Hull Park and Grand Traverse Children's Garden and Learning Garden

Woodmere and Hannah Streets
Traverse City, MI

Submitted by: barbara Nowinski

A small community waterfront park and children's garden on Boardman Lake located next to the Traverse Area District Library.

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Why It Works

Hull Park and the adjacent Grand Traverse Children Garden are located on the beautiful Boardman Lake in the heart of Traverse City, Michigan. The Children's Garden walkway starts at the 'Moon Garden' and continues through a rose-trellised entry to the 'Storybook Theme Garden' that is planned and planted each year by a children's group with the help of an area garden club. The walkway then opens into a round, inlaid polished granite, compass used by the Library's Wiggler's story program, then on to a 'Smell and Touch' section designed with the blind in mind. A side path leads to the 'Willow House' (created by cuttings from a National Champion Black Willow). The main path continues with an interactive bridge over a dry creek leading into the 'Bird and Butterfly' area. Adjacent is the 'Pond Garden' with an interactive boat prow protruding over the pond. The 'Rose Garden' is next, then on through another trellis ending at an inlaid human sundial. Benches and whimsical sculptures are interspersed through the garden, and each garden area has a round glass-mosaic marker that also includes the name in raised letters and braille. The adjacent 10 spacious Learning Garden plots are planted by various children's organizations. There you also find a gazebo, covered picnic table, interactive Toddler's Garden and a handicapped learning garden with custom wheel-chair accessible work stations that is presently under construction.

The location next to the new library has greatly contributed to the success of the children's garden and park. The Learning Gardens have been planted by diverse groups such as the Boys and Girls Club, Munson Hospital's Children's Hospice, the Probate Court kids, pre-schoolers, home-schoolers, 4-H and the 'library kids'. Each organization is mentored by local garden clubs and Master Gardeners community volunteers. This summer a Children's Garden Camp is planned.

Hull Park includes a copper-roofed cedar gazebo, an amphitheater, a pavilion/boathouse, docking, small boat launch, and a wonderful boardwalk for strolling that is used throughout the year. The park's green space (that morphs into an ice rink in the winter) is an area that local residents enjoy. There are bike racks, restrooms, and an information center. The gardens and park are equipped with trash containers and attractive lamp posts all done with safety in mind. There is something here for everyone and residents and visitors of all ages enjoy this great community gathering place.

What Makes Hull Park and Grand Traverse Children's Garden and Learning Garden a Great Place?

The before and after images of Hull Park are quite amazing. It had been a neglected weedy field with an overgrown shoreline, and had been a dumping area for big chunks of cement. The new $8 million District Library opened in 1999, which had two stories of windows and atrium overlooking the neglected park and lake. When the Children's Garden was created along the lake side of the library, attention was focused on this area. The Youth Services Department hosted their sixth season of the 'Stories & Songs in the Park' series in the weedy park beyond the Children's Garden. The TART hiking and biking Trail (formerly skirting the park) is in the process of being completed in it's original pathway through the park. A traffic light has been installed at the Woodmere and Hannah entrance to the park so pedestrians can cross safely. A blacktop roadway and minimal parking areas run through the park and beautiful a boardwalk, which expands in several places to deck areas with seating, follows the lakeshore.

The park is clean and well-maintained. The community is proud of this park and there is no litter. The police make night patrols down the short drive to the boathouse, which has adequate lighting. In addition, the Children's Garden has gaslights donated by MichCon/DTE Energy which add a warm ambience to the area after dark. Park patrons use the library parking lot, in addition to the parking spaces located within the park, to access the area.

Hull Park and the Children's Garden areas always have many visitors, including lots of young families, library patrons, tourists to the area, and local residents of all ages. The Community Boathouse hosts the very popular summer sailing school, offering classes for kids and adults. A skating rink is formed in the winter and is well-used; Traverse City is the training area for the Red Wings and there are many youthful hockey enthusiasts at all the area ice rinks in the winter. The 11 Learning Garden plots are filled with enthusiastic young gardeners and lots of admiring visitors during the summer. The Children's Garden is a very active place. Adults or young families often can be seen eating their lunch or snacks on the bench by the pond; kids (of all ages) trying out the human sundial (and hearing their amazement that it really works!); lots of busy play on the wooden toy train; moms and their little ones playing with the sand table or climbing into the toddler-sized lookout in the Toddler Garden area; folks walking or sitting along the boardwalk along the lake and enjoying the view; cyclists coming through on the TART Trail; kids and dogs and kites and frisbees - all these things make this place loved and special by locals and visitors.

The park is often filled with activity at all hours. It is a showplace that people are proud of and bring visitors to. This summer the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians is using one of the Learning Garden plots and plans to make a 'three sisters' garden with their youth services group and community mentors assisting in teaching. A four-day Summer Garden Camp for 50 children age 9-11 will take place June 23-26. Since its creation two years ago there have already been several weddings in the park. It is a safe, social, happy place, full of good energy, used by people of all ages and backgrounds.

History & Background

In 1999 the City received a $250,000 Michigan Department of Natural Resources grant, a Rotary grant, cash donations and matching funds to totally revamp this neglected park area into a beautiful, active, well-used and well-loved community resource. The area for the Children's Garden, which is located adjacent to the new District Library, received a $100,000 gift from MichCon/DTE Energy and more generous donations of cash and resources and volunteer time to create the Grand Traverse Children's Garden and the adjacent Learning Gardens.

Contact Info:

Susan Kuschell, Grand Traverse Area Children's Garden: 231-929-0916
Barbara Nowinski, Traverse Area District Library:(231) 932-8550
610 Woodmere, Traverse City, MI 49686

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