Campaign reflections from an operator

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As I continue to work through this week’s election results, thought I’d sit down with Lucy, age 6, who successfully ran her mother Missy Lilje’s bid for the Lansing School District.

Since most political business in this town gets done at The Soup Spoon, I thought we’d meet up there for brunch.  Not surprisingly, it was at least a thirty minute wait for a seat at the bar, which was not going to work for Lucy’s schedule or patience.  So, we headed down to my new favorite Eastside gem, the new Sparrow Hospital cafe–seriously a great addition to the neighborhood.

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We had a great talk over some snacks and hot chocolate.  Lucy, a 1st grader at Post Oak Elementary School in the Chinese Immersion program, frequently answered my questions in Chinese.  Once we clarified that I was unable to handle that, we got down to business.  Here’s an excerpt of what we learned:

Me:  Lucy, are you excited about your Mom’s win?

Lucy:  Yes, and it’s all thanks to me.

Me:  That’s what I heard.  School board elections are tough.  There are many candidates and multiple spots.  That can create confusion.  How did you cut through the noise?  Tell me about your strategy.

Lucy:  Well, I talked to a lot of people.  I handed out many postcards.  I also made a video of my mom saying “Vote for Me” and I put it online for everyone to see.

Me:  I see, so a mix of retail politics and a solid online campaign?

Lucy:  Exactly

Me:  Are you looking forward to your mom serving on the School Board?

Lucy:  Yes, I’ll be watching her on TV.

Editor’s Note:  Um, Lucy do you realize that means watching School Board meetings on TV?  Help. You’re a better citizen than me.

Me:  Lots of people who ran for the Lansing School Board and many other positions didn’t win.  What would you say to them?

Lucy:  Do it again.  You might win next time.lucy-2-3

Clearly time was up, so we headed back down the Avenue with a requisite stop at Fabiano’s for some handmade chocolates and a sucker.

You’re killin the game Lu

 

#LOVE Lansing Celebration Opening remarks

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Thank you to everyone (nearly 400 of you!) neighbors who attended the LOVE Lansing Celebration last night.  Congratulations to all of the honorees and thank you for your work to build strong neighborhoods in Lansing.  By request, below are my opening remarks from the event:

In Lansing, we believe that “neighbor” is a verb.  To neighbor is to build the social infrastructure of our community.  It is to do what needs doing.  While it may be to have the meetings and hash out the bylaws and organizational policies of your neighborhood group.  It is most importantly cleaning the park, organizing the potluck, arranging the garage sale, cleaning up the litter, planting the flowers in the snow like we did last weekend, mowing or shoveling for those who cannot, and keeping a watchful eye out for each other’s safety.  It is taking the extra moment in the driveway to talk with one another before heading inside, it is the cup of coffee at each other’s kitchen table.  When we move the lawn chairs from the back deck to the front porch and talk with those around us, we are neighboring and are building our critical social and civic infrastructure. 

 

And moving from the block level to the city level, we are citizens, another great verb.  Residents simply live in a place.  To Citizen is to take responsibility for and ownership of a place.  Citizens see something needing done and don’t think “who can I call to complain about this?”  They think, “how can I get some neighbors together to change and improve this”?  To Citizen is to commit, to engage, and to be responsible for the well-being of a place.  In this work it is not the old adage “the squeaky wheel gets the grease”, rather, it is the “organized and collaborative find the resources to get things done.”

 

When we connect with each other, when we neighbor, when we citizen, we are engaging in public health, crime prevention, and economic development.  When we start with building a social infrastructure, we can then build everything else. 

 

Tonight we recognize and thank those of you who embody these principles and take action to neighbor and to citizen in Lansing. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Natural Born Movers® Mother’s Day Edition

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mom on bike

Lois on the road

Out shopping for a Mother’s Day card this week, I realized that I found the selection somewhat disappointing.  All seemed to be along the lines of the Martyrdom of Motherhood variety — you know the themes, thanks for giving everything to us and nothing to yourself, pastels and flowers, etc.  I was looking for one more like, “Hey Mom, I think it’s neat you’re a bad ass“.  Of course my mom did all the traditional things you associate with motherhood for us. We don’t call her the MacGyver of Motherhood for nothing– she can cook, knit, build, sew, repair, finagle or haggle for anything you need. She is not, however, a booboo kisser (thanks Dad for picking up the slack in that area). Her many talents would require an additional post.

Here at Move It Media, we celebrate Natural Born Movers®, so I thought it would be a good time to check in with Mom about her athletic endeavors.  I had to schedule an interview as she has a full day of college courses on the day I tried to connect.  She typically takes a few courses each semester and loves to joke that her GPA is so high because she was “sleeping with the Dean” (that’s my Dad by the way, now retired–and he will be mortified that I wrote that, but it’s Mother’s Day, not Father’s Day, and she will love it).

What’s your course load this semester?:

6 credits — Yoga, Pilates, Water exercise, and Ceramics.  (editor’s note:  what are you doing talking to me–isn’t this finals week?  Get studying!)

H and Gma bike ride

Heading out with Grandson to ride the length of the Erie Canal #Grandparentlikeaboss

Tell us about your upcoming cycling trip:

This summer I’ll be riding a self-contained bicycle trip with my sister, Janie.  We’ll be some senior ladies out on the road.  We plan to leave from Lansing then head west to Ludington.  We’ll take the ferry across Lake Michigan, turn north and head up through Wisconsin. Head east across the UP, cross the Mackinac Bridge and head back down the state to Lansing–about 1500 miles.  We are planning to travel for 5 weeks, camping along the way. We could do it in a much shorter time, but there are several breweries we want to hit.  Who knows, we may never get out of Michigan.

Lois & Janie High Ropes

Lois & Janie on High Ropes course

Since this is a Mother’s Day post, what do you think your mom would think of that?:

I think she would be excited about it.  She wouldn’t do something like that, but she’d support us doing it.  She would be absolutely excited to see us doing it together.  She wanted to live long enough to see us getting along, which she did.

What’s your favorite cycling trip you’ve done?:

My favorite was from Baytown, TX to Sault Ste. Marie Michigan.  Turned out to be 2400 miles.  Along the way we saw great stuff Natchez Trace Mississippi — loved the great roads and history in that area.  We rode to Owosso, MI for my 50th high school class reunion along the way. Then we hooked up with the DALMAC ride to get from Lansing to Sault Ste. Marie.  I’d been planning to do a cross country ride from East to West (of the U.S) and it got cancelled, so we made this one up.  (editor’s note:  read about that trip here).

mom and dad bridge

 

What made you get into cycling:

I’ve always had a bicycle.  One time your Dad thought that I should be riding and he bought me a bike and we just did casual rides.  I was out riding my bike and I was challenged by Dr. Tom Seabourne at Northeast Texas College to do the Texas Chain Ring Challenge.  That was my first organized ride.  I started tour cycling at age 53.  I went on the ride and loved it.  I’m 73 now.  I plan to ride as long as I can.

Does it bother you that one of your sons-in-law (the Swede, not the Aussie) calls you the L Train?:

Haha, no.  Only the people that care about you give you nicknames.  I don’t like it when he calls me LoLo, but it’s still polite, just don’t care for it.

Peter & the L Train

The Swede and the L Train

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.  It’s neat that you’re a bad ass.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fairgard gets fancy

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Fairgard

Move it Media lives on the third floor of Fairgard.  With a more direct shot, you’d probably see me through the top window at my stand up desk.

Our Viking-occupied, German beer hall lovingly known as Fairgard (aka our home) is getting ready for a big internal overhaul.  Walls are coming down, the long-ago demoed kitchen will be re-built, basement supported, flooring going in, scary downstairs bathroom spruced up, and wiring and plumbing updated.

We’re on a multi-year plan preparing him for his Centennial in 2019.  (Note: since it’s basically a fraternity house, it’s a “he”).  This year-long celebration will correspond with our son’s graduation from Lansing Eastern in 2020 and the required graduation open house blowout (a #puremichigan phenomenon that people actually schedule major home improvement projects to accomodate).

The Crawford Jones Board of Directors has had the required number of fights and stalling tactic impasses over design, builder, budget, funding strategies–we’ve been through this before on a few other homes and have come to trust this infuriating process…

We’ve selected RJ Kloak, LLC as our builder.  We interviewed many as we continued to refine our ideas.  I found this builder on Thumbtack  after an exhausting number of meetings with referrals from neighbors and individuals didn’t warrant results.  We went with Ryan and his company because he’s clearly a craftsman.  He’s into deconstruction and custom work.  His crew is full of his childhood buddies and he seems to get what we’re going for.  We are contract signed, deposits in, ready to go sometime this week.IMG_3123

My handiwork is displayed in the photos above — I know how to swing a sledgehammer.  When you expose the knob and tube wiring and the sagging floor is shaking every time your smallish son dunks on his Nerf hoop a floor up, it’s time to find some experts!

In the old saying “you can pick two of Quality, Cost, and Speed”, we always choose speed to eliminate.  (Or the less eloquent version of “you can pick two: cheap, fast, or good”).

We’re excited to get started and in a month we look forward to getting back to what we do best, aggressive games of modified wall ball and the raging house party.  Dance floor dimensions have been expanded and a sweet karaoke system has been added to our impressive disco light/smoke machine setup in our party arsenal.  Fairgard will be ready to entertain for his next hundred years.

 

 

 

A park in the center of the city: Sycamore Park #WalkingWednesday

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Despite being only 2 miles from the center of downtown Lansing, this WalkingWednesday through Sycamore Park felt like a trip up north.  The neighborhood is filled with old growth trees, piney woods, and open green space.  It’s within easy walking and biking distance from many other beautiful parks, like Fenner Nature Center, Sycamore Golf Course, and Potter Park Zoo.  Hop on the River Trail and you can quickly access Ingham County Parks, downtown, and MSU.

It’s bordered on the north and the east by water (lots of it right now as the Red Cedar River and Sycamore Creek are very high due to heavy rain).

Looking north towards Potter Park Zoo

Looking north towards Potter Park Zoo

River High Water

Looking east along the Red Cedar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The green space assets of the neighborhood are stunning and on this beautiful June evening, the beauty of the area was on full display.  This area is known for its bird wildlife and is home to a heron rookery and a bald eagle’s nest.  Learn more in this Nature Discovery article.

Sycamore Park Neighborhood Association president Paul Wozniak provided a walking map (my first neighborhood to hand out maps for #WalkingWednesday!) Find our more about the Sycamore Park Neighborhood Association on Facebook.

Sycamore Park walking tour covering a part of every street in the neighborhood.

Sycamore Park walking tour covering a part of every street in the neighborhood.

The neighborhood has many long term residents.  Our tour was a mix of newer and longer term neighbors. Top reasons I heard for choosing Sycamore Park (in no order) were:

  • Proximity to downtown and MSU & convenience to everything
  • Access to the River Trail without crossing any major streets
  • Neighborhood friendliness

Houses are a mix of 1920s – 1940s single family homes with interesting architecture and tons of charm.

Mt. Hope Elementary

Mt. Hope Elementary School

Mt. Hope 4-6 STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, & Math) School sits on the neighborhood’s southern border.  The school playground, basketball courts, and green space add to the recreational opportunities & beauty of the neighborhood.  School leaders and the PTA partner with the neighborhood organization on many events.

Neighbors at one of the welcome signs.  Neighbors care for the planting/weeding of these entryways.

Neighbors at one of the welcome signs. Neighbors care for the planting/weeding of these entryways.

Bordered by both Pennsylvania Ave and Mt. Hope, commercial corridors have an impact on the neighborhood.  Neighbors are happy with the increased commercial activity at the Mt. Hope/Penn intersection with the addition of Central Pharmacy Vacancies still exist on the south side of Mt. Hope and neighbors are hoping for new tenants in those spaces.

Heading south along Pennsylvania Ave.

Heading south along Pennsylvania Ave.

 

Long time local businesses such as Smith Floral continue to provide commercial activity in the area

Looking south across Mt. Hope to Smith Floral

Looking south across Mt. Hope to Smith Floral

 

 

 

 

 

 

We waved to many neighbors enjoying the beautiful weather on their front porch and took a peek into the Little Free Library:

A little house of books

A little house of books

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We headed back to the park for a summer time treat and were all really impressed with the watermelon slicer!

Paul introduces us to the wonders of the watermelon slicer

Paul introduces us to the wonders of the watermelon slicer

Amazing!

Amazing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you for your hospitality and the chance to meet many neighbors and see your beautiful homes. Enjoy the summer in your park in the city!

This #WalkingWednesday was the first attended by our AmeriCorps VISTA members in our Cities of Service Love Your Block program.  Learn more about their work and see their blog post about the Sycamore Park tour at Lansing Love Your Block

 

 

Cities of Service Lansing/Flint Peer Learning trip

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I have the great fortune of working with Cities of Service a dynamic organization working to revitalize cities across the world through citizen engagement, impact volunteerism, and innovative approaches to municipal leadership.  Read about our recent trip to Flint for some peer learning with our Mayors & neighborhood leaders and see some of the innovative ways Flint residents are rebuilding their city:

 

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero with Cities of Service staff

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero with Cities of Service staff

#Walking Wednesday Greater Lansing Food Bank Resource Center

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This week’s Walking Wednesday took us to the Garden Resource Center with Julie Lehman, Garden Program Coordinator of the Greater Lansing Food Bank.

The Garden Project is one of its programs and the Resource Center is its hub.  When we visited on Wednesday it was full of neighbors picking up seeds, gardening information, starter plants, and food.  There were volunteers everywhere running the operation and working in the gardens.

 

Seeds

2401 Marcus St. Lansing, MI 48912

2401 Marcus St. Lansing, MI 48912

The facility is tucked into the south end of Foster Park Foster Park map(C on the map below–A is the Foster Community Center).

 

 

 

From the Resource Center you can see the traffic on both 127 to the East and 496 to the South, yet you are surrounded by green space and large community garden/urban farm projects.

Community gardens and home gardeners can register with the garden program and find a community of growers and support for their efforts.

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Just southwest of the Resource Center is the UrbandaleFarm.    Urbandale

Amazing the difference a sign makes!

Amazing the difference a sign makes!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you’re interested in home gardening, urban gardening, food access, healthy living/eating, or just meeting people who are thinking about these things are creating them in your community, stop in at the Resource Center and learn more.  Of course, donate to the Greater Lansing Food Bank to continue their support of these programs and services as we work together to eliminate hunger in our community.  Thank you Julie for your hospitality and we look forward to seeing the bounty of these gardens all summer long!

 

Whatdoyou

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#WalkingWednesday in the Baker Donora Neighborhood

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1st Ward Councilmember Jody Washington and Betty Draher in front of Betty's home

1st Ward City Council Member Jody Washington and Betty Draher in front of Betty’s home

Spring has finally arrived in Lansing and I had the opportunity to have a wonderful Walking Wednesday tour of the Baker Donora neighborhood with head of the Neighborhood Watch Betty Draher.

Baker Donora is bordered by Pennsylvania Ave to the East, Cedar St. to the West, Mt. Hope to the South and 496 to the North. Betty Draher was raised in the neighborhood and returned to her childhood home where she works with neighbors to continually improve it.

Baker Donora is in Lansing’s First Ward and City Council Member Jody Washington joined us for our tour.

In the heart of the neighborhood is Caesar/Donora Park which is across from Betty’s house.  It is filled with tons of green space & playground equipment in excellent condition.  Betty said that Brett Kaschinske, Director of Lansing Parks & Recreation said it was a “Front Door Park” as the houses across the street all face the park, adding to its safety because of high visibility.  She notes that the park has been much safer since removing all picnic tables and benches, which tend to attract people to sleep in the park.

Casear/Donora park

Caesar/Donora park

 

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Store owner John and Betty hug, joke, and I heard them say “you’re fired!” and “I want a raise!” to each other about 3 times each. Not sure who works for whom, but they definitely work well together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We headed north from Betty’s house to their anchor commercial property McNamara’s Party Store on Baker.

138https://www.facebook.com/McnamaraPartyStore?pnref=story Owner John greeted us and was a wonderful host.  His store is a neighborhood gathering spot and he and Betty maintain an information hub within it for neighborhood notices.  Betty said she was concerned when a liquor store was coming into her neighborhood, but now has high praise and an obvious friendship with John.  She said she’s been very pleased with his business, community involvement, and facade improvements.

 

Neighborhood information at McNamara's Party Store

Neighborhood information at McNamara’s Party Store

We headed throughout the neighborhood to see some currently vacant lots, a community garden, some beautiful homes, and some in need of serious repair or demolition.  Several neighbors stopped by to say hello and everyone knew Betty, of course.

Corner lot green space.

Corner lot green space.

Betty pointed out a fun fact about the neighborhood & showed us the birthplace of Burt Reynolds at 1703 Donora St. Read about it at http://lansingonlinenews.com/news/lost-lansing-burt-reynolds-native-son-and-now-wikipedia-agrees/

Birthplace of Burt Reynolds

Birthplace of Burt Reynolds

 

Betty and neighbors are working hard to continually improve her neighborhood.  Baker street is a main thoroughfare and crossover between Pennsylvania and Cedar.  She would like to see some demolitions of blighted properties to improve this entryway to her neighborhood.

I love Betty’s philosophy for getting things done.  When asked about her approach to neighborhood leadership, Betty said, “I don’t meet, I do”.

 

#WalkingWednesday heads to REOTown

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Looking north on Washington Ave.

Looking north on Washington Ave.

This week we headed to REO Town a neighborhood on a peninsula between the Red Cedar and Grand Rivers, south of 496 along Washington Ave. This re-emerging commercial and residential district is a hotbed of art, energy, and overall community building momentum. Our hosts were Ryan Wert, President of the REOTown Commercial Association and owner of Elm Street RecordingBrian McGrain, Chair of the Ingham County Commission and Associate Director/COO at CEDAM whose offices are located in REOTown.

Ryan and his wife moved into REOTown 11 years ago and began creating with neighbors and friends the kind of community they wanted, inventing fun events and connecting people around art, food, & fun. REOTown just hosted a very successful Art & Craft Beer Fest and is preparing for their second annual Thrift Store Gala and Burlesque Extravaganza, on March 21. The name alone says alot, but check out these pictures from last year’s event! http://on.fb.me/1f0jPn2

Our tour began at CEDAM’s offices and headed south to the New Horizons Computer Learning Center and co:space Emilie Randolph showed us this beautiful facility with workspace available on a short or longer term membership basis along with a full slate of computer training courses.  The facility features a gigantic chalk mural depicting the history of REOTown and the automobile industry.

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(L to R) Beverly Hynes, Manager of Fountain Place Apts., Larry Grudt of Capital Area Blues Society, Brian McGrain, Ryan Wert)

cospaceflyer cospacechalk

Conference space looking out onto Washington Ave.

Conference space looking out onto Washington Ave.

A great article for more information: http://bit.ly/1tpBckX

We crossed to the east side of Washington Ave. to visit the new Board of Water & Light Headquarters, which brought 180 employees to REOTown.  The former train depot has been beautifully restored and now serves as BWL meeting space and is available for community events.

Interior architecture of the restored train depot

Interior architecture of the restored train depot

A lot of Lansing in one picture:  the BWL depot, trains headed west, & the BWL smokestacks across the Grand River

A lot of Lansing in one picture: the BWL depot, trains headed west, & the BWL smokestacks across the Grand River

We headed north along Washington Ave. and found a full block of commercial activity from the REO Town Pub (more on that below), Cuttin Up Barber Shop which was doing a brisk midday business, and many more.  We stopped in to see Kathaleen Parker at her shop Soulful Earth Herbals where she offers handcrafted soap, body products, herbal preparations and apothecary and is celebrating ten years of business this year.  She also features some really cool dinosaur greeting cards created by her children–somehow I don’t have a photo to share, send me one Kathaleen and I’d love to feature it!

Kathalenn at Soulful Earth Herbals.  I wish I could upload the amazing smells from this store--stop in and see for yourself!

Kathaleen at Soulful Earth Herbals. I wish I could upload the amazing smells from this store–stop in and see for yourself!

Another new anchor tenant along Washington Ave. is Riverview Church Inside is worship and meeting space with a preservation of its past as a bowling alley.

A peak at both the sanctuary and the art gallery hallway

A peak at both the sanctuary and the art gallery hallway

The beautifully restored flooring with a hint of the past

The beautifully restored flooring with a hint of the past

The space hosts both church services and community functions.  Its exterior celebrates graffiti art, much of which was created with fellow REOTown organization REACH Art Studio

Riverview Church graffiti

graffiti 2We headed north to the Good Truckin’ Diner, where Zach Corbin and Nicholas Sinicropi had amazing tacos awaiting us.  In addition to great food, they had ideas to share about issues and opportunities for food truck operators in the City of Lansing.  As owners of both a bricks and mortar establishment and a mobile food truck they have good insight into the business and ways to increase access for food trucks in the City.  Great conversation with business owners who are working to make their neighborhood and Lansing a great place to eat!  They also had high praise for our Ingham County Health Department and their efficient processes and support.

Zach and Ryan talk REOTown & Food Truck culture over tacos.

Zach and Ryan talk REOTown & Food Truck culture over tacos.

With happy tummies we headed over to see some of the residential features along Washington Ave. with a stop into Fountain Place Apts. located along the Lansing River Trail.  Manager Beverly Hynes lives on-site at the apartments and clearly fosters a community among her residents, who are mainly young professionals and students with a few older adults and families.  She began an on-site gardening program where residents can cultivate an area of the greenspace and has a host of programs that connect neighbors to one another.  Stop in and meet Beverly and she’ll tell you all the reasons why Fountain Place and REOTown are a great place to live.

We finished up at REOTown Pub which is obviously the heart & soul of the neighborhood.  Owner Roxanne shared her career path of social worker, to restaurant owner to pub owner (which can at times resemble her work as a social worker!).  While not a full-service restaurant, every Wednesday you can enjoy steak night where Roxanne’s husband is grilling out back in his snowsuit (steak, potato, & salad for $10!). There I also met Paul Starr aka The Beer Hound, clearly a genius who has built a career out of celebrating Michigan’s craft beer culture. REOTown Pub is looking forward to celebrating Mardi Gras on March 17 with a crawfish boil out front.

REOTown Pub servin up their finest vintage--this is beer and spirits joint

REOTown Pub servin up their finest vintage–this is beer and spirits joint

REOTown is a community on the move and an example of how committed, creative residents and business owners can shape the future of Lansing.  Stop by and enjoy meeting the neighbors who are making Lansing a great place to live, work, play, & learn.

Next week’s #WalkingWednesday slot is still open–where should I head next?

#WalkingWednesday hits the trail @Fenner Nature Center

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I headed into the woods for this week’s #WalkingWednesday and joined Fenner Nature Center’s http://www.mynaturecenter.org/ Program Manager and Volunteer Coordinator, Jenny Mensch, for a tour of some of the trails. Located in southeast Lansing at the corner of Mt. Hope and Aurelius Rd., Fenner Nature Center is an oasis of calm in the city.  Two bonus features:  the nature center has free admission (with a suggested small donation for its visitor center of $2 adults/$1 children) and allows leashed dogs on its trails.

A family of deer joined me

A family of deer joined me

Partnerships such as this one with MSU Extension provide support to programs.

Partnerships such as this one with MSU Extension provide support to programs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In addition to it’s famous festivals–Apple Butter Festival in the Fall and the Maple Syrup Festival set for 3/21 this year–the center provides nature education programs for all ages.  A popular cure for your cabin fever at this time of year are the Winter Snowshoe Night Hikes, guided lantern-lit walks through the snow.  Snow shoe rental is now available at the center.

Fenner Nature Center is governed by the Fenner Conservancy whose mission “connects people to nature in the heart of Lansing through conservation, education, and stewardship”

Beautiful day for a walk in the woods

Beautiful day for a walk in the woods

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The nature center is currently restoring an 18 acre area of the property to a prairie for outdoor education and plans to build more facilities for events and education.

Prairie restoration underway with the support of several partners.

Prairie restoration underway with the support of several partners.

Fenner Nature Center is definitely a place that makes Lansing a great place to Live, Work, Play, & Learn for our neighbors.  Stop by for a walk in the woods during any season.  Of course, volunteers and donations are most welcome to help the center continue its great work.