(Editor’s Note: OMP resident Brad Lyman writes about how he and his late wife Amy came to live on the Old Mission Peninsula, and how things have changed over the years. Read on for his thoughts. If you’ve got something to say about anything related to the Old Mission Peninsula, write it up and send it to me, [email protected]. Note that you may only submit opinion pieces once every 30 days. -jb)
Amy and I visited Old Mission Peninsula in April 1974 on a quick honeymoon to the Traverse City Holiday Inn. My brother Greg and his wife Susan purchased a home here, and we visited during the summer of 2006. After decades in Maryland, we had forgotten pristine Northern Michigan and the uniqueness of the Old Mission Peninsula.
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That same week we made an offer to buy our house. We closed the deal and arrived in the Fall of 2006. Summer long stays and January visits ensued. Maryland friends asked incredulously, “Are you going to retire in the north woods?” I answered, “We’ll see.”
I loved to show them the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy postcard with aerial photos and captions: “Old Mission Peninsula: 17,856 acres – 5,500 acres protected forever” and “Manhattan Island: 14,694 acres – Central Park’s kinda nice…”
We spent our summers on the OMP, with Amy arriving permanently in 2012. I sold our Maryland house and sailboat to retire here in 2014. Just before Amy passed away in 2021, she told me she wanted to be buried on the Old Mission Peninsula, not in the plots we owned in Maryland. She felt more at home here than any of the other places we had lived.
What we found on Old Mission was a gorgeous landscape, incredible lakescapes and dark glorious skies. Even more importantly, we found a welcoming community. It is a community of differing political views, but also a midwestern civility and neighborliness unblemished by distrust and rancor.
We have all had the misfortune to witness how national and state politics have degenerated into name calling, inflexibility and mindless polarization. I am distressed that these attitudes and practices have infected our Peninsula through lawsuits, clamorous meetings, and ad hominem attacks by neighbor against neighbor.
An underlying cause seems to be the role of local government in land use. Zoning and land use evolved from nuisance laws that attempted, for example, to separate stinky tanneries from residences. In my view, our nation is suffering from a hyper-focus on “my right to do as I please.” This creates an illusion of personal freedom, but it pathologically pits my will against your will. It is a negative and polarizing perception of freedom.
Positive freedom is found in our aspirational American democracy. It is not selfish individualism, it is socially constructive. It is a discourse to determine the collective will of citizens, and the creation of a shared vision for our community. Dare I say, that positive freedom, especially in creating mutually agreed upon land use, is essentially about being a good neighbor. Amy and I found a plethora of good neighbors here on the Old Mission Peninsula.
Old Mission Peninsula has been inhabited by Native Americans, Settlers, Farmers, Resorters, Retirees and Suburbanites. The Peninsula will and must change. As a community, we need to commit ourselves to the common good. Let’s be good neighbors, who are pragmatic about the coming changes, but also visionary in securing the future of this pleasant peninsula.
A NOTE FROM JANE: I started Old Mission Gazette in 2015 because I felt a calling to provide the Old Mission Peninsula community with local news. After decades of writing for newspapers and magazines like the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Family Circle and Ladies' Home Journal, I really just wanted to write about my own community where I grew up on a cherry farm and raised my own family. So I started my own newspaper. Because the Gazette is mainly reader-supported, I hope you'll consider tossing a few bucks my way if I mention your event, your business, your organization or your news item, or if you simply love reading about what's happening on the OMP. Check out the donation page here. Thank you so much for your support. -jb