Letters

Letters 07-27-2015

Next For Brownfields In regard to your recent piece on brownfield redevelopment in TC, the Randolph Street project appears to be proceeding without receiving its requested $600k in brownfield funding from the county. In response to this, the mayor is quoted as saying that the developer bought the property prior to performing an environmental assessment and had little choice but to now build it...

Defending Our Freedom This is in response to Sally MacFarlane Neal’s recent letter, “War Machines for Family Entertainment.” Wake Up! Make no mistake about it, we are at war! Even though the idiot we have for a president won’t accept the fact because he believes we can negotiate with Iran, etc., ISIS and their like make it very clear they intend to destroy the free world as we know it. If you take notice of the way are constantly destroying their own people, is that living...

What Is Far Left? Columnist Steve Tuttle, who so many lambaste as a liberal, considers Sen. Sanders a far out liberal “nearly invisible from the middle.” Has the middle really shifted that far right? Sanders has opposed endless war and the Patriot Act. Does Mr. Tuttle believe most of our citizens praise our wars and the positive results we have achieved from them? Is supporting endless war or giving up our civil liberties middle of the road...

Parking Corrected Stephen Tuttle commented on parking in the July 13 Northern Express. As Director of the Traverse City Downtown Development Authority, I feel compelled to address a couple key issues. But first, I acknowledge that  there is some consternation about parking downtown. As more people come downtown served by less parking, the pressure on what parking we have increases. Downtown serves a county with a population of 90,000 and plays host to over three million visitors annually...

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10 years on the water...Tom Slater

Carol South - April 6th, 2009
10 Years on the Water
Kayaker Tom Slater hasn’t missed paddling once in 120 months

By Carol South

Dipping a paddle in the Boardman River last month, Tom Slater passed a 10-year milestone.
For 120 consecutive months he has kayaked at least once a month, no matter the weather, temperature or timing. All seasons, all the time: from temps in the 20s, bundled in layers of clothing while waves froze on his paddle, to hot summer days clad only in shorts with a small umbrella raised as a sail/sunscreen.
Slater didn’t start out looking to rack up years. After getting through the first winter and the following warm season, he decided to keep the string of consecutive months going that next winter. With that success, he decided to carry it on as long as he could, month after month.
“There are times in the winter, especially, when people look in awe or curiously at that kayak floating by,” he said, noting that the spray skirt, exertion and basic outdoor clothing keep him warm.
His rule: at least one hour on the water per month.
“In the wintertime, there have been a few times over the 10 years when I had to drag the kayak across a frozen lake to get to the open outlet where lake empties,” Slater noted. “Then I would paddle around in the open water for at least an hour. That was when everything was frozen except maybe the Boardman River.”
In the winter, Slater keeps a close eye on the calendar and weather as the weeks pass.
“When it gets to be into the third week and I haven’t paddled I then have to decide to go out in the worst weather,” he said.

FLOATING BLISS
The 10-year streak began with his first foray into a kayak. Living near a small inland lake for three decades, he decided it was a waste not to have a boat of his own. He initially was in the market for a single-person canoe but was persuaded to try a kayak.
Rocking on gentle waves, dateline March 1999, in a bright blue Perception Swifty, Slater was instantly enraptured. He floated from the back door of Backcountry Outfitters in Traverse City, whose salespeople steered him to the kayak, and ventured upstream. After paddling through rapids he didn’t yet realize were difficult, he portaged at the Union Street dam and continued to the Boardman Lake.
He moored and carried the boat on his shoulder to nearby Oryana Natural Foods. Slater, a member and volunteer at the co-op since it’s founding, stored his boat there for a few years.
That trip ignited a passion that still burns bright and he carves out time year-round to play in the waves, float with the current, challenge his stamina and experience a slower side of life on the current less traveled.
“It was wonderful, like letting go of gravity,” recalled Slater of his first experience in the kayak. “It’s like being cradled in someone else’s arms and carried along.”
Unlike more extreme sports, Slater instantly connected with the gentle flow of kayaking with its quiet, human-powered scale.
“It’s being put back into someone else’s control where you can just let the Earth move you without fear,” he said.

GREEN LIVING ON BLUE WATER
Firmly in the recreational kayaking camp, Slater has accomplished his on-water consistency despite spending more than half that time without a car. He fit kayaking seamlessly into his low-consumption lifestyle, mostly choosing to put in waters he defines as local: the Grand Traverse Bay, the lake near his rural home, the Boardman Lake and river.
While his battered pick-up truck now makes getting boat to water easier, for years he navigated to and from and around town using a combination of BATA, friends, bicycle and walking. When needed, the kayak went along, thrice joining him on the bus.
Early on, Slater found the optimal solution: have one kayak in town and another at home. When storing his boat at Oryana was no longer possible, a friend in town – situated helpfully about halfway between launching points on West Bay and the Boardman Lake - offered garage space.
The process of getting his kayak from storage to water evolved over the years. He initially carried it on his shoulder then developed a rough backpack to hold the weight. Slater then contrived a kayak cart to pull it. A few iterations later, he fixed on a design, recycling old golf carts into what he termed Go Ports, which he sells informally in the community. One shorter-lived solution was a kayak trailer for his bike.
For the past decade, Slater’s foundational philosophy of living – low-impact, low-cost, high-satisfaction – has found another cherished outlet in his kayak.
“One of the big draws of owning a kayak is you use it for free, no further investment is required for the pleasure,” he said. “There’s no gasoline, it’s a human powered, green activity. I’ve paddled with the beaver, salmon, swans, turtles and other wildlife -- the quietness of the kayak allows close encounters with wildlife.”
 
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