A Better Traverse City Parkway: Imagination, Attention and Action Required

Ty Schmidt
5 min readJan 30, 2022

This is the first story of the “A Better Traverse City Parkway” series. Read #2 (What Now?), #3 (What’s Important to You?), #4 (An Opportunity), #5 (Negotiation), and #6 (Endgame).

60 years ago, we made a mistake.

My friend, neighbor, and mentor Bob Otwell reminded me of that mistake in his recent Traverse City Record-Eagle forum, “Don’t rebuild Parkway without public input.”

He wrote:

In Traverse City, we owe our forefathers thanks along with criticism. We are forever grateful for ridding the industrial past on West Bay and preserving 2 miles of public bay front. However, building the Grandview Parkway in the 1950s created a barrier. The Parkway provided needed access along the bay but was designed with moving cars as the priority. This project was seen in a positive light in the 1950s, as many road projects were across the country. In the past few decades, we have begun to realize some of the negative impacts.

MDOT is in the process of completely rebuilding East Front Street from Garfield Avenue to Franklin Street, and Grandview Parkway to Division Street. The proposed $19 million MDOT design includes added space for cars. This will increase road capacity and speeds. Their message to city staff and in one public meeting this fall was “here is the 70% design — what do you think?”

Imagination Required

I couldn’t agree more with Bob.

What’s next for not only the Parkway but Traverse City as a whole will require imagination.

Imagination to do better.

Imagination to rethink Traverse City’s future.

Imagination for what kind of community we, as City residents, want.

Attention Also Required

It’s time to start paying attention.

MDOT held a couple of public input sessions but only 39 residents engaged.

Two more sessions are planned this week.

We need 3900 people to speak up.

What’s Possible?

We call it the Parkway for a reason.

From Division to Garfield, there are 6 parks north of the Parkway along the bay— West End, Open Space, Clinch, Sunset, Milliken/Senior Center, and Bryant.

Yes, of course, we need to move cars east to west but do we need to do that at the expense of the people who live in Traverse City? I say no.

Instead of widening the Parkway into a Highway and adding more lanes, more cars going faster, and more noise along the water, let’s:

  • Design a true people-first parkway that slows cars to 25mph.
  • Get the cars away from the sidewalks and trail and install physical barriers where we can’t. Why? Here’s a photo I snapped today while walking back from coffee with a friend.
  • Make the Parkway/Division intersection less dangerous for people walking and biking. How many times have you been almost hit by cars turning right on your green? This should include a diagonal, walk/bike scramble style crossing like this one I found in Florida — I mean, if Florida can do it, certainly we can too.
Clearwater, FL on the Pinellas County Trail
  • Widen all sidewalks to at least 6ft and add pedestrian-scale lighting.
  • Add pedestrian crosswalks with HAWKS (like at Elmwood and Hall) to Oak and Hope with the shortest crossing possible - ie. don’t give the cars 5–6 lanes.
Screenshot of MDOT’s current plan
  • Plant 100+ trees that can one day grow tall to become big ass canopy trees.
  • Extend the tart path east all the way to Garfield.

My Why

If you’ve ever walked or biked along the Parkway with your kids, you know.

The kids have sacrificed enough.

We need to make it easier for them to get to our parks and beaches, not harder.

This MDOT design is not good enough for them.

We need to demand better.

Credit: Tom Flood
Credit: Tom Flood

4 Ways You Can Take Action

Join us!
  1. Email City Commissioners: citycommissioners@traversecitymi.gov. Bob also reminded me of a 1947 legal agreement between the City and MDOT that stipulates that if MDOT or the City wants to change the Parkway, both parties need to approve and consent. So, we as City-residents can be a part of the process with our City leaders, to make this project better.
  2. Email MDOT: PorathL@Michigan.gov
  3. Complete this form to stay engaged with a citizen-led initiative to better engage with the City and MDOT.
  4. Attend one of MDOT’s meetings this week.

“The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) has scheduled two virtual public meetings to discuss current plans to rebuild a section of US-31/M-72/M-37 (Grandview Parkway) from South Garfield Avenue to Division Street in 2023.

The meetings will include presentations about the current plans for the project, followed by an opportunity for attendees to ask questions.

Virtual Meetings:
Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2022
5–7 p.m.
Link: https://bit.ly/3nVRL9X
To join by phone without using Internet, call 616–512–3275
Conference ID: 594 600 040#

Thursday, Feb. 3, 2022
5–7 p.m.
Link: https://bit.ly/3gah1Fr
To join by phone without using Internet, call 616–512–3275
Conference ID: 356 010 582#

To learn more, visit https://www.traversecitymi.gov/news.asp?aid=858"



Ty Schmidt

Manitoba made now proud Michigander living in Traverse City. Dad, husband, community organizer and founder of Carter's Compost, Norte, and Good Works Lab.