Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Progress At The Barns

Via the Record-Eagle: Groups collaborate on GT Commons barns

In April, 2007 I submitted these comments to the 'Brainstorming The Barns' group:

Any solution should have the following goals:

- limit any increase in traffic to keep the area pedestrian friendly.
For example, even though there is not an official use for the Barns area
at this time the road around the property can be dangerous for joggers
and dog walkers.
- do not increase the amount of impenetrable surfaces Use the grassy
areas for parking)
- do not fragment the Farmer's Market
- respect the passed ballot language

As a near-term solution I would like to see the Barns and surrounding land ("The Barns") used as a Park on a fee based as-is basis for organizations looking to rent space. Also grandfather in the current community garden plots. This park would be available for rent ($35/hr; 5 hr minimum) by any group that met certain guidelines (e.g., company picnics, wedding receptions, class reunions, etc).

I once worked for a metro park district that had a large barn which was made available to parties for rent. It was generally used for wedding receptions and family reunions and was rented out almost every weekend. It was a very popular spot in the summer and to get it ready all I had to do was unlock a padlock in the morning.

And I visited Itahca, NY once and saw structures similar to "The Barns". While I was in Ithaca these were used for a wedding reception, a small bluegrass show, and a Scottish Heritage festival. I could easily see similar events at the Traverse City Barns.

Making the barns available for group rental will enhance Traverse City's reputation as a tourist destination as there will three unique venues for groups small to large to use: The Open Space by the Bay (maybe this will change though); The City Opera House; and The Barns area.

The advantage of this proposal is because of its minimal impact it can be implemented immediately without precluding any future long term solution.

Regarding The Barns as a Botanical garden

It appears to me that there is an organized effort underway to lobby for a Botanical Garden at The Barns property by the Botanical Garden Society of Northwest Michigan. I am very excited about the possibility of a Botanical Garden in Traverse City but I do not think The Barns is the best location for it. First of all, constructing a garden will mean something currently on the site will have to go - is that the meadow, wetlands, woods, food plots, or buildings? And would that violate the ballot language? Is there enough space, even with construction, to make a garden as good and large as Traverse City deserves? Secondly, the site is in close proximity woods, meadows, and wetlands and these habitats support many different plants.

Can a botanical garden improve upon nature?

The Barns will be a terrific site for the Botanical society to offer guided walks and point out the native plants to groups.

However, there are more appropriate sites for a botanical garden. I would encourage the Botanical Garden Society of Northwest Michigan to undergo an effort similar to "Brainstorming The Barns" to get community input for where a Botanical Garden should be built.