Home > Guest Writer, Public Transit, Transportation Education > Highlight of Nature Camp? The bus, of course.

Highlight of Nature Camp? The bus, of course.

~ By  Ashlea Walter. Walter muses about her family and life in northern Michigan on her blog: www.besquirrely.com. She’s inspired by dirt under her nails, a dip in Lake Michigan and a strong cup of coffee. Ashlea helps small businesses grow through writing, graphic design and marketing. Her work can be found at www.ashleawalter.com.

The allure of the bus

Sweaty and hurried, I buckled everyone into the car and rushed down Cass on our daughter’s first day of “Critters of the Mitten” camp at the Boardman Nature Center of the Grand Traverse Conservation District. We arrived on time, phew. We were greeted with lots of familiar faces, which made the transition to a new place easier. After chatting with the other parents, kids and teachers a bit, I then rushed back down Cass St. to get to work downtown. A few hours later my husband rushed across town to pick the kids up and bring them home. So much running around for lots of people. In separate cars. There had to be a better way.

Enter BATA (Bay Area Transportation Authority), our underutilized, misunderstood, and undervalued public bus system.


Thanks to a friend’s understanding of a better way to approach the transportation situation, the rest of camp went more smoothly. More green. And more, well, in keeping with the idea of going to nature camp. Our friend, whom we shall call “Bill” because that’s his name, arranged the BATA pick-up and drop-off point at his home several blocks south of us. We brought the kids to the “bus stop” at their house, he loaded his bike on in the front rack, and jumped on the bus with the kids. They all rode together out to camp and the other adults headed off to work. After the bus dropped the kids off at the Nature Center for another round of “Critters,” Bill rode his bike back into town. A couple of hours later, he rode back out to the camp and rode back into town with the kids. The four kids, all under six years old, needed an adult to be present, but they didn’t need all of us. Thanks, Bill!

Quickly, riding the bus to and from camp turned into the absolute highlight of the week. Don’t get me wrong, the kids also loved the activities, games, friends and crafts during the camp too. But what got my 4-year-old out of bed in the morning? “You’re going to be late for the bus.”

I’ve never seen my daughter jump out of bed and get dressed so quickly. Not even on her birthday!


Camp ended last week, but my daughter hasn’t stopped talking about critters and when we can ride the bus again. Everywhere we go, she points out the BATA buses and signs now. It’s on her radar. And it’s now more clearly on mine too. My wheels keep turning… thinking about how we could use it more regularly, how we can approach our trips around town differently, how we can collaborate more with other people who are going to the same places.

Once when I lived in Germany and first experienced an excellent public transit system, I had a free afternoon and I decided to jump on a bus and ride it to the end of the line and loop back. I got off a time or two and explored, but mostly I stayed on and just took in the view and tried to improve my German with the bus driver.

I’m thinking one morning soon my girls and I are just going to walk down to the Hall Street station and jump on the next bus and explore the system together first hand. We’ll study the maps, take in the view, chat with other riders, learn about transferring and experience getting around the city using a different set of wheels, together. Anyone want to join us?


Related: The previous mention of the magic of kids and busses



EDITOR’S NOTE: MyWHaT encourages guest contributors submitting posts about issues relating to public spaces, transportation and community issues. 

  1. Michael Stewart Anderson
    July 23, 2013 at 9:05 am

    Our kids grandma took the kids on a ride on the bus. They went all over the system one days stopping to get treats here and there. They still talk about that day very fondly.

    Once our kids are big enough to ride to Sutton’s Bay we will definitely be riding up and taking the bus back now that the new bike bus thingy is available. It just makes riding a bike easier when smaller kids are involved.

  2. Jim Lively
    July 23, 2013 at 9:48 am

    Nice piece, Ashleigh! My kids have been relying on BATA for several years now, and while they don’t get as excited about it now that they are teens, they know that it is their lifeline to opportunities to friends, shopping, beach and summer fun. While BATA needs to keep pushing its marketing, it’s strong word-of-mouth endorsement like your piece here that will make public transportation an integral part of our community. Thanks!

  3. Bill Clark
    July 23, 2013 at 6:47 pm

    The bus adventure is not over yet. We will use BATA to get preschoolers from Central Neighborhood to The Boardman River Nature Center once a week throughout the 2012-2013 school year. MyWHaT can help you get in touch with us if you want to join up.

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