Category Archives: walking

The No Longer Secret Garden

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View on 496 overpass facing south.

Yesterday I drove into REO Town like I have thousands of times since becoming part of this bustling, edgy neighborhood and a new expanse met my eyes. For years I’ve exited the 496 highway onto the downtown exit and turned left onto Washington Ave. to find a view of aged pine trees lining the hilltop of a hidden garden area. Few knew about this treasure. In fact I accidentally found it and made it a point to explore it for a City Saunter Walk back in 2012. You can find that blog here. As I turned this day the sky glared brightly before me, no longer blocked by the shapely trees with all three towering coal stacks protruded rudely out of the barren hilltop. At this starkness I cried. I knew it was coming but had no idea the profound reaction I would have.

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View from bridge over the river on Washington Ave.

About a year ago I was told about the new BWL plans. I wasn’t happy to hear this news. As it turned out BWL, in the process of decommissioning the Eckert plant, would need to establish a new energy hub; a substation. There was a very specific need for this new substation. It would need to be along an existing power line and it had to be a certain distance away from the original source. There weren’t many properties that fit these requirements. Unfortunately the location they’d decided was the Scott Sunken Garden and adjoining house. For the next year the Lansing community would debate the need for such a move. As I’ve found out over and over in life, if an entity has more power, more authority and more money than any opposing entity, it will most likely get its way. Despite strong opposition from the community, BWL went ahead with their plans.

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View from bridge on Washington Ave facing west. 

The plans for this new construction hit me from two specific perspectives. As the City Saunterer I was greatly disappointed. This area had a unique beauty to it and a historic significance. However, I’ve been through the area multiple times and visually could see the neglect. I’ve seen tossed away clothing, food and trash scattered throughout the area. The brush has grown up around most of the outlying areas making it unwalkable. The garden itself was a beautiful gem, yet underutilized and underappreciated.

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The riverbank view with the trees down. The stone walkways are now visible. 

I also had the perspective of an active member in REO Town. As the Vice President of the REO Town Commercial Association I participated in multiple meetings where BWL presented their plan. They offered funds that were sorely needed. They offered art grants in excess of past offerings. They designed access where there was none. They promised to create a more friendly community garden area. They even offered to pay to have the historic house moved. For each loss they offered an olive branch. For almost a year I hoped something else would come along. I hoped a new decision would be made. I hoped a new plan would develop. Unfortunately nothing new emerged as an option. It had become apparent that this was going to happen and I was trying to find the silver lining in the situation.

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The entrance to Cooley Garden is currently blocked. The proposed plan will resurface the parking lot which was full of pot holes and relocate the Scott Sunken Gardens to the lower level of the lot, making it closer to the Cooley Garden area. These two gardens will be connected with a lit pathway. 

A couple months into the New Year signs that this was really happening started to appear: fencing around the property, traffic cones, and tree trimming. They quickly moved into demolishing the historic house that sat on the property. The offer to move it was turned down by multiple groups as the repairs to the house made it unaffordable. Then within this last week or so all the trees were cut down. I’m not sure why that was the part that brought me to tears, but it was. It changed the entire landscape. The hidden garden was no longer hidden. Trees that once protected this treasured grove now lay piled in a heap of shredded pulp. A secluded grassy knoll now lay barren and muddy with only the ancient limestone structure remaining, void of most its greenery.

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The limestone foundation of the Scott Sunken Garden. 

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A large pile of mulch. 

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The stumps from removed trees. 

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The loss of trees drastically changed the landscape. 

Soon the new construction will begin and it will become normal to see a stone wall facing north as I turn onto Washington Ave. off the 496 highway. At some point it will probably feel like it’s always been there. I’m curious to see what that will look like. I’ve seen the renderings and it will be impressive. I’m excited to see the art on display. I’m hopeful about the proposed amphitheater area. I really like the idea of river access off Washington Ave. and the lit pathway leading to the Cooley Garden area and the newly established Sunken Garden BWL has promised to recreate. I feel at some point this REO Town addition will feel normal. But for many there will always be hidden deep inside that stone structure and updated art, the specter of a lost treasure; a beautiful sunken garden surrounded by towering, protective pines.

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View through the fence on Washington Ave. 

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One of many stumps left by removing the trees. 

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Looking north from Washington Ave, shot over the fencing. 

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The east wall of the Scott Sunken Garden. These stones will be reused to replicate the garden in the new location. 

**This blog post is written as my personal perspective and in no way represents the opinions of the REO Town Commercial Association or its members.

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Aside

A few days ago I announced to the Facebook world that I had decided to begin my City Saunter book. I did that because I find when I tell people what I am going to do, it really holds me … Continue reading

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Peace Treats


A week and a half ago I hosted an event at the Lansing City Market. It was called Peace of Lansing and it coordinated with an international day of peace and ceasefire by Peace One Day’s creator Jeremy Gilley. When I first decided to put this day of celebration into motion I had created a list of objectives; garden surplus, mayor speaking, river boat rides, reading circles, teacher school supply donations, used book fair, police meet & greet, flash mobs and singing. Not all of these objectives were met. However, a couple went over quite well and I would surely consider them successful. One of these was our teacher school supply collection. Not only did we receive huge donations of pencils, pens, paper, glue, markers and hand sanitizer, we also received an amazing basket full of school supplies and goodies from the vendors at the Lansing City Market. Now my job, post peace event, was to figure out a good and fair way of distributing these treasures. I tried calling the Lansing School District to get an email sent out, but never got a call back. My next thought was to use my most fast and accessible means; Facebook. I posted the photo of the basket and asked my 619 friends to send me names of people who they thought would be interested in the basket and who worked at any of the Lansing Schools. I received 13 names. I hope that when we have our Peace of Lansing event in 2013 I will come up with a much better way of raffling off our donations, but for now this was the best I could do. At this point I had been able to combine all the donated school supplies into 6 additional boxes. I had seven boxes/baskets to give away. So I wrote all the names onto individual sheets of paper and put them into a bag. I didn’t want this to end up being me pulling names out of a hat, so I decided to bring in someone from the community; another #lovelansing person. I had a meeting planned in Old Town at 11:30 a.m. so I planned to bring the donations to Old Town and hunt down someone I know who would be willing to draw names out. After my meeting, I quickly scanned the streets for someone I knew; no one. Then I thought, I could walk to Artie’s Filling Station, someone perfect would be there. And I was right! Although there wasn’t anyone there enjoying a specialty coffee, the owner was there. John Miller saw me walking up and opened his window with a smile. Yes, the recently awarded 10 over the Next 10 recipient would be perfect for the job!
I immediately explained what I would need him to do and he was more than eager to assist. Within minutes he had pulled out 7 names, one at a time. I labeled each slip with its winning box number and gave John a small detail about each person. A couple were names I didn’t know; friends of a friend. One was a well deserving community member from Village Summit. Marcus Brown was also my son’s math teacher while he attended Riddle Middle Magnet a few years ago. A few were friends of mine from high school and I was really happy to see their names. Finally the large Lansing City Market basket went to a good friend of mine who recently experienced an emotionally draining death in the family. Despite some thinking the drawing was rigged (her words, not mine) I was entirely happy with the outcome.
I drove to a non-sauntered road and walked my way to Lansing STEM Academy on the south side. In the office I told the secretaries what I was doing and who I needed. The first one I didn’t know; Brett Stallworth, but I was happy to explain why he had won, how he had won and what he had won. He seemed a little confused but over all very appreciative of the gesture. Then it was time for my friend. “They’re still pasting” I was told. “She’ll be here in a minute”. Soon, I saw a single file row of children pass by the window. They silently stood shoulder to shoulder waiting for the next command. The door opened and in walked almost 20 little people. They eagerly listened as Jody explained that I was Miss Ariniko and that I had brought an award for her and all of them.
They ooed and awwwed over the flavored popcorn and pretzels, but even were more excited about the notebooks, cheering with fist pumps into the air. They thanked me and hugged me. They smiled and laughed. They were happy because their teacher was happy. I hugged Jody and was off to make this magic happen all over again at four more locations. What a great day!

*Thank you again to those that donated so that we can make these moments happen. It does make a difference.

From East to West


Yesterday for my First to 500 work out (yes, I’m still trying to earn points) I decided to bike the river trail. A couple of weeks ago I did the ride in from Haslett, through MSU campus onto the river trail in East Lansing and onto the River Trail in Lansing. That trip I took the north route and rode to the very end just west of Tuner Dodge. I didn’t do any walking so I wasn’t really “allowed” to make it a City Saunter post. This time, though, I walked a section from my map that I was missing so I can count it! Yesterday’s trip I again rode my bike in from Bath Township, through MSU campus and onto the river trail. This time I cut left soon after Potter Park. This route takes you to Moores Park. I rode it to the very end there and stopped for a few photos.
It’s funny how you can travel parts of Lansing over and over and still find an area you’ve never been to before.
My section of street I needed to walk was Mt. Hope from Moores River Drive east back to Pleasant Grove. It ended up being about .81 of a mile. I think that counts! As I walk more and more areas I will have more and more chunks that will need to get walked. Using my bike to travel from one to the next might be my best option. I just wish I didn’t have to travel the 12 miles to get into Lansing first. I’m sure I will figure something out though! Good Travels!

Friendly Photo Shoot Walk


Today I had the pleasure of walking some routes and taking some pictures with a friend. I am usually alone on my walks so it was a nice change. Since we are both photographers we decided to add a photo shoot in as well. We walked over to the old train station on Washington Ave. We were both surprised to see we had full accessibility to the grounds despite the many fences in place. If one of us wasn’t snuggling a 4 week old baby we probably would have crawled through the open window too. And we wouldn’t have been the only ones. It was evident that many had already explored and partied inside the dilapidated structure. Inside and out however represented an era of growth, vibrancy, architecture genius and wealth. Visions of white linen covered tables topped with candles and flowers danced in our heads. The cacophony of dance music and passing trains mingling into the night. Wait staff ushering food to the party goers. Outside strings of lights would envelope more tables, more guests, possibly a bride and groom catching a cool breath of fresh air in their urban surroundings. With ample room for parking, dancing and eating this glorious building easily would have been one of the most sought after reception halls.
Board of Water and Light has recently purchased this building with the promise of use. I’m shocked it has taken this long.

Here’s her blog about our saunter! Check it out!

Live and Let Die

This Beatles’ song came on the radio as I was driving home from this walk. It seemed completely appropriate as a title song for this day’s walk. Today would have been my brother’s 39th birthday. He died at the age of 17 in a car accident. I was 19 when this happened. On this day I decided to go back “home” and walk some of the streets surrounding the house I grew up on.
“Up the hill”, “Filley Park”, “The Bakery”,”The Woods”. All descriptive names that mean nothing to most. To me, my brother and our two friends it was our world. We all grew up on a quaint dead end road in north Lansing. My brother and I lived in the last house on the road. Our driveway was unpaved. There was a row of large rocks that crossed the most northern part of the driveway to keep drivers from cutting through to the road north of us. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. There was a walking path that many would use to walk through, including Betty, the elderly lady who would visit her friend on Howe Rd. Traveling up this path led you “Up the Hill”. Across our driveway opposite our house was a wooded area. This was the “woods”. It was our source of entertainment for most days. We made forts. We climbed trees. We played hide and go seek. We had a spring fed stream. My brother loved creating things for us to do in the woods. He made a “Tarzan Swing”, a Tepee, a “Demon Drop” ride using a dog cage and an old mattress. He created games where we searched for hidden treasures. Sometimes we just walked the paths or had picnics. It was a place of adventure. Now it is an over grown wooded lot at the end of a dead end road. Its magic seems to be missing. Maybe the source of joy was always just the spirited imagination of a young boy.