Posts Tagged ‘TART Trails’

Last week, I had an opportunity to attend the Mid America Trails and Greenways Conference in Kalamazoo, Michigan.


It was a wonderful and inspiring trail conference that offered an opportunity for area trail and bike/ped advocates to get together and network, commiserate and learn from each other. I heard two very moving key-note addresses from Peter Forbes of Center for Whole Communities and Tim Blumenthal of Bikes Belong. Both speakers reminded me that the work we are doing is critically important and it offers a real connection to land and offers a sense of place that is sometimes lost in our new fast-paced electronic world. The connection to the land on our trails- it’s that connection- that shapes us as human beings, it recharges our body and soul and unites us with nature.


I recently was elected to the Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance’s Board of Directors. I will start a 3-year term in January and hope to transfer some of the renewed inspiration and hope to make a difference on a state-level. While in Kalamazoo, I also attended a Kalamazoo History Walk that was led by a Michigan History professor from Western Michigan University. It was fascinating to learn about the rich history and former industries that framed Kalamazoo. Each historically significant downtown building was identified. Historical preservation efforts by the city should be applauded.

Kalamazoo mall

Above, the Kalamazoo Mall used to be closed to cars, but now it is open to one-lane of cars and 2 lanes of parking , but still retains the pedestrian-friendly elements that make it an attractive place to go for a window-shopping stroll.

Kalamazoo mural

Kalamazoo is rich in public art- in unexpected places and mediums. In the picture above a mural is painted on a condominium wall that is adjacent to the Kalamazoo mall.


The historian didn’t have too many nice things to say about the Kalamazoo Radisson where the conference was held. The hotel is quite fancy on the inside, but I’d have to agree that the building’s spires do kind of look like alien UFO spaceships.


Of course, what trip to Kalamazoo can be complete without a visit to Bells Brewery! (Unfortunately my camera was on stability mode and the pictures are fuzzy.)



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Most Traverse City people know John Robert Williams as one of the guys who founded the Traverse City Film Festival and as a local photographer who has operated his photo studio in town for 30 years. His studio also shares his moniker, John Robert Williams Commercial Photography. Some know of his 22 years of creating zany laugh-out-loud floats in the National Cherry Festival’s Cherry Royale Parade. JRW 2009  4x5 color

John is a community visionary and leader whose philosophy is to “pay rent to the community” through activism. John is also a bike nut. He has over 40 bikes in his garage, each has a name and most of them are one-speed fixed gears. Obviously with a love of bikes, it’s no surprise that John was a founder of what is now known as TART Trails. The trail group was formed when US31 was widened all the way out to the Grand Traverse Resort in 1986 in preparation for the Governor’s Conference; however, when the road was widened, it left no room for shoulders or sidewalks and there was no where for cyclists or pedestrians. Thus, a group called Citizens for Better Ways was formed and later became TART Trails. When the first phase of TART was paved in 1989 from Barlow to Three Mile, John worked with Rotary Charities and Homestretch to build affordable housing along the trail and rail corridor.

John has always found studios fascinating- whether it’s a studio for photo, film or radio. He sees them as “places to create.” With a philosophy like that, it’s also no surprise that John was one of the Traverse City Film Festival founders with Michael Moore and Doug Stanton. This summer, the festival celebrated it’s fifth year but John knew it would be a resounding success from the beginning. He just knew that Northern Michigan was ready for the culture and art that a movie festival would bring to the region. He thought that the festival would draw crowds of people who are interested in movies as well as the area’s burgeoning wine and craft brew industry, restaurants, fresh foods and unique shops. Also, John was a founding member and musical director at WNMC, Northwestern Michigan College’s radio station.

Of course, with all of this activity in the community, you’d bet he’d have a strong home base. He’s married to Terrie Taylor, who he’s had a crush on since the 8th grade. Terrie is also an amazingly generous person, spending six months a year in Malawi leading a research team to understand and end childhood malaria in Africa. 

John also has 2 sons, Evan and Colin, who are just now beginning to appreciate their dad’s sense of humor, love for community and zest for life. To view John’s work or to book an appointment for a family portrait, visit him at www.jrwpix.com

The photo was taken in John’s studio with his camera and equipment, but with my eyes on the viewfinder and finger snapping the pic. I’m no pro photog, but I think I did ok.

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The old caboose car on the Leelanau Trail is receiving a bit of TLC this summer. A dedicated volunteer crew leader has taken on the project as his own and has been scheduling painting bees throughout the spring/summer. An enormous amount of prep work was needed to blast off the rust and old paint. The primer coat was a dark maroon color.

Caboose (4)

The Leelanau Trail runs along a former rail bed, most recently used by the Leelanau Scenic Railroad. The railroad operated between Greilickville and Northport. Long ago, one of the most important uses of the railroad was providing transportation to and from Traverse City for people who lived in Leelanau County. Now the rails have been removed and it’s a multi-use trail used for biking, walking and skiing in the winter. The trail property- all 185 linear acres- is owned, operated and maintained by TART Trails, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

TART’s caboose identified as #2938 has a bed, a bathroom, table and
chairs, and a stove. Cabooses were used as a place for eating and sleeping, conductors would use the space to do paperwork and it’s where the train brakeman would “throw switches” to slow down or stop the train. They would also radio information about the train to the engineer up front. Cabooses were painted “boxcar red” for high visibility. After World War II, however, the “little red caboose” started showing up in many different colors. The caboose will go from red to yellow this year, with many helping hands and paint brushes to get it there. Go for a bike ride and check it out. The caboose is located on the Leelanau Trail at the Carter Road intersection, on the west side of Traverse City just outside the city limits.

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Leelanau TrailA recent 30-mile bike trip out to Suttons Bay and back on the Leelanau Trail was met with blue skies and scenic vistas. Roughly half the trail is paved, the other half is a hard-packed two-track. The unpaved section goes through beautiful agricultural fields planted in cherry orchards and grape vinyards. The Leelanau Trail is a rail to trail conversion and goes from Traverse City to Suttons Bay.

On the way back to Traverse City, we stopped at the water pump at the DeYoung Natural Area to refill our water bottles. The cold well water sure was a treat!

Overall, it was a wonderful excursion and it’s great to see many happy faces enjoying the beautiful weather. It was especially nice to see many elderly utilizing the trail near Orchard Creek Assisted Living. There were two trail users plodding along with walkers and a family taking a relative for a walk on the trail and pushing her in a wheelchair.

Isn’t life grand?

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Smart Commute WeekIt’s Smart Commute Week in Traverse City… that means that the car is at home all week. I’ve been biking to work all week despite some rain on Monday and 38 degrees yesterday morning. Brrrrrr.

There are great incentives to get people to consider alternative transportation… like free breakfast every day this week. If free food doesn’t get you motivated, there is free yoga, massages, even hula hoop lessons! The in-town BATA buses are free today for Try Transit Day, so people can try the bus for the first time! For all of the event info, visit smartcommutetc.org for the details!

Smart Commute WeekWow! Look at that spread! Many people need to be reminded to eat the most important meal of the day- breakfast. But all week, for smart commuters, breakfast is on the house…at multiple locations every day!

Smart Commute WeekSmart Commute Week is an event that showcases, promotes and encourages alternative transportation options in Traverse City. There are a few days left. Give it a try!

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Boardman Lake Trail Bridge Ribbon Cutting

Boardman Lake Trail Bridge Ribbon Cutting

A wonderful addition to Traverse City’s grid of trails and bikeways was ‘made official’ on Friday! The Boardman Lake Trail bridge and north link was celebrated with a ribbon cutting ceremony. Many local and state representatives were in attendance to celebrate this great new facility!

The new Boardman Lake Trail north link connects the west-side neighborhoods to the library, to the lakefront and to the existing TART Trail! Not only that, but the Olde Town neighborhood connection dumps trail users out directly at Oryana’sdoorstep (TC’s natural food store). So if you need a little pick-me-up after a trail run or evening stroll, then try some delectables from Oryana’s cafe, Lake Street Kitchen, or some trail mix from the bulk section.

Of course, for trail information and to download trail maps of the Boardman Lake Trail, visit TART Trails!

So… no excuses! Get out there and check it out! You’ll be glad you did.

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