys upon which all boundary surveys today are based,” Gregory said.

Gregory said that the re-enactment will be free for attendees.

On average, between 400 and 500 people attend the Apple Island Tours each year; last year just under 500 people toured. Attendance typically depends on weather, she said.

Apple Island became the West Bloomfield School District’s property in 1970. The island is home to animals, formerly inhabited homes and woodlands.

At the Orchard Lake Museum that same day, there will be hands-on activities, farm chores and outdoor games.

Attendees will take a pontoon boat ride across Orchard Lake to Apple Island. Guests tour the island at their own pace, with volunteer guides providing commentary at select locations.

Gregory, who has been to Apple Island about 20 times, said the experience of taking the boat ride over is her favorite aspect.

“Walking along the paths, imaging that Native Americans did the same thing long ago,” she said, adding that  islands were “very sacred spaces” to Native Americans.

“They were utilized in the summer months,” she said, adding that supporting the island is part of a bigger goal. “I hope that folks can support local history by becoming a member (of the GWBHS) and preserving and sharing and keeping alive interest in our past. Our past is part of our wealth, and we hope to embrace that.”

She added that even after the May 21, people interested in taking private tours are able to by contacting the GWBHS for a group program for GWBHS volunteers, school groups and other private groups in the spring through the fall.

Carol Fink, corresponding secretary for the GWBHS, said that the beautiful, unique, spiritual island is something people are lucky to have in the Orchard Lake community.

“We want people to know the importance of the island and how it played into our community,” she said, adding that its an “amazing place” with rich history and geography.

“The island has many stories to tell going back thousands of years.”

She added that the best story the island can tell is a story of gratitude for its beautiful, natural places.

“All of these gifts that Mother Nature gives us: water, substance of life, and wildlife and trees and flowers — those are free for us,” she said. “And to have gratitude for our own backyard … we love to share it with the community.”

It is not recommended to wear sandals to the island.

To learn more about the event and private tours, visit www.gwbhs.org/apple-island-tours or call (248) 757-2451.