Letters

Letters 08-03-2015

Real Brownfields Deserve Dollars I read with interest the story on Brownfield development dollars in the July 20 issue. I applaud Dan Lathrop and other county commissioners who voted “No” on the Randolph Street project...

Hopping Mad Carlin Smith is hopping mad (“Will You Get Mad With Me?” 7-20-15). Somebody filed a fraudulent return using his identity, and he’s not alone. The AP estimates the government “pays more than $5 billion annually in fraudulent tax refunds.” Well, many of us have been hopping mad for years. This is because the number one tool Congress has used to fix this problem has been to cut the IRS budget –by $1.2 billion in the last 5 years...

Just Grumbling, No Solutions Mark Pontoni’s grumblings [recent Northern Express column] tell us much about him and virtually nothing about those he chooses to denigrate. We do learn that Pontoni may be the perfect political candidate. He’s arrogant, opinionated and obviously dimwitted...

A Racist Symbol I have to respond to Gordon Lee Dean’s letter claiming that the confederate battle flag is just a symbol of southern heritage and should not be banned from state displays. The heritage it represents was the treasonous effort to continue slavery by seceding from a democratic nation unwilling to maintain such a consummate evil...

Not So Thanks I would like to thank the individual who ran into and knocked over my Triumph motorcycle while it was parked at Lowe’s in TC on Friday the 24th. The $3,000 worth of damage was greatly appreciated. The big dent in the gas tank under the completely destroyed chrome badge was an especially nice touch...

Home · Articles · News · Random Thoughts · Losing Our Traditions
. . . .

Losing Our Traditions

Robert Downes - July 11th, 2011
Losing Our Traditions
For more than 20 years now, my wife has marched her little flock of day
care kids downtown to take rides on the pint-sized train at the former
Clinch Park Zoo. Many of the ‘kids’ are now grown and have children of
their own. They too are devotees of the Spirit of Traverse City, carrying
on a tradition that fills a child’s heart with joy and the air with
laughter and the sound of a chugging choo-choo.
But those sounds will cease forever after Labor Day when the old bugaboo
of budget concerns and other priorities kill off the little engine that
could. As noted in an article in this issue by Pat Sullivan, the park
designers ditched the train as being inconvenient when they re-imagined
the bayfront.
Obviously, there were no kids advising the design team, and perhaps no
young parents either.
Happily, there’s a plan being considered to move the train over to the
Grand Traverse Commons, which would be a boost for the merchants at the
Building 50 development and in keeping with the old-time ambiance of the
grounds.
But the train serves as a symbol of the many traditions that are rapidly
disappearing in Northern Michigan, and not necessarily for the good.
As outdoor writer Mike Terrell wrote in our last issue, this will be the
last summer of existence for Brown Bridge Pond, which is shriveling away
due to the removal of a dam on the Boardman River. Similar ponds all down
the river are dwindling away, and although “heartbreaking” is perhaps a
stretch, the sight of waterfowl habitat being destroyed is at least
sobering and sad. The jewel of Sabin Pond near the Boardman Valley Nature
Center is a thin reflection of its former glory as the nesting grounds of
loons and swans dribble away.
Not all traditions are worthwhile. In the early ’60s, for instance, the
Sleeping Bear Dunes served as an anything-goes racetrack for dune buggies;
a howl was raised by adjoining business owners when then-Senator Phil Hart
created the park in 1968, ending the joyrides. Similarly, some
landowners along the Leelanau Trail were furious when a bike path was
established along the bed of an old railway line in the ’90s, ruining
“their” private snowmobile track.
And does anyone miss the tradition of smoking in restaurants or bars?
Smokers, sure, but the rest of us are grateful that people now take their
‘coffin nails’ outside.
Sometimes traditions fade away for lack of use or interest. How many
recall the miniature city that used to occupy a corner of the Clinch Park
Zoo? It was a replica of Traverse City from early in the 20th century,
with detailed models of all the old buildings in town. But the Lilliputian
city lost its charm as modern tastes changed and there was little outcry
when it was removed. The same could be said for the old Con Foster Museum,
also located at the former zoo. With too few eyes stopping by to visit,
its dusty exhibits called for a better presentation.
We all have our favorite lost traditions. The Cherry Festival’s Heritage
Parade comes to mind: an event that brought out the area’s farmers along
with their tractors, buggies and steam engines. It reminded us of the
age-old agricultural heritage that the Cherry Festival was supposed to
represent, but was deemed to be one too many parades a few years back --
another victim of that villain, budget concerns.
Paul Bunyon, whatever happened to that guy? Years ago if you traveled to
Northern Michigan you could find evidence of the 200-foot-tall
lumberjack everywhere, along with his blue ox, Babe. A generation ago,
Paul Bunyon signs, statues and crude wooden carvings were scattered
across the region reminding us that this was once the heart of lumber
country.
Unfortunately, what we think of as traditions are to some extent being
replaced by the private sector, ie., visits to the dairy hut and the mall
carousel are the warm fuzzies that kids raised today will remember once
the last toy train has stopped chugging in a public park.
In an age where a “me first” libertarian outlook and the selfish
philosophy of Ayn Rand has taken deep root, the community spirit and
enterprise of the past always seems to hold a weak hand. Thus, the Spirit
of Traverse City is deemed an expendable relic in a time when it’s no
longer conceivable that public funds can be ‘squandered’ on something as
uplifting as a kids’ train or a zoo. Swimming pools and bike paths
receive a portion of funding from local government but must rely largely
on fundraisers and contributions for their creation.
It’s a new tradition in the making, and not a good one, with the watchword
all too often being “privatization.”
In the meantime, let’s hope the Little Engine that Could gets over its
hill with a boost from those of us who love the sound of childrens’
laughter.
 
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