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December 9, 2016

Visitors to Michigan’s three national parks are in for a treat. In addition to the wonders of nature, they might also get an unexpected dose of literature. In a highly unusual collaboration, the National Park Service posted nature poems by Egyptian-American poet and artist Moheb Soliman at various points in five Midwestern parks, including Sleeping Bear Dunes, Pictured Rocks and Isle Royale The poems are on standard-issue NPS brown signs and look official — until you start reading. That element of surprise or serendipity, says Soliman, 36, was half the point. Linda Gregerson, a University of Michigan English professor and widely published poet, said, “Poetry belongs in public spaces as well as in the privacy of lamp-lit rooms.” The poetry signs grew out of a 2015 project funded by the Joyce Foundation in which Soliman, who moved to this country at age 6 and grew up mostly in Columbus, Ohio, circled all five Great Lakes over four months, visiting “as many towns and wilderness areas as possible.”

More than half of the world’s population is urban. But 2014 Census data indicate that millennials have started moving out of big city downtowns to smaller cities, or hybridized urban-burb enclaves where quality of life is the driving force. What’s happening with millennials and cities is part of a larger issue around the rising cost of housing that’s pricing out people in already-expensive cities. Maybe millennials are smarter than everyone else for not staying in places they can’t afford. But it turns out that millennials are different in the sense that they’re coming up with innovative ideas for how to live well wherever they are—which sometimes means bringing the urban experience with them.

The greatest share of young adults is choosing urban neighborhoods outside of downtown. Just over a third of millennials identified in this 2014 nationwide survey live in such neighborhoods—preferably the walkable kind where they can get around without a car. Only 13 percent live downtown, which tends to be more expensive. Another 17 percent are living in small towns and 7 percent in rural areas.

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