Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Botanic Garden and Historic Barns Park

Every once in a while, I stumble across a part of Traverse City that I know a little about but haven’t actually visited. A few weeks ago, that place was the Botanic Garden at the Historic Barns Park. I knew the gardens existed, but I didn’t really know much about them or what they were all about.

Turns out, there is a lot going on up there.

We hadn’t biked up near the Commons area since TART Trails put in the new Buffalo Ridge trail, which is what drew us up near the garden in the first place. Once we saw their beautiful Visitor’s Welcome Center, we knew we had to go inside and check it all out. I’m not one to pass up going into a gorgeous, well-designed building.

Inside, we were greeted by friendly volunteers. One of them, named Mike, asked us if we had time for a tour. Next thing we knew, we walked into a tunnel through a beautiful gate (handmade using only hammer and heat—no soldering—which was absolutely stunning) and onto one of the most informative tours I’ve ever been on.

Not only did we learn all about the farming history and heritage of the Historical Barns property, but we learned all kinds of things that we never would’ve known unless we were graciously hosted by Mike. He knew the ins and outs of the Botanical Gardens and their grand master plan, in addition to all the stories soaked in the history of the property.

For instance, when he took us upstairs to the conference room, we learned that the wood on the walls and in the windowsills came from the floor of the recently-restored Vogue Theatre in Manistee (another Michigan gem on my to-visit list). We learned about the pavilion in the back of the visitor’s center, and how there will be a wedding there this summer and the bride’s mother was so impressed by everything happening at the Botanical Gardens that she’s offered to donate the funds to have the pavilion finished by the time of the wedding. Having an expert on hand—and a very passionate, friendly expert at that—made this one of the best tours I’d ever been on.

Next thing I knew, we were sitting in an off-road golf cart and Mike was driving us all around the grounds. We learned about the old horse barn they’re converting into a walled garden; the impressive rows of trees getting ready to go in at the entrance of the visitor’s center; a sweet labyrinth they are putting in next to the picnic area (it’s already there if you want to check it out, but there will be improvements coming down the road); the plans to renovate the gorgeous cathedral barn, adding in an amphitheater and reception area; and which trees in the field are old apple trees leftover from the farming days. Perhaps most importantly, we learned where Traverse City’s world-famous dairy cow, Colantha, is laid to rest (not sure who Colantha is? Check out the Traverse Colantha Walker Dairy Fest). I learned more on that tour about the farming history of the State Hospital grounds than I have in my past 25 years, and I was totally geeked about it all.

The Botanical Gardens are positioned to be one of the most breathtaking places in all of Traverse City, and they’re already gorgeous. There are some truly wonderful things happening there, and the volunteers are so dedicated and devoted to the project that their enthusiasm is overwhelmingly contagious. I know I’ll be paying another visit to this beautiful property.

If you want to learn more, feel free to visit their website. Their annual memberships are so reasonable and go towards putting their grand plan into work and helps them move forward on their overall vision. I certainly recommend paying them a visit, especially on a sunny day where you can truly enjoy the magnificent scenery and views.

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