Traverse City Michigan: A Sustainable Living Community

Learn about Traverse City, Michigan, a sustainable living community. Traverse City is known nationwide for its world-class sailing, kayaking, bicycling and skiing venues, but this active small town also is rich in culture.
By David Wann
August/September 2008
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Traverse City, Michigan, is a sustainable living community. Film festivals, giant cherry pies and a love of outdoor sports make Traverse City a great place.
Photo by David G. Houser/Houserstock

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A great place to live you've never heard of is Traverse City, Michigan, a sustainable living community. Traverse City is known as the “Cherry Capital of the World” and gives you 300 million reasons to love outdoor living.

Traverse City Michigan: A Sustainable Living Community

Traverse City could be thought of as the “pinkie” on the northern end of mitten-shaped lower Michigan. This self-proclaimed “Cherry Capital of the World” holds an annual festival attended by half a million people to celebrate the harvest of more than 300 million pounds of cherries. In 1987, Traverse citizens baked a cherry pie 17.5 feet in diameter — the world’s largest for a fleeting five years. The surrounding countryside, a bit reminiscent of Tuscany, also produces an abundance of grapes, and because of the tempering effects of Lake Michigan, the Grand Traverse Bay area has a relatively long growing season.

With voluntary support from Traverse City citizens who pay a premium for wind-generated energy, Traverse City Light & Power installed the first utility-scale wind turbine in Michigan — a huge machine that provides power to 110 homes and 15 businesses. A local business has now leased 40,000 acres in Michigan to harvest more of the state’s wind resources.

Outside magazine once named Traverse City one of the 10 best adventure hot spots in the United States, citing its world-class venues for sailing, kayaking, bicycling and skiing.

But this active small town also is rich in culture. In addition to the cherry festival, the town hosts the annual Traverse City Film Festival. Fifteen miles away, the Interlochen Center for the Arts hosts its biannual Arts Festival, a world-renowned celebration of music, dance, film, theater and writing. And we shouldn’t forget the town also has its own minor league baseball team, the Traverse City Beach Bums, who often make it to the Frontier League playoffs.

Traverse City, Michigan

Population: 14,500

Median House Price: $169,900

Climate: Typical northern Michigan climate of cold winters and warm summers. January average: 15 degrees; July average: 58 degrees.

Natural Assets: Elevation: 600 feet. This recreational Mecca is a stone’s throw from Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, with 35 miles of coast.

Sustainability Initiatives: Partnerships for Change, a quasi-governmental organization, seeks and funds projects that preserve natural and cultural resources.

Check out the other towns on our 2009 list of Great Places You’ve Never Heard Of. 

David Wann writes and produces documentaries about sustainable lifestyles. His most recent book, Simple Prosperity, is a sequel to the bestseller Affluenza that he co-authored.

Post a comment below.


Annette Scutella
2/1/2009 4:53:02 PM
Oh Carol, I'm reminiscing about Traverse City right along with you! My brother still lives up there with his wife and they will never leave. I grew up there and created many fond memories in Traverse. It was such a clean, beautiful place to grow up and it still is. I brought my husband up there about 5 years ago and he couldn't believe how beautiful and yet metropolitan it is! Thanks for the memories!

Carol Hinkley
8/31/2008 1:26:59 PM
Sigh...memories of "Traverse" suffused my being today ... Long Lake, Cherry Festival, "the water," the people, and being in Texas so far from it all... Please ask those in Traverse how we 'out here' can get a load of cherry pits to make a 'stone pillow.' Where I am, it's cold in the winter, and I still don't handle it well. ;-))

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