By Henry Morgenstein
I despair. I truly despair. All summer long — ALL summer long — I’ve encountered road works. The joke is encapsulated in a map of Michigan surrounded by blue water (Michigan is a peninsula). Caption: “The Part in Blue Not Under Construction.”
Everywhere, on every road, there are bottlenecks: two lanes down to one. Everywhere, roads and bridges are being repaired, and new lanes of highway being added. Crazy. Crazy.
This summer, in Traverse City, three bridges (small ones) are closed for repair. The cost of just these repairs is astronomical. Several roundabouts are being built — at great cost. All for cars. All for cars. For those who live here to drive around town, for those who pass through, to enable them to pass through quickly.
Why am I so angry at this expenditure?
My thoughts sprung up on a sunny summer day early in October. A beautiful day for a bike ride. Where to? What destination? Of course I could shop, eat, purchase, but where could I go to stroll around, see others, be seen — enjoy the company of others, the sight of many people — sit and watch, and people would not think you are staring? You could be looking at people next to them or a group far away. You are watching the parade and being part of the parade, the display for all to see.
What is my point? Our governments should devote millions and more millions into public spaces — huge chunks set aside for people to wander around alone and in groups. Make it green and pretty, full of benches and flowers.
Where would you find such spaces in Traverse City to convert into parks and playground?
Almost everywhere downtown that contains many parking lots and parking ramps (Tear down parking ramps, for starters.)
We are pouring most of our money into roads for cars. Yes, people are in the cars — but many (young and old) do not own cars or use car roads. If you are under 16, what has Traverse City offered you? Large playgrounds? “Spaces” that accept all ages?
Give me a human mass, a crowd of people of all ages. My case is far better presented than I can in so small a space in “The Great Good Place: Cafes, Coffee Shops, Bookstores, Bars, Hair Salons and Other Hangouts at the Heart of a Community” by Ray Oldenburg.
It is so crazy, crazy, crazy that at this crucial moment in time — global warming — we continue to cater to cars. Cars are the problem, and we use them to run away from “Here” (Our city) because here is so terrible.
Pour money into making my city beautiful and livable — make it into a community, by throwing money into community making schemes: parks and plazas, bike paths and safe streets. Make me want to stay here. Pour as much money into making Traverse City livable as you currently pour into making cars comfortable as they weave in and out of my small town.
About the author: Henry Morgenstein taught at NMC for 30 years and wrote bi-weekly columns for the Traverse City Record-Eagle (1985-1991). He splits his time between Southampton, England and Traverse City.