Changing the odds in favor of more happy, active-for-life kids in the Grand Traverse Region
This column originally appeared in the Traverse City Record-Eagle on March 12, 2020.
In case you missed it, the City of Traverse City was just announced as a finalist for the 2020 Michigan Governor’s Fitness Award in the “Active Community” category for its recent Safe Routes To School efforts to increase healthy action transportation-centered access to schools across our town. An inspirational $2M investment around Traverse City’s 10 in-town schools is on track for construction this year. Even if we don’t beat out City of Kalamazoo and City of Mackinac Island for the honor, being in the top three in the state this year is a big deal that deserves many high fives.
It’s not exactly news that Traverse City is an active town. With our many runners, walkers, bikers, skiers, hikers, and swimmers, we see this on display daily year ‘round, but what I’m really excited about is the recent investment in the health of our young people.
From more sidewalks and safer crosswalks around neighborhood schools to creating more engaging-for-all-ages art in public places to new and improved neighborhood parks including Hickory Hills, I love that Traverse City is making it safe and fun for kids and their friends to play and explore independently.
By making outside easier–the obvious and irresistible choice–we’re nudging the system away from a culture of screens, the coach, and mom the unpaid Uber driver to a culture of happy, healthy, and independent active-for-life kids.
- Kids like Tripp who’s biked to Eastern Elementary every day this school year.
- Kids like Moses who I saw skateboarding by the bay with his buddies last Sunday when it was in the 50s.
- Kids like Mae and Wren who embraced skating on their neighborhood rink off of 14th Street.
- Kids like my son, Jameson, who lives at the Civic Center skatepark with his crew even in March.
- Kids like Kira who walks to take the Bayline to Greenspire School every day.
- Kids like Parker who go down on wide skies very fast at Hickory.
- And kids like Will who go up on skinny skis very fast at Hickory.
When we see kids like these in our town, we know we’re doing something right. Much like the trout in a stream tells us the habitat is healthy. It’s the same way with kids in a town. They’re an indicator species of a strong, vibrant town. Outside kids are healthier, happier kids which is the foundation of an active community. Today, and tomorrow.
By dreaming big, thinking differently, and intentionally disrupting the status quo of childhood obesity, anxiety and depression by design, we’ll continue to change the odds in favor of more – lots more! – happy, active-for-life kids.
In the not so distant future, Traverse City won’t just be the most active town in Michigan, but the most active town in America.
Let’s keep it rolling.
Stay Home. Stay Safe. Stay Active, Responsibly
Outside is not canceled. It has been deemed essential.
To navigate our way through this and come out with a stronger community, staying active, staying healthy, staying responsible is our challenge. Norte programs empower everyone to make outdoor activities part of our everyday lives. Now is the time, like no other, to put that into practice. Get out solo. Explore the area around your home with your family unit. You can wave to your friends from opposite sides of the street.
Importantly, stay active responsibly. The Stay Home, Stay Safe order by Governor Gretchen Whitmer is not a suggestion, it is an order. Thankfully, it recognizes that working out the kinks and stretching our legs is essential.
Physical Distancing, Social Solidarity
During this time, we must also maintain the social support networks we have, even if that means, for the time being, focusing on timely Facebook shout outs, friendly text messages, and calls, virtual meet-ups, and shouts across the street to a neighbor on their porch. Social distancing is the chosen public health term, and we can honor it with physical distancing and social solidarity. With that in mind, we will be adding activities to the list below to help keep us busy.
Healthy, Safe, Fun Things To Do:
- Adventurama Scavenger Hunts – Fun family-friendly bike scavenger hunts.
- 20 Mile Family Walk Challenge – Walk one mile a day with your family. School Competition plus a “Be Kind” challenge.
- Virtual Bike Mas Project – Learn urban bike safety skills at home in your neighborhood with your family. For 1st-5th graders. Free.
- Virtual Farm Team – Learn mountain bike skills at home in your neighborhood with your family. For 1st-5th graders. Free.
- Virtual Grand Traverse Regional Youth Mountain Bike Team – Free coaching for 6-12th graders.
- Virtual Estrellas – Learn balance bike pro tips with your preschooler from our experts. Free.
- Grand Traverse Kids’ Bike Library – Awesome bikes for awesome kids. Free. For lower elementary students.
- Balance Bike Share – For preschoolers and kindergarteners. Borrow a balance bike for spring and summer. By appointment and donation.
- Virtual Kids’ Bike Mechanics Classes – Learn basic bike repair and maintenance skills with Mr. Ben. For upper elementary and middle school students. Free.
- At Home Bike Skillz – Our Program Director shows off his skills course. Let’s see yours.
- Food By Bicycle Month – Shop your favorite grocery store, market or bakery by bike all April long and be entered to win some sweet prizes.
- Going on a [Teddy] Bear Hunt – In partnership with 5 to One. Put a teddy bear in your window or porch so kids can search for them on their neighborhood walks.
- Kolo TC’s #SOLo Challenge – Let’s ride together, separately. For high school students.
- Kids’ Poster Contest – Create a Norte inspired poster. We’ll print it and hang around town.
Stay Home. Stay Safe. Stay Active, Responsibly. We’ll get through this together. We encourage everyone to follow the State’s COVID19 Website and Grand Traverse County COVID19 for continued updates to all CDC recommendations and information.
A special shout out to those on the front lines at Munson Healthcare – Thank you! They are in dire need of community support. Please click through to see if there’s something you can do. They need donations and medical supplies.
Once things return to normal, we’ll have way more fun things to do, promise. Stay up to date and involved.