SPRING 1999 - ISSUE NUMBER 47
Examples Of Positive Steps Toward
Becoming A Sustainable Community
Editor's Note: From Synapse #43, Community Sustainability In The Grand Traverse Bay Area: Part II -- "Based on our work to date here are the six action arenas which have become apparent to us: (1) Environment , Food and Agriculture; (2) Economy, Transportation, Housing/Buildings; (3) Health, Helping Families, Children & Seniors, Safety; (4) Education, Arts; (5) Citizen Participation in Planning and Governance and (6) Equity and Diversity." The following article follows this format and provides postive steps in the different elements of community sustainability.
Citizen Participation in Planning and Governance
Consensus Sought for Sewer Upgrade
The Water & Sewer Committee of the Board of Public Works agreed on a "citizen participation process" that will begin in March to highlight the capacity problems at the sewer and build a consensus in the community on the best way to deal with them. County officials say the regional sewer treatment plant on the Boardman Lake, which can handle amost 7 million gallons of sewage per day, will be at capacity within five years. Peninsula Township Supervisor Rob Manigold said, "Everybody, like it or not, is tied to this decision. Something's going to have to happen with the growth we're experiencing."
The committee voted unanimously to proceed with the public comment plan, which will include an informational video produced by local filmmaker Dave Murphy, public meetings around the county, newspaper inserts, and a Web page.
("Consensus sought for sewer upgrade," Bill O'Brien, The Record Eagle, January 16, 1999, p. 1B.)
Developing Building 50 Locally
At a community forum on the development of the Grand Traverse Commons (the former state hospital grounds), held on December 10, 1998, a local group of architects and engineers unveiled a plan that would preserve Building 50 while allowing for smaller scale development which would be within the reach of potential local developers. The local architects' plan visibly galvanized the one hundred-plus persons attending the forum, which was sponsored by the Committee to Preserve Building 50. After the presentation, one of the forum attendees stood and asked the community why in the world it would want to develop the Commons area by giving it to large down-state, or out-of-state developers. This person asked why we would want to send our dollars out of the area, when we have an alternative, the local architects' plan, which would allow for local entities to find uses for a renovated Building 50, thereby keeping the money in the area.
The Grand Traverse Commons is managed by a non-profit organization called the Grand Traverse Commons Redevelopment Corporation (GTRC). The GTRC was formed in 1992 by Garfield Township and the City of Traverse City under a special state law. There is no question that the GTRC was created to manage a vital community resource: collectively, Building 50, the surrounding historic cottages, and the Commons grounds. The Committee to Preserve Building 50, in presentations before the Traverse City Planning Commission, has requested that public hearings be held to determine what the community wants to see at the Grand Traverse Commons.
("Developing Building 50 Locally," Brian Upton, The Lake Country Gazette, Jan. 8 - Feb. 4, 1999, pp. 3-6.)
Health, Helping Families, Children & Seniors, Safety
Region's First 'Community of Promise' Brings Youngsters and Adults Together
Eighteen adults have made a promise to the children and teens of Kalkaska County to give them the attention and skills they need for life. But being a "Community of Promise" advocated by General Colin Powell doesn't necessarily translate into playgrounds, basketball leagues, or other concrete programs.
Mark Bonofiglio, one of two people who started the local effort, said those material things are possible. The main purpose of the group is to encourage members to become more involved in existing programs and in youngsters' lives outside of programs.
Mainly, it's a promise simply to take more of a role in the lives of young people in the county in five ways: mentoring, protecting, nurturing, preparing them for the future with marketable skills, and giving them the opportunity to serve their communities to let them know they're needed.
The group is affiliated with a national group called America's Promise, which was spearheaded by Powell. There are 17 other "Communities of Promise" in Michigan, but none in this region.
So far, only Stephanie Krause, 15, and her sister Samantha have attended meetings and signed promises along with the adults.
"I baby-sat a 102-year-old lady over the summer," Stephanie said. "It's great to hear how different, but how similar, their lives were as teenagers."
("A Promise To Children, A Promise To Keep," The Record Eagle, Tom Carr, January 18, 1999, p. 1B.)
The New Home Ec. -- Today's Classes Aim To Teach Skills For Life
Today's home economics programs are more apt to be named "Life Management" or "Life Skills" or "Skills for Living." And while most still offer components on cookinga nd sewing, there's a whole lot more, too.
"In Michigan, we felt it was a more accurate portrayal of what we actually teach these days," said Carole Gardner-Neurath, who teaches Life Management at Mesick Middle School. For example, in her school district, components of home economics cover everything from how to pick a mate to using medication to parenting.
To Marsha Gillespie, who teaches Life Management at Traverse City West Junior High School, it's about learning how to listen and get along with other people.
"I always say if you're going to cook with somebody, you have to know their name and be able to get along with people. And sit down and have fellowship of sharing food at the table. Some of those things are real important that kids just aren't getting."
Are home skills perhaps coming back into vogue? Gillespie thinks so.
"People are kind of coming back and nesting again," she said. "I think the glitz of fast food has really worn down."
("The New Home Economics," Jane Louise Boursaw, The Record Eagle, Jan. 11, 1999, p. 1D.)
"Thaw" Presents Art Collaboration
Thaw was the title of the sixth annual Art Below Zero, a benefit performance for the Traverse Area Art Council held at Dennos Museum's Milliken Auditorium. This gala benefit featured a collaboration of art exhibition, dance, music, prose and video photography. Bringing together this collaborate effort of arts and artist proved a challenge for first year producer, Bruce Petersen of Black Earth Collaborative Arts Company. "Producing a collaboration of artists is challenging itself. There is pushing and pulling and tempers flare but giving birth to the performance is a wonderful moment," said Petersen.
(" 'Thaw' Presents Art Collaboration," Garret Leiva, Grand Traverse Herald, Feb. 10, 1999, p. 1B.)
New Library Provides Showcase for Local Objets d'art
Visitors to the spanking-new Traverse Area District Library won't have to head for the Fine Arts Section to view paintings, photographs, wood sculpture and other works of art. They'll literally be surrounded by it.
Now that the library has moved into its spacious new home on Woodmere, it's opening its walls and display cases to the local art community as a venue for new works. The first official exhibit, by members of the Northwestern Michigan Artists & Craftsmen, will run until Feb. 15.
"It's a juried show with painting, fiber, ceramics, jewelry and sculpture, and the work is for sale," said assistant director Barb Nowinski.
Paintings and other two-dimensional art are being exhibited in the library's meeting room, while three-dimensional pieces are being shown in the display cases in the building's entry hall. Local illustrator Charles Murphy and a hastily organized exhibition committee spent weeks screening entries for the hanging before selecting several dozen.
"The library wanted to open itself up to more community participation and asked us if we were interested," said Faith Lemersal, office manager of NWMA&C's Elmwood Avenue gallery, the Art Center. "Needless to say, we jumped right at it."
Lemersal's organization is always looking for ways to showcase the accomplishments of local artists and wean collectors from their habit of traveling to Ann Arbor or Detroit to shop for objets d'art. However, quality exhibition space in the Traverse City area is at a premium these days. The Art Center, located in the former All Faiths Chapel building at the Grand Traverse Commons, is a little too far off the beaten path, and the group has had mixed results with its experiment of hanging works in the lobbies and halls of local motels.
"We've had good luck with the Park Place Hotel, which has been allowing us to use their space for several years," she said. "But being in the library is a real opportunity. We feel very honored to be invited there." ("New library provides showcase for local objets d'art," by Mike Norton, The Record Eagle, Jan. 16, 1999, p. 7B.)
Environment , Food and Agriculture
Movement Bucks Processed Ingredients, Hurried Meals
If you believe that ours is a society that mistakes frenzy for efficiency and you would like to buck the trend, "slow food" may be just the right thing for you.
Slow Food is an international movement that aims to promote local cooking styles, preservation of small-time food producers and restoration of unhurried social graces to the dinner table.
Even in our homes nowadays, it seems that fast food privails. We grab groceries on the way home from work; snack frantically while we open a can, thaw a package or throw deli food into the microwave; eat on the run without thinking; swallow food that we don't taste; consume calories we don't count; and brush off the indigestion or lump-in-the-stomach with a pill.
"I know this is 'preachy,' but don't we all need to priortize things like our long-term health, and need for people to communicate, at least over the dining table?" asks Pete Peterson, owner-chef at Tapawingo in Ellsworth.
Peterson believes northern Michigan is ready to embrace the common sense and uncommon good taste of the Slow Food movement. Peterson empathizes with the demands of today's work schedules, and said that you don't need to quit your day job to enjoy the benefits of cooking and eating mindfully. Preparation of "real," or "slow food," does not have to be an all-consuming event, and tasty, healthy food doesn't mean fussy, gourmet food.
In fact, dozens of cookbooks concentrate on quickly prepared foods that are satisfying and nutritious. During the past decade, the Slow Food movement has grown in Europe to the point that it claims 40,000 members in 35-plus countries. And it's spreading in the United States, too, with members holding tastings and regional meals designed "counter the industrial effects of food homogenization that standardizes tastes and extinguishes local variety," according to organization literature. Slow Food can be contacted via e-mail at: email@example.com, or visit the Web site, www.slowfood.com.
("Enjoy the Food - Slow Down," A.C. McMullen, The Record Eagle, Jan. 18, 1999, p. 1D.)
Task Force To Look At How To Preserve Farming
State Sen. George McManus will be named to lead a five-member Senate task force on agricultural preservation. "If Michigan wants to stay in agriculture, which today is the No. 2 industry, what are some of the things we've got to do market-wise to stay competetive?" McManus asked. To answer that question, the task force will hold four hearings around the state, including one locally. It is seeking input on everything from how to preserve farmland to its taxation to aging of farmers. Other issues could include how to regulate large livestock operations, zoning, the loss of ag processing operations in Michigan and technology.
Some of the issues affecting agriculture - namely trade and pesticide regulations - are federal, not state. But, McManus said the task force can at least pass on opinions to Michigan members of Congress.
The hearings will be held throughout the spring and summer. McManus hopes to have a summary report and recommendations, which could serve as the basis for legislation, by September.
"I hope to have a clearer picture of how we can keep farmland in Michigan, and give our young people hope for the future," he said.
McManus said this is the first agriculture task force the state has formed since he was elected in 1990. ("Task force to look at how to preserve farming," by Cari Noga, The Record Eagle, Feb. 10, 1999, p.1B.)
Second Michigan Windmill On the Horizon
Great Lakes Energy, formerly Top 'O Michigan Rural Electric Cooperative, is planning to build northern Michigan's second electricity-generating commercial windmill pending approval from customers. The estimated $650,000 wind turbine would likely be similar to the 160-foot windmill off of M-72, about two miles west of Traverse City. Energy experts speculate the Harbor Springs windmill could produce up to 701,800 kilowatt hours of power, enough for 87 households to run for a year. That's comparable to the average 750,000 kilowatt hours produced annually by the Traverse City Light & Power turbine.
Dan Nelson, vice president of planning and engineering for Great Lakes Energy, said at least 100 customers would have to volunteer to pay more to receive "green power" through the windmill, at the cost of $10 or more a month over and above their normal energy bills.
"We're at a very preliminary stage," he said. "The next step is whether our customers are interested in paying some kind of premium."
If completed, the Great Lakes Energy windmill would be only the second one in Michigan being used by a power company.
("Second Michigan Windmill On the Horizon," Scott Anderson, The Record Eagle, Jan. 26, 1999, pp. 1-2B.)
Formation of The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore ensures the park will be protected from the widespread development encroaching on northwest lower Michigan
The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (SBDNL) in Empire, was established by an Act of Congress on Oct. 21, 1970. The lakeshore, which stretches through Leelanau and Benzie counties, was formed from lands purchased from both private owners and those donated by the state. In its 72 million acres, the park contains a diverse mix of forests, meadows, wetlands, sand dunes and lakeshore.
The mission of SBDNL is to preserve the plethora of intensely beautiful natural features at the dunes &emdash; dense forests, open farmlands, beaches, dunes and ancient glacial phenomena. This, while preserving the area for recreational usage. Formation of the national lakeshore ensures the park will be protected from the widespread development encroaching upon northwest lower Michigan, which would have destroyed much of the scenic beauty, public recreational use and scientific and historic value.
The natural habitat of the park provides a safe haven for endangered species, such as Pitcher's Thistle and the piping plover. In fact, 50 percent of the park is designated as potential wilderness. The physical attraction of (the park's) geography and its knockout vistas are only a part of the story, though. The park contains something else of great value - what is termed "Cultural Landscape." Cultural landscape is an unfolding ribbon; a glimpse into the historic past of the nation's early Midwest. An air of desolation seems almost as if to haunt the forlorn but not forgotten buildings and surrounding acreage - the homes and livelihoods of the past, recalling an era long past. "Cultural landscapes reflect people's ideas; how they adapt to their environment," explained R. Mark Livengood, director of the Leelanau Historical Museum in Leland.
Livengood is part of the steering committee for Preserve the Historic Dunes, a growing group of concerned citizens fighting to find ways to preserve the wonderful history contained within the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore boundaries.
"Buildings and landscapes reflect the agricultural and maritime heritage," Livengood said. "The park provides unparalleled opportunity to make a preservation on a very large scale. Preserving allows us to study the past - actually, study human beings (how they thought, acted, worked and felt). This is reflected in the buildings and what they did to the land. Even how the buildings relate to each other on a particular plot of land gives us clues." ("Preserving the past," by Sandra Serra Bradshaw, The Bay Area Times Magazine, January 1999, pp. 9-10.)
Grand Traverse Bay Watershed Initiative
It's all around us and one of our state's most valuable assets. It's so abundant in Michigan that we sometimes take it for granted. But not all of us. The Grand Traverse Bay Watershed is something that needs to be protected. What exactly is a watershed? Simply put, it consists of all the land and waterways that interlink to the same bodies of water. Major watersheds are made up of many sub-watershed areas. Grand Traverse Bay is considered nearly pristine, surrounded by hills and valleys, seemingly endless lakes, rivers and ponds -- a huge, magnificent natural calling card inviting all to share in its sparkling hues of turquoise beauty. However, since the industrial age, the condition of watersheds, both locally and those found in the rest of our state, are in jeopardy. With the recent rapid building boom -- great for the local economy, but not so great for the environment -- has contributed to a regression. Pollution from such source points as roads, asphalt and cement parking lots and haphazard development harms water quality and affects watersheds adversely. The Grand Traverse Bay Watershed Initiative was founded in 1990 when about a dozen or so local agencies and organizations realized they could all pull together. It made sense for the community to band together to work collectively. The Initiative is a long-term project with many goals and a lot of hard work in reaching those goals. It is dedicated to managing lower northwest Michigan, comprised of Grand Traverse, Leelanau, Benzie, Antrim and parts of Kalkaska and Charlevoix counties. For more information on the many water quality programs and/or to join the Grand Traverse Bay Watershed Initiative, call (616) 935-1514. (Watchdog of the Waterways, by Sandra Serra Bradshaw, The Bay Area Times Magazine, March 1999, p. 11.)
Economy, Transportation, Housing/Buildings
Citizens Seek Alternatives to Tearing Down Historic Buildings
In the Grand Traverse region, examples of historic preservation have been around for years. The most obvious examples in Traverse City are the City Opera House and the Grand Traverse County Courthouse. Both of these beautiful turn-of-the-century buildings could have been torn down, but citizens stepped forward to say they needed to be saved because they represent the heritage of the community and are architectural gems. Once again, a beautiful building in Traverse City is threatened with demolition. This time it's Building 50 at the Grand Traverse Commons. For the second time in the past ten years, people have stepped forward to say it must not be torn down and that the community should look to alternatives. The whole idea of historic preservation is to save at least some of our beautiful old buildings because they are such an important part of the community fabric. All possible alternatives to save the building should be explored before any final decisions on Building 50's fate are decided.
("Seeking Alternatives," Greg Reisig, The Lake Country Gazette, Jan. 8 - Feb. 4, 1999, p. 1.)
Equity and Diversity
Women In Business
Jill Pollack, chair of the Small Business Assoc. of Michigan and vice president of public policy for the National Assoc. of Women Business Owners, believes that women "are a formidable force in the country, and we are now demanding our fair share of the economic pie." The evidence is overwhelming. In their Women In Business 1998 Report, the U.S. Small Business Administration's (SBA) Office of Advocacy estimated an 89 percent increase in the number of women-owned businesses between 1982 and 1997. Women account for 34 percent of the nation's businesses. At the same time, women-owned businesses are growing more quickly than all businesses and the economy as a whole. "When you look at the path that women have traveled since the Nineteenth Century, when women were subjugated by men, into the '70s when the equal rights amendment was actively discussed, (up to) today I definitely see us moving along a path toward societal wellness and wholeness," said M'Lynn Hartwell, president of Photo Communication Services, Inc. Hartwell encourages women to not back down in the face of adversity. "I think one of the most important comments I can make is that I hope women are teetering on the brink of pursuing a new career definitely take that leap," she said. "There are many resources in this community, such as the Women In Business directory that Jane Watts publishes and women business organizations where women entering the business world can find mentors and various forms of assistance. The Small Business Administration, for instance, has many programs that support women-owned businesses and start-up businesses. Don't ignore mentorships. Don't ignore the resources. Develop your business." There is no reason to believe that the success women have obtained thus far will not continue and progress as the centuries turn.
("Women in Business", by Gina DiPonio, The Bay Area Times Magazine, March 1999, p. 17.)
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