Let’s plant 1000 trees together!🌲

 Let’s plant 1000 trees together!🌲

We know there are many changes we can make to ensure we live a low or zero-emissions life. Many of them, we probably already do. Avoiding idling gas-powered vehicles, buying local, using an electric or push mower, and of course, walking or rolling whenever we can.

The more carbon in our atmosphere, the greater the greenhouse effect heats our planet. Choosing zero-emission transportation, like walking and riding a bike, means we’re not adding to the exorbitant 415 parts per million of carbon in our atmosphere (actually, make that 420 PPM as of last weekend).

But what’s there to do about that carbon already up there? That’s where our happy little trees come in.

This spring, Norte’s again teaming up with our friends at the Conservation Resource Alliance to bring 1000 new trees to Northern Michigan. These little seedlings — with species all native to Northern Michigan — will one day grow up to store the atmosphere’s carbon in their trunks and branches and use it to produce oxygen for safe breathing.

Plant it

Want to be a part of the tree-planting celebration? Here’s how you can participate and plant up to five trees. Bonus, it’s at no cost to you.

  1. Visit Plant Northern Michigan to see what species are currently available. If your workplace or school wants to join in, please use our Plant Northern Michigan Partners page.
  2. Pick up your trees at the Clubhouse on May 1, 2021, and have a plan to plant your trees within three days of receiving them — check CRA’s care tips.
  3. Please share your photos with us! We love to see them and follow your seedling’s growth.
  4. Put your trees on the map, so we can track where all the Norte seedlings go.

Join the thousands, if not millions, of heroes planting trees across Earth this spring. Together, we can do amazing things.

Jessie, Communications Coordinator

Title Sponsor Logo for Plant NoMi




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The March Forward Continues

Norte’s 2020 Annual Report

Despite the urge, we’re not quite ready to bury the tumultuous year of 2020, so today, we roll-out Norte‘s 2020 Annual Report. With stories, images, and graphics, we offer a glimpse into the story of last year. We recognize the difficulties while celebrating the successes.

To tell the year’s story, we invited board members, coaches, and core staff to contribute their perspectives on the year. In these pages, we thank hundreds of donors and fantastic volunteers, in addition to Norte‘s seasonal bike coaches and the growing team of Business Champions. All of whom we depend on to keep rolling towards our vision of happy, healthy, strong.

The stories we’ve collected in this 24-page report aren’t the only stories we experienced. There are far too many to retell in one account. For example, sidewalks and shared streets were a big part of 2020—including a heartfelt story about sidewalk chalk art. We also joined with critical partners for a future Three Mile Trail and a more accessible East Bay Township.

Check out the Report Button

There are some untold but revealing stories we left out of the report as well. For example, one particular page quickly rose to one of our most visited and useful, as Very Orange Norte Mask took off. Thank you, Ms. Arnold, of Customs By Susan, for keeping us safe. Similarly, when we started selling used bikes, visits to the online used bikes + accessories page skyrocketed. The web page ended up the most viewed page of the entire year (the store is still open, by the way).

Notably, the annual report is a way to look forward. It gives us a chance to take stock of what we achieved, build on what we learned, and further dedicate ourselves to keep it rolling. We trust you’ll enjoy reflecting with us.


Gary, Advocacy & Communications Director

P.S. Thank you to Chelsea Bay Dennis for contributing her design talents, for everyone who contributed stories and content, and for everyone who helped pull the 2020 Annual Report together.



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Three Woofs for Neighborhood Advocacy

A dog at Wags West opening celebration

Three Woofs for Neighborhood Advocacy

Groundwork Center and Norte recently wrapped up the 2021 Advocate Academy. This year’s academy was slightly different as we took it online, and the new format opened it up to individuals further afield. We had people log on from across Michigan, and even one snowbird logged on from Florida.

One element of the academy we continued was the use of stories, particularly success stories, to help prepare participants for more effective advocacy campaigns—the six-week course centers around iterative steps for a successful campaign. We begin with the need for a clear goal and problem statement to building coalitions, identifying obstacles, and implementing a game plan. And, of course, celebrating.

In Week 3, I tell the story of Traverse City’s first off-leash dog park—a project I was involved in as a volunteer park and recreation commissioner. It illustrates a well-designed citizen-led initiative and helps walk us through each step.

After this year’s telling of the story, I felt it was time to put it down in writing. A version of the following was first published in the Northern Express. ~ Gary

Turn the City over to the Dogs

We’d heard that they were coming, but we didn’t know how long they’d stay. The public didn’t usually take time to attend our monthly Parks and Recreation Commission meetings. Still, on this particular Thursday evening, ten long years ago, a controversial project on West Bay was on the agenda. As we expected, over 100 people came to speak on it.

The other group of individuals we’d heard were coming sat patiently in the back of the room. They weren’t there for the controversy. They weren’t even on the agenda. They were there to request that Traverse City build the area’s first off-leash dog park. They may as well have been asking to put dogs on Mars.

The City was in the middle of a multimillion-dollar transformation of its bayfront. The Parks and Rec Commission—although it was growing in importance—was still an advisory body with no authority. Any progress that came out of the commission came from the sheer doggedness of City residents and the commission’s volunteer members.

Good Dog QuoteThat night in spring, when we finally made it to the point in the meeting where the general public gets to comment, Jami and Levi rose from their seats in the back to propose a dog park within the City limits on behalf of their small group of supporters. They explained that their requests to the township and the county had been unsuccessful. “It’s just a fence,” they said. “We can do this before summer starts. Traverse City can do this.”

It’s no secret that I prefer dogs over people, generally speaking. When I travel to other cities and towns, I visit the places people set aside for dogs to run and play. So I was strongly sympathetic to Jami and Levi’s cause. As a Parks and Rec Commission member, I knew that the City had recently added the establishment of a dog park to its five-year plan. And as an observer of local politics, I knew that this request from a small group of citizens for a dog park didn’t stand much of a chance in the City Manager’s office or with the City Commission, even with our commission’s recommendation. In 2011, the City’s top leaders were focused on reducing staff, reducing costs, and paving roads. If we were to wag the dog on this one, we’d need a plan.

“I’m with you,” I told Jami and Levi after the meeting. “I appreciate your optimism, but we need to work on your timeline. Success is going to take a lot of work.” They left, suspicious but committed. A month later, they returned to our monthly meeting to remind us of their request, and the Parks and Rec Commission created a subcommittee to work with the dog park champions.

We didn’t open the dog park before summer, as Jami and Levi had hoped. Advocacy for good, even for good dogs, is rarely a straight line. It took over a year and a half to open Wags West, which is still today the City’s only off-leash dog park (there’s now also Silver Lake Dog Park 10 minutes west of town). It took nine months to develop a plan and get it before the City Commission. It took another six months for the City to bid for fencing. It took the better part of a year to raise the $30,000 it cost to build the park. It took a few more years to add water stations and a donor sign—thank you, everyone.

To navigate this long journey from civic improvement idea to public infrastructure reality, we created a vision and a step-by-step plan to get there. The schedule kept us optimistic when obstacles nipped at our heels and howls of opposition filled the skies.

We set a clear goal. We wanted an off-leash dog park in the City where dogs and people could socialize. We referred to it as an off-leash human park. We wanted to bring people together as much as we wanted to make lives better for our canine friends.

We defined the issue. Dog parks were becoming increasingly popular around the country. Formal dog parks in the US took off in 1979, but there wasn’t a single dog park in our region. Establishing an off-leash dog park would meet the growing number of dog owners’ needs and improve the City’s quality of life and economic vitality.

We built a coalition. We launched an outreach strategy that included a public survey on the issue and awareness-building events around the community. Businesses showed their pro-dog tags by signing on and promoting the cause. As the coalition grew, so did the momentum.

We identified obstacles. Funding was chief among the project’s barriers to success. We knew the City Commission would not acquiesce to any money coming from the City’s budget. So we raised money. The Parks and Rec Commission also held public hearings and listened to concerns. My favorite came from a gentleman who proudly stood up and told us, “I live near the proposed site. I can see why you chose it and agree it is a good location. I came today to let you know I don’t want it near me, but I wish you good luck.” After the meeting, we walked the site with him and talked about ways to improve our plans.

We stuck to our plan. All good dreams are adapted as they meet the realities of time. Our path to dog park glory had its share of twists and turns. But we kept our noses on the scent and reached our quarry.

We celebrated. In any endeavor, an essential step is the celebration of victories. After we were approved, we celebrated with a Mardi-Paws celebration. And when the fence was complete in the fall of 2012, we threw a party in the park with dogs and humans invited to attend off-leash. There were prizes, costumes, and plenty of ear scratching.

Eight years later, we’re still celebrating. We champions have all gone our separate ways, but every time we pass the corner of Division and Bay St., we shout out to the dogs and people happily enjoying a place reserved for them to be themselves. We also bay encouragement to others looking to make their community better. Stay on the hunt.


If you are interested in learning more about Norte’s ongoing advocacy for all things worth barking about, shoot me an email at gary@elgruponorte.org. You can review Norte’s ongoing projects at Walk and Roll Advocacy.



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More Kids on Bikes is the Answer

Image of smiling kids on bikes and Norte team members.

After years of being asked, “how can we start something like Norte in my town,” Norte is finally ready and willing to assist. Not that we’re experts in organizational development, but we’ve learned a thing or two about creating rocking bike programs, engaging community champions, encouraging citizen advocacy, and finding a way to make it work when all odds say it shouldn’t.

This winter, we helped Jenny and her team at Velo Kids in Holland, Michigan, grow their youth mountain bike program and launch a summer bike camp. It is empowering to see Velo Kids replicate the magic we create here in Northern Michigan. We have been growing and fine-tuning our system since 2013, and I love that we share big goals with them.

Jenny was kind enough to offer the following testimonial. I encourage everyone to check out their excellent work.

Norte has been such a help as we have expanded our programming to include Summer Bike Camps and Junior Velo Mountain Bike Club. Ty’s advice and assistance have been awesome, from insurance questions to strategic plans and coach hiring to curriculum development. We are so thankful and look forward to this partnership in the future.

Thank you for helping us get more kids on bikes!”

-Jenny White, Velo Kids Board President

If you or your community is interested, or know someone who is, let me know. Our youth-focused, walk-and-roll advocacy calls northern Michigan home, but we’re ready to help local changemakers across the state. If a community is looking to build a healthy culture around active-for-life kids and stronger, better connected, more walk and roll-friendly communities, we’re interested.

We are available for guest speaking, coaching, hands-on training, and continued consultation as your programs and efforts grow.

Read more at Norte Consulting and shoot me an email to get started.

Let’s roll!

Ty, Executive Director


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Attracted by a Desire to Help

Jessie Williams in the Norte Clubhouse

Last January, I decisively told myself that I didn’t know what I would do for Summer 2020. This is definitively unlike me. I’m someone who maintains a spreadsheet of my plans through the next four years. As it turns out, even if I had made plans for last summer, they likely would have been canceled.  Like many college students last spring, I unexpectedly found myself at home taking Zoom classes.

As the pandemic grew larger and summer approached, I knew I wanted to do something as impactful as my job as a Resident Advisor on campus. I needed something that tangibly helped people during the challenges of 2020. Then, I saw a listing for an AmeriCorps VISTA hosted through United Way.

I’d previously heard about AmeriCorps through my friend Eva, who spent a year in Petrolia, California, as a VISTA. Her work seemed similar to what I missed about my work as an RA — planning ways to help people, encourage healthy behaviors, and positively change the community around me. From my first chats with Ranae McCauley of United Way and Ty, I knew and hoped that Norte was the place for me to spend my summer helping people do the most good.

I had some prior experience with Norte, which isn’t typically the case for everyone considering being a VISTA. As a Traverse City native, I’d used Norte’s Very Orange bike racks more times than I could count. I’d also always noticed that everywhere something remarkable was going on, Norte was a part of it. There were bike valets at Concerts on the Lawn, and a rainbow-colored Slow Roll at Pride Week. All my favorite businesses happened to be Norte Business Champions. This was promising. 

As an Environment major, I was 100% on board for helping Norte with the radical and important work of teaching future generations a zero-emissions way to get around their community — and how to do so on their own two feet. I’d learned my way around Traverse City by walking and biking it, but not every student had that same opportunity.

When I started as a VISTA, I was introduced to Summer Bike Camp’s excitement and commotion, along with the Grand Traverse Regional Kids’ Bike Library. The Bike Library was a project that directly fit my interests. I would be recycling bikes between kids to get them moving in a way that fits their needs, their families’ resources aside.

Through my daily work with the Bike Library, I’ve met many incredible people, colleagues, and patrons. While developing my database management and project management skills, I learned how to determine relevant metrics and design tracking systems that were simple and user-friendly. My experience sending out and analyzing survey results from both the Bike Library and Summer Bike Camp has made me feel one step ahead of my upcoming senior thesis project, with real-world surveying already under my belt.

More than the academic skills I took away from my Norte VISTA experience, I’ve appreciated the overwhelming and astounding positivity of Norte as a work environment and as an organization. I’ll never forget some of the moments from my summer as a VISTA. I witnessed tears of joy when I was able to find a green bike for a young boy. I walked in on a Summer Bike Camp team, making up a cheer for the fun of it. I shared a young rider’s first jubilant pedal away from the Wheelhouse on a “New Bike Day.”

Lastly, being a Norte VISTA changed the way I view the community around me. I take more notice of my commutes that had previously been more destination-oriented than memorable. I’ve realized that I’m in the minority by having sidewalks and bike lanes to keep me protected where I most frequently travel. It also brings the biggest smile to my face when I see kids and their guardians riding or walking together. I can’t help but wonder if I’ll see them in a Norte program soon.

If you’re like me a year ago, thinking about what you want to get up to this coming summer, consider becoming an Americorps VISTA for Norte. It’s an opportunity to do much more than ride bikes — though you’ll definitely have that opportunity. As a VISTA for Norte, you’ll have a chance to learn new skills, witness greatness,  and connect with a community of people striving for happy, healthy, strong for all. 


Email Jessie if you want to learn more about being a VISTA for Norte


In addition to VISTA opportunities, Norte has several opportunities to join Team Orange open. Currently, we’re seeking a year-round, part-time Bike Mechanic. The right candidate will manage the Grand Traverse Regional Kids’ Bike Library, Community Bike Shop at the Clubhouse, and Essential transportation program. We’re also looking for seasonal staff and coaches, including Youth Mountain Bike Team Coaches, Adventure Bike Club Coaches, Summer Bike Camp Coaches.

Finally, we need volunteer assistant coaches for Mountain Bike TeamBikes for All, and ABC. These positions are an excellent fit for individuals looking to build some coaching skills before taking on a team of their own in the future. We can start you as a volunteer for as little as one day a week.

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AmeriCorps VISTA Opportunity at Norte

Norte is seeking an AmeriCorps VISTA to join our team for 2021. The ideal candidate will be passionate about happy, healthy, strong communities and active–for–life kids. This position is full-time, year-round, and will report to the Director of Operations.

The United Way of NWMI coordinates this VISTA program, and six positions are available. They will be filled on a first-come, first-serve basis. The start date would be either April 12 or May 10.

The Norte VISTA supports a wide range of programming, outreach, and advocacy activities to further Norte’s mission of building happy, healthy, strong communities. Strong communication skills are essential to help Team Orange transform the culture of health in the Grand Traverse region.

Learn More about the position

Norte + AmericaCorps


HOW TO APPLY: Candidates should review the history, background, benefits, and service application at vistacampus.gov

When ready, send your compelling cover letter, along with a resume, to Ty Schmidt at ty@elgruponorte.org with “VISTA” in the subject line.

Vista applications accepted until

  • 5 pm EST on March 15, 2021, for the April 12 start date.
  • 5 pm EST on April 15, 2021, for the May 10 start date.

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Meet the Newest Members to Team Orange

Donor Relations Specialist Wes Sovis

Norte recently welcomed Wes Sovis to the Norte Staff as their Donor Relations Specialist. The youth-focused organization also added three new members to the Board of Directors, Jim Witte, Sue Paul, and Eric Mannix.

As Donor Relations Specialist, Sovis will manage fundraising and engagement activities supporting Norte’s youth programs, community outreach, and advocacy. His marketing and communications experience will fortify Norte’s foundation as it experiences rapid growth across the region.

“I’m thrilled to help Norte bring the benefits of bicycles, active lifestyles, and a more connected community to Northern Michigan,” said Sovis. “I hope to support our team so that we can be more efficient as fundraisers, develop more meaningful relationships with our donors, and, ultimately, have a bigger impact on the lives of thousands of people in our region.”

Q+M Agency formerly employed Sovis as an Account Executive. He was also the Digital Communications Manager for the Michigan Society of Association Executives.


2021 New Board Members, Jim Witte, Eric Mannix, and Sue Paul

Norte’s newest board members, from left to right, Jim Witte, Sue Paul, and an exhausted Eric Mannix.


In addition to staff growth, Norte recently welcomed three new board members. Eric Mannix of Traverse City, Jim Witte of Elk Rapids, and Sue Paul of Pennisula Township joined Norte’s Board of Directors at the February meeting. Directors serve three-year terms.

“I believe that it is an incredible achievement what Norte has accomplished in a very short time,” said Witte. “The Norte model is well-positioned to replicate and diversify in many areas. Developing specific and strategic plans for project and product implementation is an area that I have helped business clients achieve. I believe I can offer some of that same thinking for Norte initiatives.”

Norte’s Board of Directors adopted a two-year strategic plan in 2020, focusing on four primary areas for advancement:

  1. Active for Life Kids
  2. Happy, Healthy, Strong Communities
  3. Grassroots Advocacy
  4. A Leveled-Up Team Orange

The organization’s specific focus over the next two years is happy, healthy, strong initiatives for everyone. New board members will help guide accessibility, equity, and inclusion efforts for Norte programs and governing.

“As the mother of a special needs daughter, I’m thrilled to know Norte is working to accommodate and include this segment of our community,” said Paul. “I think my family’s personal experience, along with my training as an occupational therapist, can be beneficial to this organization.”

Mannix may be a new board member, but he’s no stranger to Norte. On June 27, 2020, he raised over $3,000 to put more kids on bikes in Eric’s Heavy Ride. On that day, Mannix biked over 100 miles and climbed over 11,000 feet in elevation on the Vasa Trails. He brings that same proactive, high energy to the board.

“I see Norte evolving more and more towards active–for–life and healthy lifestyle advocacy,” said Mannix. “While I believe the connection of Norte and bicycles will remain, Norte is striving to achieve its reach to attract more than just people on bikes. I see Norte reaching the young and old and inspiring them to be their best active self. I want to contribute to making that impact thoughtfully and expeditiously.”

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35 Years of Community Celebration with Retiring City Planner, Russ Soyring

Russ Soyring on a boat and relaxing.

Russ Soyring has served as the City Planner of Traverse City since 1986. His impact on the community is far and wide. In large part, it’s thanks to Soyring that Traverse City is consistently recognized as a leader in promoting walking and rolling. For the last 35 years, you could find him almost daily riding his bike from Central Neighborhood, through Hannah Park, and to the Governmental Center.

Last week, he sat down with Norte’s Advocacy Director, Gary Howe, to chat about his experience during the previous four decades and our community’s past and future challenges and opportunities. He retires this week. Team Orange extends our deepest gratitude for his vision and commitment to making Traverse City and Northern Michigan one of the best places to live.


Thank you, Russ. We look forward to working with you on your next big plans, even if we start small. 😉


Soyring’s position will be filled by Shawn Winter in early March. Winter facilitated Norte’s first Advocate Academy in 2018. We’re equally excited about the next 35 years for the community as we are looking back with Soyring. 

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Making Change One Step at a Time

Eleanor Brockway in front of her home in Central Neighborhood, Traverse City

Eleanor Brockway walks daily, and it’s by design.

Winter Walk Wednesday or not, when the temperatures hover around zero, it can take a little extra motivation to get out and walk. That’s why Norte supports the buddy system, whether by walking with an old friend or by reaching out to someone who offers–like a Norte staff member. We all need a little extra encouragement sometimes. 

Although walking for recreation is fairly common, choosing a lifestyle that promotes a walk by design is gaining momentum. When Eleanor Brockway, a Munson Medical Center nurse, moved to Traverse City she intentionally shifted her residence and her daily activities to support a walkable way of life year-round.  

Eleanor wasn’t always able to live a car-lite lifestyle. When Eleanor and her husband, Blaine, first moved to the area, they lived in Interlochen. They owned two cars, and walking for anything other than recreation was nearly impossible. That changed in 2018 when they moved to Traverse City, less than a mile from the hospital. 

“We are a one-car family now that we live in town. That was by design and I’m digging it,” she said. “This is a dream that I thought would never come true—being able to walk to work and have one car instead of two. I thought it was an unattainable dream.”

Quote: I'm pinching myself. I can't believe this is my life now. 

She didn’t think she could ever live close enough to walk to work because of the reputation that Traverse City is prohibitively expensive. However, once she and Blaine found a fixer-upper and redistributed their budget, they realized that her dream home in a walkable community was attainable after all.

“Getting rid of one car changed our whole view. It changed our budget and everything,” Eleanor explained. In 2020, the American Automobile Association calculated the real annual cost of vehicle ownership at $7,114, almost 6-10 months of mortgage payments. “I’m pinching myself. I can’t believe this is my life now.” 

Moving to Traverse City’s Central Neighborhood wasn’t all she did to get down to one car and more trips on foot. Upon moving to town, Eleanor switched banks, doctors, and other regular destinations. “I changed everything that I had to do, to something that I didn’t have to rely on a car,” she said. “If you’re not scared of change, it’s thrilling. I got excited. I can do everything without a car.”

The benefits of incorporating walking into a daily routine are robust. Walking reduces stress, improves overall physical and mental health while reducing pollution. Walking also connects us physically and socially to our community, often leading to a deeper appreciation for it and a desire to spark positive change

Eleanor certainly embodies this commitment to her community and is an alumnus of the 2020 Advocate Academy. She recognizes that Traverse City and the surrounding townships have a ways to go before everyone can make the changes she’s made. 

“I feel lucky because I know it isn’t possible for everybody,” she said. “Hopefully, we can become a more affordable place to live. I hope I can be part of that solution. I don’t know what those solutions are, but I’m willing to see what I can bring to the table.”

Reflecting on her Advocate Academy experience, she found the experience refreshing and found solidarity with other Academy members devoted to bettering the community. “Sometimes you forget that people care about this too. This is a group effort,” she said. “I found the whole thing so helpful to visualize start to finish what it takes to implement change.”


Let us know who you’re walking with this winter, on Winter Walk Wednesdays or any other day. If you’re looking for someone to match your strides, consider inviting someone at Norte. Our staff is ready. Reach out. Let’s walk together—safely and responsibly, of course. 


Safe and Responsible


In Memory of James Emmett Boardman

Jim riding his tricycle in Elk Rapids, shortly after moving there in May of 2020.
Jim Boardman riding his tricycle in Elk Rapids, shortly after moving into the area in May of 2020.


Our thoughts have been with our Outreach Coordinator, Lauren Dake, and her family since her father passed away on Christmas week. Recently, her aunt donated to Norte on behalf of her brother and shared the following story. With her permission, we share it here.


Dear wonderful people at Norte,

I have just made an online donation of $100 in memory of my brother, James Boardman, Lauren Dake’s father, who died on December 21, 2020.

Bike riding was an integral part of our childhoods. Although my brother was profoundly Deaf and had a severe visual impairment, he loved bike riding throughout his whole life.

As his vision deteriorated, he began riding an adult tricycle. In April of 2020, he was diagnosed with ALS and moved with his wife out to Traverse City to be closer to Lauren. Knowing his love of biking and his reduced physical condition, Lauren got him an electric tricycle. Riding this bike prolonged his ability to exercise and his sense of independence while exploring Elk Rapids and his new neighborhood in Acme.

Working for Norte, Lauren has also facilitated some bike riding gatherings for Deaf people in the Traverse City area. My brother Jim was very proud of Lauren’s work with Norte. He recognized the wholesome benefits of outdoor exercise, adventure, transportation, and social interaction, which Norte promotes. I know my brother enjoyed participating in Norte Meetups for the Deaf Community this past autumn.

I have been on the Norte email list this past year, and I am so impressed with your organization. Although I live in the Adirondacks of NY, I love reading about all your activities. I am thrilled with Lauren’s involvement. It seems a perfect match for her varied skills and interests.

Keep up the great work!

Nan Boardman Amstutz


Thank you, Nan. We appreciate your support and sharing the story of your brother with Team Orange.


Ride in Peace

James Emmett Boardman



Happy healthy Strong

Norte’s Annual Civic Center Report

Norte Civic Center Banner

Norte is very proud to call the Civic Center home. It’s a perfect fit, actually. Each year we submit a report to our hosts, the Grand Traverse County Parks and Recreation Commissioners. As we enter our 5th year here at the park, we count them as a cherished partner—thank you! The following is a tally of accomplishments that took place at the Grand Traverse Civic Center last year. 

Highlights from 2020

Clubhouse and Community Bike Shop

  • Provided free access to our community bike shop at the Clubhouse, including sharing our tools, supplies, workbenches, and knowledge to park users. 
  • Provided mobile hand-washing stations to our campers and park users outside of both the Clubhouse and Wheelhouse in response to the pandemic. 
  • This past fall, we hosted daily, safe balance bike meet-ups for preschoolers on the grassy area next to the Clubhouse.
  • Provided 16 bikes to adults in need of reliable transportation as part of the new Essential Transportation program.
  • Continue to maintain and offer a Bike Track made of 48 wooden pieces as a free skills playground open for public use at both the Clubhouse and Wheelhouse.

Educational Programs and Outreach

  • Grew the Grand Traverse Kids’ Bike Library to 270 bikes at the Wheelhouse, allowing young riders to come to the Wheelhouse to check out a free bike for as long as it fits them. 
  • In partnership with Food Rescue, organized the 3rd Annual Cranksgiving Traverse City at the Wheelhouse, a bicycle-powered community food drive that supported 14 local food pantries.
  • In Fall 2020, we launched Norte MeetUps for the Deaf Community, a weekly chance to gather and ride bikes, starting at the Wheelhouse. 
  • Continued to celebrate and organize Winter Walk Wednesday, a weekly celebration of people—young and old—winter walking in the community, focusing on using the well maintained Civic Center path.
  • In partnership with the Traverse City Track Club, hosted a safe #OptOutside meet-up at the Civic Center, which featured running on the new “shadow trail.”
  • Ran the Traverse City Summer Bike Camp from the Wheelhouse, which served 600+ 1st–8th graders who started and finished at the park during the summer. 

Park and Community Engagement

  • Participated in the Civic Center Master Plan process as a partner and stakeholder.
  • Began planning for the Bike Education Center as outlined in the Master Plan. This development will build on the work by Influential Design Forum for the Pump Track + Traffic Garden design, which Norte contributed $2,000 to in 2019.
  • Successfully extended the $7,500 grant we received from People For Bikes in 2019 for the Civic Center’s Education Center. Funds are now to be spent by the end of 2021. 
  • Continued the “Art in the Park” project Lindy Bishop’s “Our Piece of the Peaceable Kingdom” on the south wall and Chase Hunt’s “Stars” mural on the west side of the Wheelhouse.
  • Supported the City of Traverse City in re-scoping the approved $2M Safe Routes To School infrastructure grant, which includes improvements near the park, including a sidewalk on Civic Center Drive, Front & Fair intersection improvements, sidewalks on Fair Street, the improved crosswalk at Garfield & Washington, and a new Fair & 8th crosswalk.
  • Advocated for an in-street pedestrian sign at Garfield & Washington to improve pedestrians’ access and connection to the park.
  • Provided a pop-up bike rack at Woodland School bus stop at the Civic Center this fall to encourage students to “Bike 2 Bus.”

Services Paused Due to COVID Concerns

  • 24–hours at the Civic Center was canceled in May, and we’re aiming to bring a reimagined version in 2021 to grow the friendship base and support for the park.
  • Educational field trips at the Wheelhouse for schools like Eastern Elementary and The Children’s House. 
  • Educational bike mechanics classes for the young and young at heart at the Wheelhouse.
  • The Spring 2020 Open House for the Civic Center’s partners at the Wheelhouse.
  • Learn to ride programs for Oak Park School and TBAISD students.


Here’s to bigger and brighter in 2021 and beyond!

Happy healthy Strong

Walking and Talking With Lee Elston

Lee Elston smiling at the Grand Traverse Civic Center

Although we’re recognized for our work getting kids on bikes, Norte is a firm believer in the power of walking. When we walk, we take critical steps towards both individual health and community health. When we walk, we see things differently within ourselves and in the community around us. Recently, I walked with someone who embodies the commitment to walking to stay active and connected.

Lee Elston walks 120 miles a month, mainly with her neighbors, friends, and, occasionally, new folks who come along like me. We walked a two-lapper at the Grand Traverse County Civic Center. At a healthy 3.6 mph pace, we walked and talked about winter, health, Blue Zones, community, and tango.

“I’ve been walking for nine months. I go every day. Now my friend wants me to walk with her once a week. It has really brought on a lot of walking, talking with my friends,” said Lee. “If you’re on a treadmill, you’re just by yourself, and that’s just more isolation.”

From the sounds of it, Lee is anything but isolated. From volunteering at Interlochen Arts Academy, teaching part-time at Northwestern Michigan College, and participating in the local tango scene, she’s regularly out there in the community. “If your community is where you gather, my community is on the tango dance floor,” she said.

Unfortunately, many of her community connections aren’t up and running during the pandemic, including dance. Last May, Lee realized she needed something to keep her active and connected to a community. Thinking it was odd that none of her neighbors knew each other, she asked a neighbor if she could join her walk one day. As they walked more, their circle of friends grew. “Then we started meeting people and walking, and we started connecting with people. We now know the neighborhood,” she said.

Quote, what is good for your heart, is good for your brain

Lee believes in the power of walking side by side. It provides an opportunity to discuss each other’s lives and check-in with each other. It brings people together, even if they are quite different in many ways. Walking together with her neighbors, she’s discovering commonalities. For Lee, that’s adding intentionality in her life that aligns with the communal benefits she sees in the Blue Zones concept.

Blue Zones are regions where people tend to live much longer and be much healthier than people in other places in the world. In addition to moderate, regular exercise, community engagement is a common trait of Blue Zones. After 30 years as a nurse at Munson, when Lee retired, she found herself asking how she can do more to connect with her neighbors.

“I’m into communal living, where people can take care of each other as they age,” offered Lee. “It’s a way to combat loneliness.”

She’s also into winter walking, out in the cold and snow. Lee moved to Northern Michigan from Miami Beach for a job at Munson. After a rough first year settling in, learning what a snowmobile is and how to make a fire, Lee is now happy putting on her boots for a winter walk.

“I don’t like hot weather. This is my jam right here. There’s nothing wrong with this weather,” she said as we walked into a slight breeze at the Civic Center. “You just have to get out. Yeah, it is cold. But I don’t feel cold.”

Lee recently was inspired by an interview with neurosurgeon and author Sanjay Gupta. He’s making the rounds interviewing for his latest book, Keep Sharp: How To Build a Better Brain at Any Age.

“What is good for your heart is good for your brain. So what we are doing now, exercising, it’s also good for your brain,” she said, paraphrasing Gupta. “I think these are going to be my words for a little bit. If you’re doing something good for your heart, your brain is definitely going to benefit.”

“Us oldsters are concerned about our brains. Nobody wants to get Alzheimer’s or dementia.”

Lee’s has advice for people who think of walking as a chore: start with small goals and gradually increase your distance and pace. “I try to take the task out of it. I want walking to be enjoyable. I think when you walk with someone, it takes the task out of it,” said Lee.

That’s something Norte can get behind—walking together and keeping it fun, like Lee.

Let us know who you’re walking with this winter, on Winter Walk Wednesdays, or any other day. If you’re looking for someone to match your strides, consider inviting someone at Norte. Our staff is ready. Reach out. Let’s walk together—safely and responsibly, of course. 


Safe and Responsible


Jim and the Three Lapper

Norte’s Executive Director describes the joy of walking and talking with friends and mentors at the Grand Traverse Civic Center.

I have a hard time sitting still. Always have. In first grade, my teacher once tied me to my chair because I wouldn’t stay at my desk. Pacing in the back of the class calmed my brain and helped me learn. 38 years later, I’m still pacing. I’m still learning.

Instead of pacing at school, I now walk at work. Fortunately, one of my offices is outside at the Grand Traverse County Civic Center, one of our Grand Traverse’s finest parks. The nearly one-mile path is my new favorite place to mull things over—one step at a time. Since the pandemic arrived in northern Michigan last March, I’ve walked nearly 100 laps at the Civic Center.

Occasionally these are solitary endeavors, but more often — while masked and distanced — they’re with others; friends, colleagues, advisors, and partners to plan, strategize, problem-solve, and develop ideas.

Most of these meetings are what I call “one lapper.” These are 20-minute jaunts that are just enough time for most subjects. Sometimes, if we need more time to flush out a more convoluted agenda item, we’ll have a “two lapper.”

And then there’s the “three lap’er.” These one-hour walks are limited, and I save them for the deep dives into complex problems. They offer plenty of time and fresh air to reflect, inquire, struggle, and imagine enduring solutions that get to the root cause — again, one step at a time.

My favorite three lappers recently have been with my friend Jim. Jim is one of my senior advisors. He’s wise. He’s also very generous with his wisdom, and I try my best to soak it up on our walks around the Civic Center.

Jim grew up on a lake near Cadillac and graduated from Michigan State University. He moved to the Traverse City area in the ‘80s and founded a successful media business. He likes to say, “why sit and talk when you can walk and talk.” I couldn’t agree more.

So walk and talk, we do. Our discussions about leadership and adaption ebb and flow with the Civic Center path’s gentle ups and downs.

The easy curves guide us into conversations about thinking differently and acting with a sense of urgency. As we nod hello to passersby, we talk about disrupting the status quo and changing the odds in favor of more — lots more — active-for-life kids in the Grand Traverse region. Around we go, always dreaming of a better tomorrow.

In this age of Zoom — and hearing once again, “you’re still on mute, Ty”— I’m grateful for these masked up face-to-face walks with Jim. I’m thankful for public parks like the Civic Center that provide a safe, comfortable place to walk and think year-round. I’m grateful I can walk freely and thrilled I’m no longer tied to my desk chair.

Want to walk a lap or three and dream of a happy, healthy, post-covid world? I’m in. Shoot me an email at ty@elgruponorte.org. Let’s walk together.

*This column appeared in the Record-Eagle on December 17.



To invite any of Norte’s staff for a walk, contact us and let’s walk together


Happy. Healthy. Strong.


#GivingTuesday, Meet #ThankyouWednesday

Few things are certain in 2020, but one thing remains constant—#GivingTuesday begets #ThankyouWednesday. I have a few thank yous to mention from yesterday.

Thank you to Goodwill Northern Michigan for hosting us at Carson Square for our first Norte TuneUp. Jen Patten and Rachel McGinley greeted us with open arms and set Team Orange and residents up with hot chili, coffee, and hot chocolate all afternoon. Dan Buron and his team made it easy and allowed us to focus on fixing bikes.

Thank you to the residents of Carson Square. Program Director Ben and I were still emptying the van and setting up the first tent when Craig rolled in on an old Schwinn Collegiate three-speed. It no longer suited him, so we set him up with a step-through that’s a little easier. The community’s self-proclaimed “Mama Bear” quickly followed to inquire what we were up to with all these tents and tools. Told that we were there to fix up some bikes for Carson Square residents, she immediately set out to gather up bikes belonging to families with children.

Throughout the day, people dropped by with bikes in need of some love or simply say hello. A few were thrilled to hear that yes, the extra bikes we’d brought were free to people who needed them. “If it fits and you can use it, ride it away.”

Thank you to Team Orange’s volunteer bike mechanics.  Ben put out the call, and Bob, Dan, Paul, Yarro, Pepe, and, the legend himself, Don Cunkle of Recycle-a-Bicycle, answered it for the first Norte TuneUp. All told, the crew fixed-up 16 bicycles and gave away eight used bikes in need of a home. We lost count of the number of thank yous from appreciative riders. Hearing “this rides like new” was music to our ears!

Thank you to yesterday’s generous donors. We had a goal of $2500 for the annual day of generosity, and 43 of you shot us past that goal. Thank you to everyone who helped us raise $3,056 on #GivingTuesday. Donations will help us hold additional Norte TuneUps in 2021.

Norte’s end of the year appeal continues, and your end-of-year gift will ensure that we can deliver programs and initiatives to build happy, healthy, strong communities across Northern Michigan—for everyone. Please consider Norte in your 2021 end-of-the-year gifts.


Onward and upward.

Gary Howe, Advocacy Director


P.S. Thank you also to local bike shops (Brick Wheels, Einstein Cycles, City Bike Shop, McLain Cycle and Fitness).

Thank you again to the volunteer mechanics: Shown above, left to right, top to bottom: Don Cunkle, Bob Davidson, Yarro Ireland (and helper, Makaio), and Dan Curnayn. Not shown, Paul Dayo, Pepe Sanz-Perez, and, of course, Ben Boyce.



Thank you for a Bountiful 2020 Cranksgiving

Thank you to all who participated in another triumphant Cranksgiving in Northern Michigan. We had over 50 teams from Suttons Bay, Traverse City, and Elk Rapids. We collected 1821 pounds of food in Traverse City and well over 2500 pounds in total. Who says you can’t go shopping on a bicycle? 😉

Thank you to our partner, Food Rescue of Northwest Michigan, and scores of food pantries in Northern Michigan. You helped to not only make this the most successful Cranksgiving yet, but your work also ensures that families across Northern Michigan have food on the table. We’re grateful for you and your work. 

Norte encourages everyone who can to give to your local pantry and Food Rescue this season. The Northwest Food Coalition has an extensive list of pantries and ways to give.

Thank you also to our Cranksgiving sponsor, State Farm agent, Susan Sofferdine Rauser Agency. She even showed up with donuts and cider to keep everyone fueled up.

Want your team photo? The slideshow below runs through the team photos from Traverse City’s Cranksgiving. If you would like a larger file of your team photo, email gary@elgruponorte.org with your team name and the image’s number.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


9&10 News visited the fun at the Wheelhouse and filed this report: Community Members Bike to Donate Food for Norte’s Cranksgiving



🦃   Happy Thanksgiving   🦃



Everybody Vs Covid – Let’s Do This!

Everybody Vs Covid – Let’s Do This!

Norte cares about health—your health, the health of kids, the health of communities, and we are doing our part to protect the community. We applaud the heroes among us who:

  • Wear a mask
  • Avoid indoor spaces with others.
  • Wash their hands

It sounds simplistic, and yet, these precautions are critical. Every region that has successfully slowed this coronavirus’s spread has high compliance with these three precautions. These are steps that we all can take, and they work together. The Swiss Cheese model illustrates how these precautions work together and with others to prevent the virus’s spread. Following these precautions is not overreacting. It’s taking steps to protect your health and the health of others.

The creator of the Swiss Cheese illustration above, Ian M. Macay, Ph.D., is sharing versions in multiple languages. Read it in 18 different languages!

We are in the middle of an exponentially-expanding spike in COVID-19 cases across the country, and right here at home in Northern Michigan, too. This week, the alarms went off as health officials try to prepare the public for the rapidly-approaching holidays. They warn against indoor gatherings but know the pull of families, friends, and holiday traditions is strong. Realistically, we know that cases and deaths caused by the pandemic—already at critical levels—will increase due to these gatherings. They are asking us to avoid indoor spaces with others– follow the recommendations limiting groups to 10 people and no more than two households.

As we have all year, Norte continues to offer safe programming for happy, healthy, strong communities. And as we take pandemic precautions, we are also promoting other vital health needs of our community – namely, staying active and staying connected. As we work and learn remotely, limit our time away from home, and reduce our social circles, these foundations of healthy living and a resilient community need our support. Two current events offer both.

  • Norte’s Run Sábados is a weekly walk or run at the Grand Traverse Civic Center. We meet outside the Wheelhouse at 10 am on Saturdays, then split up and hit the track. In this time of greater isolation, weekly eye contact with a friendly face and a few words of encouragement are gifts. The brisk air in your lungs helps, too.
  • This coming Sunday, our annual Cranksgiving is a chance to stay active and give back by helping families and neighbors in need. With the new orders, we are adjusting the event to reduce the possibility of congregating. We will have more info later this week – but get your costumes ready. Cranksgiving is still a go–responsibly.

We know people are tired. I’m even a little tired of people saying we’re tired. However, we have shown what we can do as a community when we flattened the curve last spring. The Norte community stood tall all summer and through the fall, helping us safely run our most successful bike programs. Let’s continue to be leaders together and recognize our shared responsibility. Norte has your back.

Stay safe, healthy, and active – responsibly.


– Gary, Advocacy Director


For the latest on Michigan’s coronavirus fight,

please visit michigan.gov/coronavirus

Advocacy Newsletter: Hey, Go Take a Walk 👟

Advocacy Newsletter, October 15, 2020

We have 42 stellar students enrolled in the 2020 Explore Academy, and the first meet up this week was fantastic. We’re looking forward to learning from their perspectives on the community. Big thank you to our underwriter, Traverse Area Association of Realtors, with a national Smart Growth grant and my co-facilitator, Megan Olds of Parallel Solutions.

Hello Supporter,

As fall deepens and winter approaches, I’ve been walking more and more. There’s something about the crispness and colors of fall that draws me to the sidewalks, reconnecting me to parts of the Grand Traverse region I don’t visit as much during the summer hustle.

The pace of a lovely walk – 3 mph – is the perfect speed for checking in on neighbors, exploring my neighborhood’s new sidewalks, and percolating ideas for future infrastructure improvement projects. Three mph is also the ideal speed for catching up with friends and meeting new people. Walking opens up opportunities to interact in intimate ways.

Walks ground us in community, and they’re a political act. With every step, we claim and solidify the area around us as public space. Rebecca Solnit hits the mark in her absorbing book Wanderlust: A History of Walking. “Walking is only the beginning of citizenship, but through it the citizen knows his or her city and fellow citizens and truly inhabits the city rather than a small privatized part thereof.”

Last week, hundreds of children participated in Norte’s Walk to School Day. Walking to school was once the norm for American schoolchildren – now we reserve a special day for it. Starting the day with a walk has excellent physical and emotional health benefits. It also gets to the root of what it means to be part of a community. Perhaps we could do a lot of good by walking more.

For the last three weeks, I’ve been hosting Norte’s new “Let’s Walk Together” weekly meet up. It’s like Norte’s summer slow rolls, just on foot and without bells. So far, we’ve been a small group, but there’s room for more. We meet on Saturdays at 9 am under the Mercury sculpture in Hull Park. We walk at a leisurely pace and go as far as the group desires. Thanks to Kaischa, Steve, Michelle, Sharri, and Suzie, for walking with me. There’s room for more. Our last walk is November 7, so you have four more chances to join.

So join us. Walk with someone, walk with a dog, or walk by yourself, but do take a walk. Today, in our car-dominated world, walking is direct advocacy and a bold political statement.

Watch Norte’s Calendar for more walking events.

Over one million Michiganders have already cast their vote for the Nov. 3 election – what’s your plan?

Up and down this fall’s ballot are seats and issues close to our hearts at Norte. This election matters much for things like streets, roads, parks, and recreational facilities.

I encourage everyone to visit the Michigan Secretary of State voter information page to check your registration status. There, you can also see what’s on your ballot, find your polling station, or request an absentee ballot. Suppose you’re one of the million Michiganders who already voted. In that case, you can also double and triple-check that your clerk’s office received your ballot.

Visit MI SOS or Vote.org


Three Mile Trail Open House–– It’s happening in East Bay Township! East Bay Township’s Planning Department and the Three Mile Trail Coalition invite you to an outdoor open house on Thursday, October 22, at the Grand Traverse Academy. We will meet from 4:30 to 6:00. The time is now to put this vision into place.

Mountain Biking at the Commons Goes Legit––  A huge thank you to everyone involved in writing letters, talking to legislators, and building the support necessary to allow mountain biking at the Grand Traverse Commons. Thank you, State Senator Wayne Schmidt, for leading the way in Lansing. And thank you to TART Trails and Garfield Township for doing your part to make it happen. If you love biking and hiking at the Commons – Team Orange certainly does – stay tuned for a planning process to improve the trails.

With mask on, hands squeaky clean, and from a minimum six-feet away, onward and upward. Let’s walk together.

Gary Howe

Advocacy Director

P.S. Is your business ready to be certified a Bicycle Friendly Business? Next application deadline is October 20, 2020. Join Norte, Higher Grounds, and Boomerang Catapult as Bicycle Friendly Businesses in Grand Traverse

Have a friend who is always talking about the streets and traffic? They can sign up below.

Pro Walk/Pro Bike Advocacy

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Advocacy Newsletter: What’s Your Safe Route this Fall? 👟

Advocacy Newsletter, September 3, 2020

With all the uncertainties ahead this fall, looking both ways and making safe, healthy choices is as important as ever. Thankfully, there are miles of new sidewalk to help make some things, like taking a walk to school, a lot easier.

Hello Supporter,

The idea of a Safe Route to School certainly has added meaning this fall. You may even still be deciding on whether or not your child is going to school, let alone how they are getting to and from school safely and responsibly. That said, along with our community partners, Norte has made great strides to create options other than the carline to transport children to and from school. That work continues even during the pandemic and, with the added uncertainties, is even more critical.

Some things remain certain. Starting our day with an active walk, bike, or roll of any kind helps ignite the mind and prepare us for the day ahead. This phenom is real for students as well as adults. This has us thinking: if your children learn at home this fall, how can we help you make a habit of stepping outside to start the day? Norte is hosting balance bike meetups and other programs, but how do we work together to integrate some habitual daily activity?

If your children are learning at school, how can we help you include a walk or bike ride to get them there? Sometimes, it’s as simple as a park and stroll option. Instead of spending 20 minutes in the school carline, you can spend 10-15 minutes walking with your child on the final stretch. It’s amazing what they notice.

Last spring, we put together walk and bike routes, including park and stroll options, for our partner schools in preparation for the new school year. With so much in the air this summer, the rollout didn’t go as planned. However, Norte is still here to help. We want to hear from our school champions.

What do you need? How are you getting to school this year? Does your child have a favorite route? What do they see on the way? Is there a friendly golden retriever who smiles at them along the way? A favorite stump they jump on and off? If there’s enough interest, let’s come together and make some new, illustrative maps (I 🧡maps).

Please shoot me an email or sign up to become a school champion.


2020 Explore Academy registration opens on Tuesday, September 8.  
Explore Academy is an opportunity for students to change the world, beginning with their neighborhood and community. It engages and activates youth ages 13-18 around hands-on, feet-on-the-street material and discussions. Teen participants gain an experiential understanding of how the built environment changes over time, how it impacts our lives, and their role as citizens to shape it.



East Bay Walk and Bike Audits –– As part of the ongoing efforts to create more connections for students and families in East Bay Township, we join our community partners in East Bay to invite you to participate in self-guided walking and bike audits around four schools: East Middle School, Cherry Knoll, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, and Grand Traverse Academy. East Bay Township planning has put together all you need to get started. They are available to help you, or a small group, complete the audits that will assist in planning and grant opportunities on the horizon. More details: East Bay Township Safe Routes to School 

Getting Passed Parking Minimums –– It’s not every day that a change in the zoning code here in Northern Michigan attracts a guru’s attention, but that happened Tuesday night. Parking expert Professor Donald Shoup took notice on Twitter when Traverse City’s Planning Commission considered, and then passed, eliminating parking minimums in the city. As Shoup has written,”minimum parking requirements act like a fertility drug for cars. Why do urban planners prescribe this drug?” The progressive recommendation now heads to the City Commission. We urge everyone to congratulate the City on this move and to ask City Commissioners to support the amendment. If you’d like to learn more, shoot me an email.

BIKE IT! to End Distracted Driving –– Our advocacy partner in Lansing, League of Michigan Bicyclists, has partnered with The Kiefer Foundation to stop distracted driving through awareness and legislation. The BIKE IT! challenge is a commuter challenge that will raise 50 cents for ever mile we ride for the essentials. It’s not too late to put a team together and ride in support of a worthy cause. Get riding!

With mask on, hands squeaky clean, and from a minimum six-feet away, onward and upward.

Have a great Labor Day weekend!

Gary Howe
Advocacy Director

P.S. Is your business ready to be certified a Bicycle Friendly Business? Next application deadline is October 20, 2020. Join Norte, Higher Grounds, and Boomerang Catapult as Bicycle Friendly Businesses in Grand Traverse

Have a friend who is always talking about the streets and traffic? They can sign up below.

Pro Walk/Pro Bike Advocacy

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Advocacy Newsletter: Change Begins with a First Step

Advocacy Newsletter, July 22, 2020

Join us tomorrow (Wednesday, July 22) in rolling with the Northern Michigan Anti Racism Task Force. We riding to oppose racism and elevate the discussion of systemic racism in our community, institutions, and homes. And to spread some joy. More Info: Solidarity Slow Roll

Reading Time: 4+ Minutes

Hello Supporter,

Grand Traverse recognizes what’s right and shows up when it’s time to represent. We are wearing masks and taking precautions to stop the spread of the coronavirus. We’re also joining the cause to end racial injustice and discrimination. We have plenty of work to do on both efforts, yet we stand together, committed – thank you.

In this month’s Advocacy Newsletter, I’m sharing what I’ve been reading since nationwide protests erupted in response to the murder of George Floyd. These essays and news reports highlight the broader picture of systemic racism expressed in the design of our communities. We’ve generally talked about these issues before when we talk about a happy, healthy, strong community by design. The struggle for ending racial discrimination runs on parallel tracks. The following reading list will make that clear.

  • Walking While Black – A ProPublica report sheds light on the disproportionate use of pedestrian tickets against Black people in Jacksonville, Florida. Jacksonville is also notorious for the lack of pedestrian infrastructure. Predictable, and #dangerousbydesign, the city consistently ranks in the top five most dangerous cities for people on foot.
  • Who Was More Likely to be Ticketed for Violating Stay Home Orders? – Yup, you guessed it. Back in early May, the data already clearly showed that black people were being ticketed for participating in a “non-essential activity” at a far higher rate than white people.
  • Placemaking When Black Lives Matter – As we rethink our cities and devote resources towards transforming places for people, Annette Koh rightly argues that we need to use that process to address “existing injustices.”
  • How Race Shaped America’s Roadways And Cities – As America rapidly expanded post-WWII, it was the disenfranchised communities of color that suffered. They often continue to suffer from those policies today. “Oftentimes, communities of color have the wrong complexion for protection,” says professor and writer Robert Bullard. Extra: America’s Cities Were Designed to Oppress.
  • The Curb-Cut Effect – Angela Blackwell describes how policies and programs that benefit vulnerable groups have cascading positive effects for everyone. Striving for equity helps everyone and the humble curb cut stands as exhibit A.
  • GirlTrek and the Power of Walking Together – For over a decade, GirlTrek co-founders Vanessa Garrison and T. Morgan Dixon have been leading healing walks for women of color. GirlTrek empowers members through improved health, deeper community connection, and dedication to being change-makers. Garrison and Dixon’s TED Talk is a powerful statement.

What’s on your reading list? If you’re willing to share, I’m eager to read. Shoot me an email or tag me at @NorteGary.

The above reading list relied heavily on America Walks Walking College study materials and #blacktwitter, which has been on fire in 2020.


It’s not too late to contribute to the Safe Crosswalks Rock effort. As we highlighted in last month’s Advocacy Newsletter, this year, Kaischa Smith is inviting us to paint happy rocks. When you’re ready, place them in the Elmwood crosswalk garden along Grandview Parkway. “Be safe. Be kind. Be thankful!” You rock, Kaischa.


  • Boardman Lake Loop Construction Begins –– Congratulations and gratitude to all the organizations, municipalities, and individuals making the loop happen. By the end of 2020, a safe, accessible, and beautiful trail from 16th Street to NMC’s University Center will be real. Whoop!
  • Construction Zone and Better Access –– Thank you to the City of Traverse City for addressing consistent and safe access through construction zones. A policy amendment is making its way through the adoption process. The proposed changes are encouraging and have spurred a joining of forces among builders, engineers, and advocates to address the issue.

Thank you, everyone, for supporting Norte’s efforts towards a more Pro Walk/ Pro Bike Grand Traverse. Our work is really a reflection of the great community already dedicated to community improvement. Please share this newsletter with friends and family and encourage them to sign up. Thank you!

With mask on, hands clean, and from a distance, onward and upward.

Gary Howe
Advocacy Director

P.S. Is your business ready to be certified a Bicycle Friendly Business

Have a friend who is always talking about the streets and traffic? They can sign up below.

Pro Walk/Pro Bike Advocacy

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Eric’s VERY Heavy Recap

My 2020 Heavy Ride is in the books, and I’m feeling back to normal, so it’s time to do a post-mortem on the ride.  I’ll include some of the data analysis at the end for my fellow data nerds but I won’t make the rest of you suffer through that.  

The ride itself started off perfectly.  The weather was excellent and I had a nice crew of five to escort me out to Kalkaska from Timber Ridge.  Course conditions were about as good as you could ask for at the end of June with only a handful of sand traps to contend with.  The ride out was at a friendly pace and gave us all an opportunity to ride and chat.  Given the last few months, it was extremely nice to be riding with friends and just talking.  

After the ride to Kalkaska, we started the Iceman course proper.  Sand was expectedly present and the singletrack still bears the scars from the “Mudman” last November.  We made good time through Dockery and arrived a little early to Make it Stick.  I enjoyed the company of Mr. Heavy Ride himself, Patrick Cotant on every ascent.  I was sure to keep the pace reasonable as I knew I still had a long day ahead.  Over the top for the last time, I bid part of the crew adieu and made my way to Sand Lakes Rd.

Sand Lakes Rd climb saw the arrival of my support crew.  They were a welcome sight and nice to get some fresh, cold nutrition.  The climb itself passed fairly quickly with the only issue being a large sand pit at the bottom.  It was critical to have the crew there to spot cars as I was coming down because that sand pit was not conducive to evasive maneuvering.  Finishing up Sand Lakes, I was trading the sand pit for the sun-exposed gravel of Broomhead Rd and the true start of the hard stuff.

Broomhead was the lone addition to the Iceman-centric course.  I wanted a longer climb to replicate the Columbine climb at Leadville and its 3k+ feet of elevation gain.  The positive is that the climb is a very tame ~3% on average and only pitches of 5%-6%.  The bad side is that the climb is almost completely exposed to the sun…and the sun played a role here.  I was on this one climb for almost three hours.  My crew was fantastic and supplied me with cold water and also a little hack I learned watching road cycling on TV.  My wife bought me some nylons and filled them with ice.  Tying them off at the top, I now had a nice little sack of ice that I could put down the back of my jersey and let slowly melt over time.  It was fantastic in the heat.  I had some additional riders come and do some repeats with me including Crosley Robinson, who I swear was taunting me with his smiling face as he accelerated past my pace and dropped me!  My favorite moment of the climb, and the ride overall, came when my daughter Mackenzie decided to do a lap with me.  Mackenzie doesn’t exude natural confidence when trying “hard” things.  However, she is beginning to learn that she’s much stronger than she initially thinks and is consistently surprising herself with what she can accomplish.  This day was no different.  About halfway up the climb, her legs started to burn.  She looked at me with a very unsure expression and just said “daddy?”, as if to express her discomfort and lack of confidence.  I reassured her that she is stronger than she thinks she is and take the climb one pedal at a time and focus on the road ahead of her, not on me.  She grit her teeth and picked up her pace.  Seeing the cars lined up at the top of the climb of family and friends, she began to smile and realize she was going to do it.  The cheers were the loudest of the day and it was awesome.  She crested the hill, we stopped our bikes and I gave her a big hug.  My average time up that climb for the other 27 attempts was a bit over 3 minutes.  This lap took me 6:50 and it was the best additional 3 minutes and 50 seconds of the entire day.  After the high of my daughter’s accomplishment on Broomhead Rd, I was 77 miles into the ride and it was really just beginning.  We were off to Anita Hill.

I had recon’d Anita’s significantly in the lead up to the ride (76 times to be exact).  I knew my line, the pitches, the sandy parts, the roots, etc.  All of these ascents had been on training days where ~25 ascents was the goal for the day.  I didn’t know how my legs would react with 80 miles and 7.5 hours in them while doing these repeats.  I had an idea…and I was right.  Anita Hill has pitches of over 20% and you have to push well over your threshold just to keep your bike upright.  Each ascent was like a body blow but I was handling them well through about 17 ascents.  As I started to tire, I started focusing on my bike computer that is affixed to my handlebar stem.  This is when I started to notice an “issue”.  Anita Hill, on Strava, is 49 feet of elevation.  While I’m sure this is not extremely accurate, I think it is close.  While staring blankly at my computer, the “issue” was that it was only giving me fractions of that 49 feet of gain.  Sometimes 20 feet. Sometimes 5 feet.  This issue plus fatigue put me into a pretty dark place as I was approaching 20 ascents.  I ended up doing 27 total and the last 10 was in a complete haze.  This was completely evident when I crested for the last time and the DeVogel family was at the top cheering.  I have no idea what I said to them (I think it was thank you…I hope) and I rode on.  10 minutes later as I got some more calories into me and started to come back to life I was so mad at myself that I didn’t stop and thank them properly for hiking out to support me.  So, I hope they read this and we can meet properly at a Vasa Domingos ride in the very near future!

The VASA CC climb (last ascent) was next on the docket.  My bike computer was still giving me fractions of the 61 feet I was expecting and I had to make a decision.  My decision was based on the fact that I signed up to climb 11,000ft for more kids on bikes.  I was certain that I was climbing more than that, but I wasn’t in a state of mind to do the mental math to be SURE I’d hit 11,000ft without seeing it on my computer.  I decided then and there that I would keep going until I saw the actual number of 11,000 and that’s what I did.  After the 23rd trip up, I was on to Icebreaker.

Icebreaker brought the welcomed sight of my full support crew and a few more supporters.  The Schmidt family brought a boom box and that was a HUGE mental boost as I climbed my first rep.  Up and down I went.  Over and over again.  My computer continued to play with my mind and even was so nice to literally give me 0 elevation gained on one ascent…LOL.  Right when I was getting frustrated, my kids and the Robinson kids ran down the hill.  On my next ascent, they ran with me screaming all the way up.  It was awesome and probably the closest thing I’ll ever get to the feeling of riding the Tour de France.  They took turns smacking me on the way up and the boombox and cheers made me feel like I was approaching Dutch Corner (or I was hallucinating from heat and fatigue…either way it was fun!).  Up and down I continued until my computer read 11,014 feet.  I stopped.  I leaned on my bike.  I looked up and told everyone I was done.  I was done because the devil inside my computer said I was done.  104.6 miles and 11,014 feet of climbing.  $3,000+ raised for more kids on bikes.

What am I taking away from this?  I’m choosing to focus on all of the little things that made this ride so memorable for me.  The ability to share those little things with family, friends and community in a healthy way is very important to me.  Being healthy allows you to continue to create new “little things” far into the future until your legs won’t let you keep up anymore.  Then…go buy an e-bike so you never miss out!

That’s what we’re all really striving for with Norte’s advocacy, right?  It’s not to put a rider in the Tour de France or produce a local Iceman winner.  It’s not to inspire adults like myself to do some crazy ride.  It’s to celebrate that the bicycle provides you an opportunity to go just fast enough to produce a thrill but slow enough that you’re able to take in the details.  It also allows you to do something that is hard.  Riding up a hill is hard.  Your legs hurt, your lungs burn and your brain tells you to quit.  If you don’t quit, there is immediate satisfaction of accomplishment when you crest that hill.  Your body adapts and you can ride a bigger hill or ride the same hill faster.  It is athletically satisfying.  However, I encourage everyone to search a little deeper because I think there is more there.  The bike allows you to do hard things in a controlled environment.  If you push your body to do hard things and you persevere, you’ve earned the ultimate reward of experience.  You can draw on this experience not only in athletic feats, but when life becomes hard.  You’ll KNOW that your mind can overcome.  Searing pain in your legs and burning lungs become the metaphor of whatever bad card life has dealt you.  Your mind becomes conditioned to function while under stress and you KNOW you can persevere.  This may sound simplistic and maybe even a little crazy, but know that it works for me.  It works for many other people I’ve talked to.  It works, if you allow it to work.  I’m hoping my daughter Mackenzie put Broomhead Rd somewhere in the back of her mind and she’ll be able to draw on it one day soon.  Norte provides so many things to so many people.  I would argue that the opportunity to learn how to persevere is as important as any.  Thank you Norte, for everything that you do!

You’re still here?  You ready to dork out?  Good.  Me too.  Here we go:

Total Time: 11 hours, 22 minutes

Total Moving Time: 10 hours, 37 minutes

Total Distance: 104.6 miles


Total Climbing (Wahoo Computer – Barometric Altimeter): 11,014

Total Climbing (TrainerRoad Analytics – Google Maps GPS): 13,123

Make it Stick Ascents: 16

Sand Lakes Climb Ascents: 16

Broomhead Rd Climb Ascents: 28

Anita Hill Ascents: 27

Vasa CC (last hill) Ascents: 23

Icebreaker Ascents: 28


TSS (Training Stress Score): 516 – Low to mid-500’s is what I shoot for during my build-up weeks.  So, hitting that in one day is pretty big for me.

Kj (Calories) Burned: 5,601

Calories Ingested: 4,170

Carbohydrate Ingested: 905g

Carbs/hr: 81g – For the 1st 10 hours I was closer to 90g/hr.  My next big ride, I’m going to shoot for 100g/hr and see if my stomach can handle it.


Normalized Power: 176 watts

Watts/kg: 2.6

Intensity Factor: 0.67

Average Power: 137 watts

Max Power: 612 watts

Average Heart Rate: 137


I was trying to replicate my expected Leadville effort (accounting for elevation obviously).  I was targeting an IF of 0.65 but knew I would take some breaks to hang with the kids and that the steep pitches of these climbs were more than what Leadville offers.  Obviously, the additional 2k feet of climbing and ~2hrs of riding threw things off, but I felt good the entire ride except for about 20 minutes on Anita’s.  My nutrition was good, while hydration was OK.  Looking back, I’d increase my plain water intake.  Other than that, I think I’m in line to achieve my goal of a sub-9 Leadville 100.  If you have any questions feel free to reach out.  Power profile below.  Go Norte!

Inspired by Eric? Sign up to do your own Heavy Ride on August 15 (or another day that works for you!) here.

Can’t ride this year? Throw some money at your favorite rider who will carry the torch.

Vamanos and GRACIAS, Eric.