I believe in every interview I had while doing this project I was asked what was my most unusual or most unexpected find. Now that the project is complete I can actually put these lists together. This will be the first and I will have two other “top ten” later on. These are just randomly listed so there isn’t any meaning to the order.
1. Theo Fulton Park: I remember when I did this walk and was about to give up on this neighborhood having anything really interesting. Then I found this park. Recently, I was having a conversation with Kathie Dunbar and she talked about this park and asked if I knew about it. She led off with the thinking that I didn’t know about it. But as she described it I knew exactly what she meant and was able to even show photos of my experience there.
2. People living under overpasses or in the woods:In 1998 I worked for the Mid Michigan Red Cross as an after-hours worker. My duty was to place people who were homeless, just getting out of jail or visitors without an overnight stay in a shelter. If there wasn’t one available I was able to offer a hotel room. From what I remember there was a new law that made it illegal to sleep on the streets. I would have police officers drop homeless people off at the office because they wanted to offer these folks the chance to find a place to stay instead of jail. I have always known there were people who chose the streets over shelters. I had women with small children that refused to go to a shelter because of fear their child would be sexually assaulted, especially if that child was a boy. However, as I walked through the city it was still surprising to find mattresses, blankets and tents.
3. The plethora of Urban Gardens on the Eastside of Lansing:This was a pleasant surprise. I loved finding all the urban gardens throughout the city. Another area that really had some great gardens was Barnes St.
4. A military presence on Logan (MLK), Grand River, Filley and Sheridan Rd. area.:
I grew up in this area but I don’t ever recall so many military personnel in this location. It was a bit Close Encounters of the Third Kindish. I am also thinking it had something to do with Emergent being in this area. I could be wrong though. I didn’t ask a lot of questions.
5. How little access and usage there really is on the Grand & Red Cedar Rivers:
This isn’t a new idea to use our rivers as an attraction. I am still uncertain why so many buildings have their backside facing the rivers, why we don’t have easier access points or that we no longer offer any boat rentals in the area. I remember Potter Park renting canoes. I also remember a River Festival that had a boat parade down the Grand River in downtown Lansing.
6. How many “rural” areas there are within the city limits:
In every direction of the city there was some sort of rural area. From corn fields, to wooded plots, to unpaved roads to vast open fields, Lansing has some really non urban spots. The north side would have very small, bungalow type houses sitting on an acre of property. There’s a strip of houses on the west side that have sprawling, riverfront property. It was also surprising how many farm houses were still present.
7. The walkway from Judicial Building to the Capitol:
8. Scott Sunken Garden (and everything in this area)This hidden gem of an area still amazes me. If you figure out how to park at Cooley Garden you can check out the Sunken Garden, the Women’s Historical Society, and the R.E. Olds plaques. It’s worth the walk.
9. How really difficult some places were to walk:Aurelius Rd was one of the worse streets for walking. From the lack of sidewalks south of Mt. Hope to the I-96 over pass with knee-high ledges preventing a fall, I think this area truly needs some updating. I am so thankful that Mid-MEAC and AARP grouped up for the walkability audit. It’s really worth the effort with 17% of Lansing residents not owning a car.
10. Village Summit: The little micro community center set in the middle of a beleaguered neighborhood. I first found myself here with Lunch with a Purpose. We spent an hour cleaning and organizing games, toys, clothes and books; all donations to help those that needed them. This house, bought with retirement money from two local teachers who didn’t want to see the house fall into the wrong hands, became the epicenter of hope in this area off Washington and Barnes. They provide lunches for the kids during the summer. They offer computer access for parents searching for jobs. They built multiple urban gardens to help feed the neighbors. They built a community where there was truly a need for one.