The Sound Garden

Chestnut Street/Headwaters of the Clam River Greenway
Cadillac, MI

Submitted by: Carol Potter

A unique, musical sculpture made of logs and metal graces our already bustling lakefront walkway.

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Why It Works

The Sound Garden in Cadillac is magical place, a multi-generational attraction that lures townspeople and visitors gather at all times of the year to play the wood and metal instruments. The Sound Garden is so unique, there is no "Real" way to play the Sound Garden so everyone can participate. The Sound Garden is located right next to the Clam River, on a paved trail, directly across from our "Town Center" our bustling, mile long lakefront walkway.

What Makes The Sound Garden a Great Place?

The success of the Sound Garden is that it is an enhancement on a true Greenway and is a part of a larger trail system that links all our entire community via walking/bike trails and links to the White Pine Trail, a 92-mile rail trail that connects us with major metropolitan Michigan cities.

People stop at all times of day and night, all year long as they walk the lakefront and the Clam River Greenway. It is an open space and located next to our Junior High School and Senior High School and just a few blocks from our Central Business District. It is accessible by automobile with (almost) sufficient parking but it is more importantly accessed by bicycle, by foot, skateboards, wheelchairs and all other non-motorized transportation. The Sound Garden is, as mentioned, located on a busy street in our small town. One of the early concepts was to envision people driving by saying "Wow! What's that!" Stop the car, get out and walk to the Sound Garden and interact with each other and others. The lakefront walkway is basically a one mile sidewalk, the Clam River Greenway is a concrete trail that is 2/3 complete and will link our entire community with the lakefront, the schools, the downtown and provide safe access to our sportspark. The Sound Garden is the center of this system.

People are lured to the Sound Garden because it is SO unique! They are not disappointed. We have garnered significant media and awards for our project and we receive calls from Senior Citizen bus tours, schools and churches that are planning field trips to the Sound Garden.

The Sound Garden makes a stunning first impression. It is also in a state of continued growth as we have commissioned a wood carver to create a "family bench" in memory of one our native sons who as a National Park Service Ranger was killed on the Mexican Border by drug runners. The City has placed picnic tables at the Sound Garden and there are many benches on the lakefront walkway just across the street. The Sound Garden is appealing to all people It is a delight to drive by and see all ages and all lifestyles enjoying this unique musical experience. The City of Cadillac maintains the space as well as our local garden clubs and civic boosters. The local Rotary Club has two clean up days scheduled and the Cadillac Interact Club has just adopted the Sound Garden and the Clam River Greenway way as ongoing multi-year project. We have bicycle police that are present during the spring and summer. Since the Sound Garden is located in such a public space there are no worries about safety. Vehicles travel by on Chestnut Street but walkers, joggers and other non-motorized users are always present. There is enough space between the Sound Garden and the street and along with landscaping berms and trees and the river next to the structure creates an intimate space that allows one to totally forget the vehicles.

There are always people at the Sound Garden. We live in a cold climate and there are people at the Sound Garden in the dead of winter. We recently were recognized by First Night International as winners of their Creative Programming award for a "First Night" concert where we invited percussionists from across the Midwest to interact with the First Nighters and our local high school drum line and a very unique musical group of youngsters called "The LogRythmics". There are six distinctly different instruments in the space and there is room for several people to use the Sound Garden. It is interesting to see groups pick up mallets and create a "Beat" of their own, virtually talking to each other through the music.

You can hardly go to the Sound Garden and not interact with the others that are experimenting with the different sounds and notes created by the instruments. Young and old end up in conversation simply by the uniqueness of this experience. Local pride is at an all time high due to the Sound Garden and the many awards we have received. Michigan Municipal League just recognized Cadillac for the Superior Innovation award in cities of 5000-25000.

The people congregating at the Sound Garden are always in a happy frame of mind due to their ability to create sounds and music through this most unusual structure. The Sound Garden has truly become a meeting place and a gathering place for our community and our visitors. It has been embraced by both groups which makes the Cadillac tourist experience even more interesting as they interact with the locals.

We have always been a community that welcomes our visitors and we attract people that are just like our residents. The visitors feel like they have found a magical space that they never expected to see on their vacation.

History & Background

The Sound Garden was initiated through a Michigan Association of Community Arts Agency grant program called Community Partners Artist in Residence. Since the initial grant was received, the Sound Garden has garnered another $50,000 in grants to create landscaping, programming and other community building program such as the "Family Bench" project, the financial involvement of the local Garden Club and Herb Society.

Contact Info:

Carol Potter, Cadillac Area Visitors Bureau: 1-800-22-LAKES or

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