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January 19, 2013

Recreational authority seeks Barns ideas

Garden manager, plans for using Historic Barn sought

TRAVERSE CITY — Traverse City's community garden at the Historic Barns Park needs a new manager and one of the park's namesake barns needs a purpose.

The Traverse City and Garfield Township joint recreational authority that oversees the park at the Grand Traverse Commons is seeking proposals and ideas for both topics when it meets on Feb. 6.

The authority is looking for an organization interested in managing the gardens, which rents small plots to area residents. Matt Cowall, the recreation authority's executive director, said if an organization can't be found by spring, SEEDS has agreed to step in temporarily.

Little Artshram and its director, Penny Krebiehl, founded and managed the gardens prior to the property becoming parkland. The small nonprofit withdrew as manager last fall. Its relationship with the authority deteriorated after it was cited in 2011 for running an unlicensed summer camp that used a bucket as a composting toilet, as well as other problems.

The citation and accompanying publicity came at the same time the authority planned to kickoff a major fundraising campaign.

That campaign — which will renovate the Cathedral Barn as a public event space — is on track and will wrap at the end of the year, Cowall said. But the authority has no plans for how it will use the other barn, known as the Historic Barn.

"We are looking to hopefully continue our momentum and want to begin planning for the Historic Barn now," Cowall said. "In all the planning processes that have gone on so far there has not been a real commitment for use of that space."

The authority received an informal proposal in December from nonprofit group Artcenter Traverse City to use the barn for art classes and shows. Cowall said the board decided it wants to hear other ideas from groups and individuals.

The board has not set a deadline for accepting comments or proposals but Cowall asks anyone who has an interest in either the barn or the gardens to contact him before Jan. 31 to be included in the board's Feb. 6 discussions.

Cowall can be reached at 929-3696.

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