How well do you know your city? Ariniko O'Meara, who was born and raised in Lansing, challenged herself with this very question and came to realize there was so much of Lansing she'd never even laid eyes on. So, she started City Saunter, making it a goal to 'saunter' down every street in Lansing to discover places she may have never experienced otherwise.
"Every area in Lansing has a person who lives there or operates a business there. It's special to them. I thought I should at least take the time to find out about it. By making this project about all of Lansing I can find out what's special - or even what's not so special - about the entire Lansing area."
Equipped with a map to cross off streets, and a notebook to keep track of sidewalks or jot down any notes she makes of a place - O'Meara walks. And she documents everything by blogging and taking pictures of the places she visits after her walk on her City Saunter blog.
She also has a few rules for her walks. "I didn't think I had any rules until I realized I did," O'Meara admits. "I only need to walk one side of the street, as long as I can see what's on the other side clearly. I do walk down dead end roads and I try not to re-walk as much as possible."
There is no specific system in place for where she goes, but O'Meara tends to meld her walk into other on-goings occurring around Lansing, like Lansing First Fridays or festivals in Old Town. "Sometimes [going for a walk is] as simple as Patrick, my husband, has a meeting in town and I tag along and walk while he works."
Finding Something to Walk About
Although O'Meara started with a direct goal to walk down every street in Lansing, she's determining there are bigger things that can be attached to this goal. By making her walks more significant and meaningful, she's not only experiencing her city, but she's doing it with good reason. One of her many goals is to walk to raise funds for charities. "I really want to have at least one Saunter that helps a local charity in some way. I constantly have new ideas and I like that this project is flexible enough that if I get an idea I have no doubt I can implement it."
On specific days, she'll walk with something special in mind. For example, she went for a walk down Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. on MLK Day. On October 10, 2010 (10/10/10), she walked for her brother's birthday. "My brother would have been 39. He was killed in a car accident at the age of 17 and I wanted to do something for his birthday. I went to where we grew up on the north side of Lansing and walked our old neighborhood."
O'Meara's love for Lansing is evident beyond her crusade and City Saunter project. She's also been known to combine some volunteer work into her walks, helping out organizations like Walk and Bike Lansing and Mid MEAC with their sidewalk health and surveying initiatives. "Sometimes I combine my Lunch with a Purpose [volunteer] days with a walk."
Walking down every street in Lansing has now just become a symbol for what O'Meara is doing: becoming much more connected with this city. "I have learned that a great number of people who live in the Lansing area truly love this city," she says. "There are some really amazing people here and each one has a way of making Lansing their own special place. I've also found some areas that seem to be falling through the cracks."
But, most of the time, as she walks, O'Meara discovers some beautiful, less known areas in Lansing. "There are some really enjoyable neighborhoods in Lansing. The one between Saginaw, 127 S and 496 was the most surprising. I had no idea such a beautiful area existed. I also walked down Moores River Dr. during the fall and it was gorgeous!" She's also a big advocate of Lansing's river ways and loves utilizing Lansing's River Trail. "I learned that you can travel by river from MSU campus to downtown Lansing. I think that is amazing. We should be doing that [more often]."
O'Meara is also a huge fan of Old Town. "Old Town is absolutely my favorite place," she says. "I think we could and should have multiple places like that around down." She also recently went walking to the Vietnam Memorial and enjoys being in the heart of downtown by the Capitol building. "I found myself off the side walk but on the walking path between the Justice building and the Capitol. That area is almost surreal with its structural massiveness and the beauty of its design. I like the Capitol too. It always seems to have a crowd of people there. The flowering trees surrounding it are gorgeous and there is a lot of history there."
As much as O'Meara has enjoyed exploring Lansing, she's come to realize her favorite walks are connected to her past in some way. "I think one of the most rewarding aspects of this project is being able to walk in the ghost steps of my childhood self," she says. "I get to see where I walked or rode my bike as a child. It is very introspective. I spent a lot of time in Lansing throughout my life. There are many areas that are significant only to me, but I hope I can share some of that experience with others and they can get something out of that sharing."
And for those who've lived here most of their lives, O'Meara knows they'll benefit too. "We all have places that bring back floods of memories. A lot of the people who read my content have those memories firmly established in Lansing as well. When I get to explore, they are exploring with me."