Revitalizing mid-Michigan’s River Trail (Pepsi Refresh Project)

It is refreshing to see that Americans are becoming much more environmentally conscious. Our policies and lifestyle choices are starting to show much needed concern for our environmental future. For example, the 2011 North American Auto Show is showcasing a 40+mpg car by almost every car manufacturing company. More people are walking and riding bikes in the United States and in the last decade alone we have seen a 25 percent increase in bike trips (MLive, 2010). Here in the Greater Lansing area we have a growing number of LEED certified buildings like the MSUFCU headquarters, the Granger Construction Company and The Christman Company.  Furthermore initiatives like the Clean Commute and Zip Cars at Michigan State University are yet another step in the right direction.

It is our responsibility to make dedicated efforts to ensure that the next generations continue our ventures and maintain our concern for the environment. Experts studying early childhood development state that

“The quality of environmental education for young children determines how young children see themselves in relation to the natural world. This knowledge is the key both to their understanding of self and to a foundational orientation towards respecting and caring for the environment. (Phenice, 2003)”

As more people start living in urban environments it is easy to lose contact with nature. Many Americans go from centrally heated living rooms via heated garages to indoor workplaces.  Well established early childhood development theorists emphasize the importance of social interaction at a young age to ensure social integration. Similarly, interaction with nature at a young age is important to establish a lifelong bond between children and nature. Successful city planners integrate urban living environments with natural sanctuaries. Here in Lansing we have the beautiful River Trail that cuts across our city. In addition to all of  Lansing’s parks and our zoo, the River Trail is a priceless asset.

People use this trail all year round. In the spring and summer seasons the river trail is a bike commuter’s dream. I always take the trail to get to the MSU campus from downtown Lansing. During autumn, the river trail is exploding with color and the tall trees form a canopy over the trail.  During winters the river trail provides a breathtaking view of our snow covered  city.

Photo: The river and the trail in winter.

Earlier this year there was a Pepsi Refresh proposal to give the river trail a facelift and to further develop the trail as an educational experience. The Pepsi refresh project funds  individuals, non-profit organizations and businesses with ideas that have a impact on communities. They have an easy to use application process that doesn’t require high level grant writing skills. The granting decisions are open to the masses and these proposals are put up to a vote.

The river trail proposal for $50K hopes to make the river trail more interactive.  In addition to repairing the existing planet walk, these funds would strategically place conversation starters around the trail. Parents now a days have to compete with Playstations and addictive TV shows when looking for recreation for their children and these additions will make the trail a much more attractive option for our younger generation and a perfect opportunity for quality family bonding.

How will the 50K be Used?
Budget Notes: Volunteers have offered to help organize the Adventure Hunt and solicit donations for any additional materials.
$ 17,000 Playground structure and landscaping
$ 5,000 Repairs to existing River Trail structures including Planet Walk
$ 22,000 Develop, produce and install learning stations and discussion plaques
$ 6,000 Develop, produce and install Maps to Adventure

We have five more days to vote for our proposal for the Pepsi refresh project and individuals are allowed to vote every day. Let’s join together as a #lovelansing community to ensure that future generations are able to experiece our beautiful city while connecting with nature and keeping our environmental consciousness alive!

Click HERE to vote for this Pepsi Refresh project.

Note: John Bucker wrote one of my favorite posts about how the River Trail connects our city’s best attractions. Be sure to check it out if you haven’t already.


1. Outdoors briefs: Biking and walking numbers on the rise in U.S. The Grand Rapids Press. August 08, 2010.

2. Phenice, L., Giffore, R. Young Children and the Natural World. Contemporary issues in early childhood. Vol 4 Number 2 2003.