Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Petoskey Now A Trail Town -- It's A Big Deal

Perhaps you don't know anything about the North Country Scenic Trail. Perhaps you are not even aware that it passes right through the middle of our town. Now is a great time for that to change because our favorite Northern Michigan burg just became a Trail Town in December and there is a party to celebrate on June 1.

First things first. For those who don't know, the North Country National Scenic Trail is a B I G trail 4,600 miles big, er, long. It runs through the northern tier of states, Michigan, Minnesota,North Dakota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. (I picked alphabetical order rather than geographical because it puts us first!)

When completed the trail will be the longest continuous hiking trail in the United States.

Building and maintaining a trail that big is a B I G project. While the North Country Trail is a part of the National Park Service, most of the work and funding comes from private sources. Much of the coordination of these efforts is provided by the North Country Trail Association.

And that brings us to Petoskey's brand new designation as a North Country Trail Trail Town, and that is a really B I G deal. What is a Trail Town? The Trail association says:

A Trail Town is a community through which the North Country Trail passes that supports hikers with services, promotes the Trail to its citizens and embraces the Trail as a resource to be protected and celebrated. Trail Towns are built on a relationship between a town, the Trail and its volunteers.

Petoskey is an ideal selection for a Trail Town. We have many active volunteers to take care of and promote the trail. We have beautiful woods, rivers and Little Traverse Bay to see and enjoy. Plus we have a wonderful town for hikers to explore with great places to eat and shop, including [blush] our own Northern Michigan Artists Market. Check out the wonderful article on Petoskey on the Trail Town website.

And one more big thing. Petoskey will have a B I G party to celebrate the trail, Petoskey's designation as a Trail Town and the American Hiking Society's National Trails Day 2013. The party takes place on June 1 at the picnic shelter at the north end of the recently enhanced Bear River corridor [near Lake Street]. Festivities will include, exhibits, presentations,children's events (coordinated by the Petoskey District Library's outstanding musician and entertainment all-star, Ron Fowler, and, of course, food. in the For more details, see the AHS website or the B I G story in the Petoskey News Review.

And while you are at it, don't forget to actually get out there and explore Petoskey's own segment of the trail. It follows a part of the Little Traverse Wheelway recreation trail, runs through the Bear River corridor [shown in this photograph, Bear Creek Park Bridge, by Northern Michigan Artists Market artist Dawn Thompson and explores North Central Michigan College's natural area.

So you see, it really is a B I G deal that Petoskey is a Trail Town on the North Country Scenic trail. We know our town is a special place. Now even more people will discover and explore the area we know and love -- and we can get out there and join them!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Petoskey Public Art Plan Update

NEWS FLASH -- At Tuesday night's meeting the Petoskey Downtown Management Board rejected my Public Art Plan proposal. They intend to go ahead and develop a plan but prefer a consultant driven process with public input being collected by the consultant. I favor a process driven by public input and community participation with a consultant providing assistance.

DMB members expressed concerns about open public input, stating they were worried (1)the public would be disappointed if the proposals they made were not ultimately adopted and (2) members of the public would become bored and disinterested after working for an extended time on a committee to develop a plan.

To see media coverage of the meeting, click here for the Petoskey News Review article and here for the Interlochen Public Radio story.

Watch this space for further developments.

Last month I made a proposal to Petoskey's Downtown Management Board (DMB)to gather public input and support and develop a public art plan for Downtown Petoskey. The proposal and its background are discussed here in a previous blog post.

Interlochen Public Radio has been covering the issue and its latest report is linked here.

At its April meeting the DMB discussed the proposal. Several concerns were raised. The primary reservation was that some members were concerned about my proposal's focus on gathering public input and generating public support. The proposal calls for public meetings and the creation of a working group to collect and develop suggestions for creating a plan that particularly suits Downtown Petoskey. It provides for the possible hiring of an expert later in the process to help formulate the plan based on community input and the work of the citizens work group. The draft plan would then be brought back to the public for comment before completion and then submitted to the DMB for approval.

Some DMB members though it might be better to skip the initial public input process and begin by hiring an expert to develop a plan and bring it directly to the DMB. The DMB decided to consider the proposal further, along with some other alternatives at its May meeting.

In the meantime I have given the DMB a short statement of my extensive community leadership and project development experience. No one else has come forward with any proposal for how to proceed.

The May meeting is set for tonight, May 21st at 7:00 pm at City Hall and is open to the public. A copy of the agenda and the member's packet are available here.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Petoskey's Downtown Trolly will be Truckin' Again

The Downtown Trolly got a test last summer. Evidently it passed and it is graduating to become a permanent attraction and means of transportation in Petoskey this summer starting on Friday, June 14.

Last summer during the experiment, the trolly ran various routes and a very informal schedule. That all changes this summer. The trolley will run on a regular, published schedule on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays through August. If it turns out to be the success everyone anticipates, look for it to continue gracing our streets into the fall.


The Trolly will leave the Stafford's Perry Hotel at a quarter past the hour. It will follow its route to the waterfront, Magnus Park, Bay View,and through Downtown. It will stop at Bay View, the Marina, the Gazebo on Lake Street, the Crooked Tree Arts Center and Magnus Park. The route and stops will be displayed on posters around Downtown and on the Downtown shopping map.


Now for the best part. Your ride on the Downtown Petoskey Trolly is totally free! The cost is covered by the Downtown Management Board and by advertisements on the trolly paid for by various Downtown businesses, including the Northern Michigan Artists Market.

Our Downtown Trolly was the idea last year of Craig Bell, owner of Ciao Bella! Garden and Home Gallery. He researched successful downtown trollys in other resort towns around the country and made a spectacular presentation to the Downtown Management Board which approved the concept and conducted last year's test. Thank you Craig!

When you visit Petoskey this summer, please enjoy riding the trolly, either as a beautiful tour of our area or as a convenient and scenic way of traveling between Downtown, the Marina, Magnus Park and Bay View. This summer, the Petoskey Downtown Trolley's bell rings for you!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Our Tree Update

A week or so ago, I posted a story about the new tree the City of Petoskey planted in front of our art gallery. I thanked the City and Mother Nature (for the gentle rain that started soon after the City planted the tree).

Now I am pleased to report that our new tree is starting to bud so the City and Ma Nature seem to be doing a good job so far.

Just thought you might like to know.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Fire the Security Guards and Hire Art Teachers

Finally somebody got it right!

For years public schools have been cutting art programs to save struggling schools. Now folks are calling for more guards and more guns to protect children in school. This has been bothering me for quite a while on a visceral level and I have been looking for a way to explain it in words. To me there is something about schools (creativity, freedom, experimentation) and something about guards and guns (repression, control, rigidity) that is essentially incompatible. That is why an article in The Daily Nightly on NBC News.com was such an enjoyable and enlightening break from the dominant news stream of the last month (and years).

According to the article, the new principal at Orchard Gardens, a public school in Roxbury, Massachusetts, got rid of the security guards and reinvested all the money used for security infrastructure into the arts. What a concept! It reminds me a little about the old saying about the schools getting all the money they need and the Army having to hold bake sales.

And this was no ordinary school. It was started as a dream school founded in the arts in 2003. It had art studios, a dance room and a theater with cushy seating. But the dreams failed right from the beginning:

Instead the dance studio was used for storage and the orchestra's were locked up and barely touched. The school was plagued with violence and disorder from the start, and by 2010 it was rank (sic) in the bottom five of all public schools in the state of Massachusetts.
Then the school brought in its sixth principal in seven years, Andrew Bott.

I know this sounds like some starry-eyed utopian fantasy movie but firing the guards and hiring art teachers really changed the place. The article describes the amazing transformation:

But now, three years later, the school is almost unrecognizable. Brightly colored paintings, essays of achievement and moivational posters line the halls. The dance studio has been resurrected, along with the band room, and the artists' studio.

The end result? Orchard Gardens has one of the fastest student improvement rates statewide. And the students, once described as loud and unrully, have found their focus.

Be sure to read the article. It has wonderful quotes from students and teachers and a fascinating list of posted comments.

A related item -- last night on All In With Chris Hayes on MSNBC, I watched a story about this 16 year old,

Kiera Wilmot, until recently a student at Bartow High School in Bartow, Florida,who put a mixture of toilet bowl cleaner and aluminum foil in a small, plastic water bottle as part of an apparent amateur science project. The mixture expanded and blew the top off the bottle. [Here is one of many YouTube examples of similar exploits.] No property was damaged and no one was injured.

Ms. Wilmot had consistently good grades and no prior criminal record. She was expelled, charged with a felony and will be tried as an adult. This incredible response to a minor incident resulted from a zero tolerance policy and the presence of police in the school.

As Chris Hayes pointed out:

Nonetheless, recently a handful of public figures have called for even more of a police presence in America’s public schools. In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, National Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre demanded “armed police officers in every school in this nation.”

Which approach makes more sense for our students, Wayne LaPierre's or Andrew Bott's?

So artists and art enthusiasts, don't despair, don't give up. We will change the world!

The players tried to take the field -- The marching band refused to yield -- Don McClean, Bye, Bye, Miss American Pie