Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Traverse City Civic Center

Now that summer has finally arrived in northern Michigan, I wanted to share with you one of my favorite places in Traverse CIty: the Civic Center. 

I know, I know. If you live here, you might think it's strange that I'm highlighting a place like the Civic Center because it seems so ubiquitous in our town, but I think it's a gem that is often forgotten since it's so centralized and utilized. In other words, I believe we take it for granted. Not too many towns have a multi-use park only minutes away from downtown!

The Civic Center is a 45 acre park in the city limits that attracts over a million visitors every year. Believe it! It is such a beautiful place, and it truly has an infinite amount of uses. 

In the winter, Howe Arena hosts local hockey games and open skates; in the summer, you'll find roller derbies, dog shows, and many other events like Relay for Life. The same building also houses the Easling Pool, the only public pool available to TC residents, which is open year-round. Even though I'm a big hockey fan, I must say this place really comes alive in the summer.

There is a mile-long walking trail around the perimeter of the park and it's always bustling with activity. Dog walkers, roller bladders, bikers, runners, stroller-pushers…this trail has seen it all. They clear it off in the winter, so you can always count on a safe winter run around the track, and in the summer it's a busy place. I know many devoted Civic Center walkers, and the nice thing about the track is that you'll never be alone.

My favorite thing about the Civic Center is it feels like a different place than the city, even though the city is right around the corner. I feel transported to a place lush with green grass, lots of trees, and seemingly hundreds of squirrels running around. It's rare to find such a large natural area in the city, and having the Civic Center so close makes escaping the city traffic easy.

One of the coolest features of the park is Kids Kove (which was named by one of my brother's elementary school friends). The playground was built in the 1990s by local families and volunteers who all chipped in to construct one of the most badass playgrounds I've ever seen.

Like, for real: I LOVE KIDS KOVE. Sure, I have a ton of great memories from when I was younger, but even today I love exploring the nooks and crannies of every tower, or trying to conquer every challenge. Besides, who doesn't love swing sets? 

For the more extreme athletes, the skate park is also located in the Civic Center. The skate park was built in 2001 and is a very popular spot. I'm way too intimidated by cool kids to ever go in there, but to be fair I can't even balance on a skateboard.

Nowadays, you'll find BMX bikers, rollerbladers, and scooter riders among the skateboarders. If you're brave enough to try it out yourself, go for it! If not, it's still a great place to see some cool tricks and entertaining teenagers.

The other big perks of summer at the Civic Center are the softball and baseball fields. The American Legion Little League plays there, as well as YMCA softball leagues (co-ed, men's, and women's leagues). 

There are always games going on, and with the addition of lights, the games last until 11 or 11:30 on weekends. There's nothing like a ballgame under the lights on a warm summer night. The YMCA does a fantastic job providing lots of recreational teams in the area, and I'm glad they've made the Civic Center their home for softball games. There is also a rugby team that practices on one of the old fields…sweet!

No doubt there are many other activities that take place at the Civic Center…what's your favorite?

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Reaching the summit for wind energy!

Hello Everyone!

This week I had the amazing opportunity to climb the Traverse City Light & Power Wind Turbine!
Follow the journey together with the amazing Jessica Wheaton, Marketing & Community Relations Coordinator for TCLP as we climb to the summit! Unfortunately it was really foggy outside the last few days, so I wasn't able to see the bay, but still an amazing view nonetheless.   

View from the top

  • Traverse City Light & Power 600 KW Wind Turbine
  • Installed in June 1996 at a cost of $650,000
  • Blades and Nacelle were made in Denmark and the Tower was made in Texas
  • Rotor/blade weight is 19,000 lbs
  • Nacelle (compartment at the top with all the engine parts) weighs 381,000 lbs

At the time of installation, the turbine was the largest in the US and also the first utility grade turbine installed in Michigan! (yay for TC)

Control Panel

Jessica Wheaton - TCLP

This bad lad generates enough electricity to power 110 homes annually. Back in the day, TCLP used a "Green Rate" to pay for the installation of turbine which made it the first utility company to offer a Green Rate, which is now available through hundreds of other utility companies worldwide.

The blades are an amazing 144 ft wide and from Tower to Hub, that little box thingy on the top is 160 ft. The blades start at 10 mph and provide full power of electricity at 32 mph. If the blades exceed 55 mph, they will power down for safety reasons.


The base of the wind turbine is an incredible 40 foot wide, 3.5 feet thick and over 180 yards of concrete were used. They also added in 7 tons of reinforcing steel just in case... In 2008, Michigan legislature passed a law requiring all electric utilities to have a least 10% of their generation from a renewable source (wind, solar, landfill gas, biomass) by 2015. TCLP nailed this mandate in 2011, four years before it was required.

TCLP has now started buying energy from five 2-megawatt wind turbines located near McBain. These turbines dwarf the one that I climbed, coming in at a towering 328 feet with blades 303 feet in diameter, sweeping a total of 72, 334 sq feet. These five wind turbines generate enough electricity to power 4,404 homes annually!
Me climbing the tower!
Ladder to the Nacelle

Statistical data provided by Traverse City Light & Power

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Guest Blogger: Sara Hartley

Our guest blog post this week comes from TCYP member Sara Hartley. Sara's story about bouncing around the country, learning about herself, and settling back into Michigan is something many young professionals go through: seeing what the world has to offer and returning back home. 

Growing up in a middle class neighborhood in northern Michigan in the 80's put a modern twist on the tale of Tom Sawyer. In the setting sun of an era where strangers weren't necessarily dangerous and running off into the woods at the age of 7 wasn't cause for concern, a grubby Midwestern kid lived the dream.

Unfortunately, it never matters where you are when you're a teenager. You just want to leave. Who cares that you're never far from a fresh inland sea or that the breeze through the trees in summer boosts your serotonin levels. If you've never known the grit and anonymity of a city, and the call to be "where the action is" strikes, it strikes hot.

I left Michigan in 2002 after graduating from Alma College with a music degree and had a handful of performing opportunities lined up to get me on my way. I moved from Colorado to New Orleans to Philadelphia to Pittsburgh and finally to DC before my anxiety got the better of me and my career in music turned administrative. I worked in music administration for several years but never quite settled in on the east coast. I knew that it must be because of my failure as a musician. That had to be it! I was burned out and washed up and needed a fresh start. Back to Pittsburgh then on to Chicago and eventually Baltimore. From music to non-profit development to a culinary degree and finally to a career in education administration.

Sara in culinary school
Geez, when I look at it that way, my life looks pretty fickle. I liked Baltimore though. Met a boy, got a dog, lived in a nice little house, made a bunch of friends, started a folk band. Was I living the dream yet again? Somehow it didn't feel that way. Homesick for northern Michigan I thought I would convalesce a little with a camping trip, meant to restore my travel-weary, now 30-something, self.

It's a funny thing when you finally see the burdensome angst and envy of your younger self for what it is and know that it is time to come home. I was looking out the window of Tandem Ciders, watching a black storm come across the open field next door and I imagined getting back on the plane back to Baltimore. All of the restlessness, never being able to meet my expectations, never measuring up to the Facebook lives of my friends, being so afraid that coming back home meant I wasn't successful, fell away. The cipher clicked into place and my inner teenager relaxed and smiled, my inner grubby midwestern kid jumped up and cheered. It was finally time for my 30-something grown-up self to come home.

It only took 5 months to figure out how to do it. We moved to Traverse City just as we were expecting spring to break through. We've figured out that success has absolutely nothing to do with how big or far away the city is or what anyone else thinks of your accomplishments. It's about being able to smile at your neighbors and make a difference in a community.

For me, my roots are finally back in Michigan soil and I have never felt more successful.