It is a time we dream of summer, and sometimes feel a hint of it in the wind. We plan our growing season, gather our seeds and prepare the soil. The season of Spring is upon us, and extends through the Summer Solstice on June 21. The art of seasonal gardening was created for General Guide XXXI. It shows a timeline of the growing season. In the distance there is also a visual road map of the connected communities between Battle Creek and Jackson, connected by I-94 highway, and in other ways as well.
Each community has a symbol.
The Michigan Central Railroad Depot (Clara’s Restaurant) for Battle Creek.
The Heatherbrook Farm mural just west of Marshall. near Marshall, Michigan at M115 highway was once a part of Stuart Farms.
Brooks Fountain in Marshall, that is the location for several annual events.
We’ll post more about each of these community landmarks later, and also more about the gardening clubs and projects in each community.
A stately Bur Oak tree, welcomes visitors who happen to exit highway I-94 at exit 124, coming into Albion from the east. This tree was here for over 100 years, and was here to welcome visitors along the old Michigan Avenue long before the highway was here. With each season are changes, and some of them are very welcome.
Here is a statement about this tree from an authority on trees from Albion College: ” It’s a bur oak, Quercusmacrocarpa . Botanists prefer a different spelling of the common name than do street-namers. I would not want to guess an age, but probably at least 100-120 years old. It’s a nice specimen tree. There are two smaller ones across the street. ”
This was the illustration for General Guide XXX (30) for March 2018.
There were also drawings of oak leaves and acorns, but these did not truly match the fruit and foliage of the bur oak tree.
Interesting information about Bur Oaks in Texas:
“Quercus macrocarpa, the oak with the large fruit. Even his description is a bit of an understatement considering this oak can grow to exceed 80 feet in height, have leaves longer than 10 inches, and grow acorns the size of lemons. Bur oak, which is also known as mossycup oak and is sometimes spelled with and extra “r”, gets its common name from the distinctively rough and shaggy acorn cap that can often enclose much of the acorn itself. The acorns are a highly desirable food source for wildlife, but their size alone provides a challenge for squirrels anxious to dig a hole large enough to bury them or to find the strength to hoist them to their cache. To a squirrel or other wildlife, bur oak acorns are like a huge steak dinner.”
“Albion, like many other midwestern cities, has a ‘Burr Oak Street’ named after this tree. The middle English spelling variant ‘bur’ has been used traditionally and more or less adopted by botanists as the spelling for the common name of this species.
The bur oak has relatively long, fuzzy bracts on the acorn cap that make the acorn look a little like a burr that could stick to clothing or fur. It’s also known as a mossycup oak. At Albion College, biology students and their professor refer to the bur oak as the ‘T. rex’ of oak trees. The trunks may be massive, but they often sprout wimpy branches near the base, not unlike the relatively tiny forelimbs of a massive tyrannosaur.”
The Sledding Hill in Victory Park Albion is already a destination for those who love to race on a snowy hill, but once a year it is the host to hundreds of people for the Cardboard Classic Sledding Race. In 2018 the date is Saturday February 9. The date was carefully chosen to coincide with the winter storm that arrived earlier in the week and just ended the day of the race for the a foot of the finest powder for the sport.
The sledding hill in Victory Park Albion is a popular destination in the area. There are straw bales on either side, and a light at night so sledders can enjoy the lovely trees and view in Victory Park.
The sledding hill is home to the Cardboard Classic Annual Sledding contest, with prizes for the fastest, and most uniquely designed sleds made of Corrugated Cardboard. The event usually happens in January or February, weather allowing.
This view of the sledding hill is part of a 56-foot long mural in the drive thru of First Merit bank in downtown Albion. The mural is called the Albion River of Time because it shows a linear scene depicting things happening in all four seasons in Albion, along with the river, brick streets, river trail, and parks.
The end of one season and the beginning of another is quickly approaching. This time of year thousands of people will be headed to our upper peninsula in anticipation of walking across the Mackinac Bridge. For those not participating in this annual walk, you are invited to share in Albion’s Labor Day Walk the Trail.
The Albion Health Care Alliance invited the community out on Monday, September 4, 2017, Labor Day, to walk the trail. The event took place at 10:00am until 11:00am. Participants were asked to meet at the beginning of the trail, just off Hannah Street in Victory Park, close to Victory for Kids playground area.
Everyone is welcome to attend and walk: families, Albion College faculty, staff, and students, youth and those young in heart from the community and surrounding areas. It is a fun event that celebrates the walking trail and the end of summer. The Albion River Trail is approximately 1.6 miles long. One can walk the length in one direction, and then return by the same route, or choose another one to your own liking; walking at your own pace.
The Albion River Trail is now part of the North Country National Scenic Trail. See the map about this part of the trail on this link:
“Trail Town Designation The City of Albion has been recognized by the Michigan Department of Resources (DNR) as the “hub” for Michigan trails. Two national walking and biking trails – the North Country National Scenic Trail (NCNST) and the Great Lake‐to‐Lake Trail – along with Michigan’s Iron Belle Trail converge at Albion’s historic Victory Park, one of Albion’s 17 scenic parks. In addition, Albion was awarded a $294,000 Trust Fund Grant from the DNR to expand the Albion River Trail. The trail will extend past the newly‐renovated Albion College Equestrian Center. The City recognizes the importance of the community’s trails as an asset and seeks to be designated as a Trail Town. Trails would have signage posted that would allow for promoting and identifying the amenities and attractions that would be of interest to trail users at access points.”
The traditional Albion Labor Day River Trail Walk is sponsored by the Albion Health Care Alliance. Everyone is invited. Here is the official event page: albionhca.org/events.html
We are now including more options added for limited mobility and limited time walks. At 10 a.m. on Labor Day (September 4, 2017) please meet for a group photo by the Victory for Kids playground in Victory Park. After that we will do the Labor Day Bridge Walk over the Albion foot bridge. From there, some people had a car waiting on the other side of the bridge, others continued the walk on the Albion River Trail to Harris Field. (1.5 miles) Most people opt to walk back for the full walk of 3 miles.
Others had dropped off cars previously at Harris Field and carpooled back. In this way more people decided to customize the walk to their own schedule. Fresh cold bottled water was supplied at the 2016 walk by Culligan Water in Albion. It was a refreshing day, all around.
There was a trail to the north before the Civil War, that was unmarked, except for stories of following the North Star, looking for moss on the north sides of trees, and key words that helpers would know. This was called the Underground Railroad. Across Michigan and into Canada, there is a trail today, that is marked with much more visible reminders of this challenging time in our history. Today we can visit monuments, or just read about them here online, and learn about how far we have come, and how far we still have to go.
Have some safe bike riding fun this summer in Albion on Saturday mornings.
Here is how to do it with commentary from the General Guide to Arts & Trails, AlbionMich.net.
Meet at Albion City Hall (112 West Cass Street, Albion, Michigan) It’s the same day as the French Market and Farmer’s Market – both in Stoffer Plaza. We will end up there after the ride – fun to see people there, and maybe pick up some fresh produce.
This view of the waterfall in Victory Park shows one of the most beautiful views of Albion’s natural landscape. It is perhaps the largest landmark of Albion, except for Albion’s brick “Main Street” (Superior Street.)
Some background about the Victory Park waterfall is provided by Frank Passic: (used with permission)
“It’s an Albion landmark that is so routinely noticed, that it has remained unnoticed when listing the assets of our community. It’s the Victory Park dam/waterfall. This cement structure was built to hold back and regulate the waters of the South Branch of the Kalamazoo River in order to produce electric power at the Commonwealth Power Company plant on E. Erie St. The Company had purchased the old Red flour mill on E. Erie St. and converted it into making electricity. The water behind the dam/waterfall was called the millpond. The mill part referred to the flour and sawmills that were once located downstream in a variety of locations. They harnessed the water power to turn the wheels which ground the grain. For example, the Citizens Bank building was once a water-powered flour mill built by Jesse Crowell in 1845.
Adjacent to the dam was a “raceway” where the flowing water “raced” to the mills. This was kept deep in order to provide adequate flowing water pressure by time the water reached the mills downhill. When the mills were working, water was diverted through the raceway, and the flow of water over the Victory Park dam was greatly diminished to the point where there were some bare spots. ”
2005, is a special year. It marks the 100th anniversary of the building of our present Victory Park dam. It was in September, 1905 that local contractor George E. Dean (1872-1932) built our present cement dam to replace the old stone one that had existed at the site since Albion’s pioneer days. The new dam was built over the old one. Mr. Dean, as you might recall, laid Albion’s first cement sidewalks in 1901. One of the last stretches of these walks was finally removed this past fall in September 2004 in the 800 and 900 blocks of S. Eaton St. His sidewalks might now be gone, but his dam remains today! Also during September, 1905, Mr. Dean built the Hannah St. bridge at “Dutchtown,” which included a decorative arch underneath. This bridge is often pictured in postcards of the period.
When the new dam was built, Mr. Dean had to let the water out of the millpond (that’s up by S. Superior St. and Riverside Cemetery) in order to let the cement dry. This created fish traps in holes, where people scooped up large fish by hand in the rocks below the dam. Imagine what the area around Riverside Cemetery would look like today if the water was “let out” as it was in 1905.
The dam area contained various features and contraptions which were used in the regulation of the water for generating purposes. That accounts for the various metal rods that stick up here and there in the structure complex, including the triangular shaped piece of cement in the very center. On the south footbridge below, there is a metal property line boundary marker imbedded in it that states, “Consumers Power.” One special aspect of the dam was the building of a “fish ladder.” This was so fish could swim upstream. It was located on the north side of the dam.
Consumer’s Power Company used the millrace to generate electricity at its E. Erie St. plant until shortly after World War II. Apparently the millpond was filling up with silt and the water pressure (which turned the generators) was lessening as a result. For whatever reason, Consumers abandoned local water powered electricity in Albion. The closest date I can come up with is around 1948 when water powered electric generating stopped. If anyone has an accurate date, please let me know.
After that point, Consumer’s abandoned the site, and much of the land was acquired by the City of Albion. The raceway was filled in the Market Place, and three ponds were fashioned out of what remained upstream. The first was developed to become the skating pond at Rieger Park. The second just north of Walnut St. was transformed into an outdoor hockey rink. This was shaved down and finally eliminated by the 1980s. The pond by the dam still stands today, with the old mechanism used to raise and lower the gates still there, though unused. A buried drain line carries the flowing water into the Rieger Park pond today. The water then exists into the Kalamazoo River, instead of flowing across E. Erie St. as it once did to the Consumer’s Power building.
From our Historical Notebook this week we present a photograph taken around 1907 of the Victory Park Dam (Note: the area wasn’t known as Victory Park until after World War I). Notice that the water flow is sporadic in this photo, meaning water was being diverted at the time to the raceway on the side for generating purposes. There are also alot of cattails growing on the south side. A woman is standing on the large cement wall on the north side. In the center bottom below, you can see the edge of the fish ladder which once was located here.
With September, 2005 being the 100th anniversary of the building of our present Victory Park dam, and September also being the month the Festival of the Forks is held, wouldn’t it be appropriate to center a theme around this Albion landmark this year? After all, it is located just above “The Forks,” and this dam site is what provided the waterpower which brought the pioneers to Albion.