Home > Chatter, Visual Stimulus > The condition of the Open Space, post-Cherry Festival

The condition of the Open Space, post-Cherry Festival

NOTE: This is not intended as a news report on the condition of the Open Space. This is a first reaction as someone who last week voiced concern about park usage by the Cherry Festival to provide parking.

Of issue this week, is that the film festival organizers are voicing strong concern about the condition of the Open Space post-Cherry Festival. To the extent that they are considering not utilizing the space for the free movies in this year’s festival. There’s a report on 7&4 that covers the basics (“Film Festival reacts to Cherry Festival effects“). My suspicion is that this will not be the only media coverage. Apparently earlier this spring the Traverse City Film Festival contributed $4000 worth of seed and collaborated with the Cherry Festival to ensure that the Open Space did have green grass for the two events in July. The images provided by Film Festival co-founder John Robert Williams do not reflect that it worked out so well.

An aerial view of the open space on July 13, 2010 (photo provided by JRWilliams)

Every year the impact of 10 days of continuous human traffic and all the service vehicles leaves a scar. Some years seem worse than others; with a little love (and water) the big green lawn returns. It’s seen as a trade off for bringing thousands of tourists into town.

What’s different, from my experience, is that this year it isn’t just matted down brown grass. There are real issues that show some very heavy impact and which lead me to question how the city handles park usage. The current issue between the two-festivals is one thing, but the long-term planning and protection of the parkland is something that additional stakeholders will continue to be concerned about.

Worn grass is one issue but the images depicting a scene that could have been taken from somewhere out in Hoosier Valley are particularly disturbing.

Personally, as a commissioner on the Traverse City parks and recreation, I didn’t realize the extent that oversight was needed in regards to prevention and remediation of environmental impact. When we advice the city commission to accept applications for park usage, there was an assumed understanding that proper planning and oversight of the impact existed. To be honest, I also believed there was more sensitivity on part of the Cherry Festival to the condition they left the park. The above image to me reflects poorly on the planning and oversight of the Cherry Festival organizers, but I’m just seeing these images now and look forward to further enlightenment on the issue.

A key question I have is if there is a need for a ramped-up impact prevention and remediation check-list to be implemented for future events, and if so, who is responsible for drafting it. It’s an urban park and wear-and-tear is to be expected. Still, where can we use better infrastructure, policy and planning to control and prevent needless impact. And, what level of impact is acceptable?

Have you been down to the Open Space or looked at the images?

What are your initial reactions?

What questions need to be asked and answered?


  1. Beverly Gilmore
    July 14, 2010 at 5:01 pm

    The photographs are shocking, and the situation is unacceptable. I cannot call this a bonafide trade-off. We were there June 26 for Hands Across the Sand, so I have a photo taken in approximately the same place as the one you compare to “Hoosier Valley.” The grass is green. As a matter of fact, that day a group was chalk/paint marking the Open Space. I assume the group was part of Cherry Festival.

    What kind of fine will Cherry Festival incur and what sort of reparation will the Festival make? We rode our bikes down to watch the Blue Angels, but other than that were not about to pay the $15-$20 to park a car in order to attend. The Festival needs off-site parking and shuttle buses. This IS the 21st century.

  2. Rob
    July 17, 2010 at 12:28 am

    Well, way to go for the “shock” effect in your pictures. “Hoosier Valley” was fixed by Tuesday morning following the festival.

    Why or what is so shocking and unacceptable? This happens every year and viola, the grass magically comes back.

    Can you honestly say we have something to replace 300,000 people visiting our town for ten days…I can’t.

    The film festival is now crying the blues about not having any grass and they don’t have a back-up plan. Hmm seems like we had cherry festival in 2008 and 2009 didn’t we?

    There seems to be an awful lot of assuming going on and people need to get their facts straight before posting misguided pictures and comments that do nothing but generate hostile feelings and comments.

  3. July 17, 2010 at 9:15 am

    Rob, I can only expect a tough response from someone with the email moniker, TCCritic–love it. However, I was at the Open Space yesterday and ruts from vehicles remain. Yes, they can be fixed; almost anything can be fixed. And indeed, grass always grows back. Still, the film fest has an interesting concern due to the tight time frame and my reaction was simply asking if some of the impact was preventable. For example, the bare dirt and compacted ground at the old Smith Barney property, used as a parking lot, is not quickly remedied with watering; fertilizing this close to the bay is not preferred.

    I agree that in time the full facts will shed light on the actual impact and how it was handled. Or, maybe it won’t as the city moves on and never quite gets to learning something from the event. My role here isn’t to vilify anyone. I posted the images with comment to consider the impact we collectively have on public space and ask, “are there ways that we can lessen the impact.” If we can, it may save us money and time, and it can make the space more enjoyable during and sooner after any event is finished.

  4. Kathryn Lepera
    July 21, 2010 at 6:50 pm

    Any word on what the Film Fest has decided in regards to using the open space? And in response to the tautology that it is okay to annually devastate the open space because ‘it happened in 2008’ and the year before, and the year before… so why change? Well, I would be interested to see how much money (tax $$) the city spends on rejuvenating the area each year and why there aren’t other solutions (like restricting traffic downtown during the festival to ensure the safety of pedestrians and cyclists). Simply have people park elsewhere and provide a shuttel to and from the festival.

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