Red Mill activities a sign of things to come
By Tom Thelen, July 2002

It is obvious to anyone who is visiting the City of Portland that this is a city under construction and renovation.

The waterfront area by the Grand and Looking Glass rivers is being changed. A new City Hall was just completed. Churches are adding space. The schools are adding on. And roads are torn up. It's hard not to go anywhere within the city without seeing someone wearing a hard hat.

But it is all part of a grander plan for the city.One that will make Portland a more attractive and better small city for its residents, as well as draw in visitors from other areas. That may be hard to fathom now with the way everything looks at the present time, but that will change.

On July 20, I saw what I feel is a good indication of what is to come for the city when the projects were complete. On that day, I paid a visit to the Red Mill to cover the farmers market as well as the first car-boot sale that the Friends of the Red Mill had scheduled. Being the first car-boot sale as well as being a new concept to this area, I fully expected to see only about five cars set up with items for sale. However, when I walked from the Bogue Flats parking lot to the Red Mill, I was surprised to find nearly 20 cars there. Vendors were offering a variety of items and plenty of people perusing the items at each site, some from as far away as Lansing and Fowlerville. Obviously, the sale was an enormous success considering it was the first time such a sale was held in Portland.

Along with the car-boot sale was the weekly farmers market that included vendors offering various vegetables as well as birdhouses and other garden items. While the number of vendors was down this week, organizers Rosemary Neller and Madeline Frank assured me that in previous weeks the Red Mill porch was full of vendors offering a variety of goods. Plus there were vendors waiting for their crops to come in before offering them for sale.

As I was leaving, I took one look back at the Red Mill site full of activity. It was hard to believe that it was about four years ago that Charles and Edward Leik approached the City Council about saving this building from demolition. They had a vision for the Red Mill, one that had the building as a meeting place for the community just as it had been in its glory days as the Portland Farmers Cooperative. After three years of hard work, that vision is a reality.

While the Leiks restored the Red Mill to its former glory, the efforts of Rosemary Neller and Madeline Frank to start the farmers market last year cannot go unnoticed. The Leiks envisioned a farmers market at the site of the Red Mill and Neller and Frank brought the farmers market to life. And thanks to the efforts of Dennis Beard, the car-boot sale was added as another attraction, one that appears to be a successful addition.

Four years ago the building that was once a regular meeting place was in danger of demolition. Now it is once again a regular meeting place, one where people can still buy goods and can go to by walking or riding their bicycle on the same path that trains had taken to reach the same site years ago.

And in the near future, residents will be able to buy items at the farmers market at the Red Mill and then walk across the Grand River to listen to a concert at the band shell. Or possibly go fishing at the pond at Community Lake Park. Or even take a trip along the River Trail around the entire city.

Very soon, Portland will be a better place for both residents and visitors.

Reprinted with permission from the July 28, 2002 edition of The Portland Review and Observer.

Posted January 28, 2003