Volunteer Spotlight: Paul Deyo

Volunteer Spotlight: Paul Deyo

We’re going to need a bigger spotlight.

To shine a light on all the goodness that Paul Deyo brings to Norte is near impossible. His fingerprints are all over Norte’s growth in the last four years. He builds. He fixes. He plans. He’s even the Master of Fun.

“Volunteering is a responsibility for everybody,” said Deyo. “I like to build things, so when can I use that as part of the volunteer experience I do. Otherwise, I do what people tell me to do.”

If he isn’t building or fixing something for Norte—or TART Trails, the Grand Traverse Regional Conservancy, or some other fortunate organization—you’ll likely find Paul in his workshop at his home in Holiday Hills. He says he’s constantly learning and working to improve his skills. He wears that work ethic and growth mindset like a hat. It’s hard to miss, and it inspires everyone who comes in contact with him.

He was sledding at the Civic Center with his granddaughter in 2017 when he saw a curious sign at the Norte Clubhouse. He was trying to figure out what it meant, so he walked in and introduced himself. That’s when he met Laura Otwell. They chatted about the mission, a shared love of riding bicycles, and a genuine belief in creating opportunities for children. Laura happened to be preparing for the Grand Opening of the Clubhouse. There were donated tools and shelves waiting for installation, so Paul jumped into action.

“It’s not always easy to find your place (as a volunteer) in an organization. It was serendipitous when I met Laura,” he said. “I have a thing for maintenance, building, and taking care of stuff. You’ve got to have something that excites you and that you enjoy. Taking care of things is one of them for me. Luckily, Norte has given me that.”

Paul, and his wife Chris, moved up north from the Detroit area about ten years ago to be closer to family. He worked from his home for a few years as a software interface designer before retiring. They fell in love with the access to trails and biking culture here, and almost instantly, they both started to volunteer: first with Recycle-a Bicycle and TART Trails, and then with Norte.

“I really love riding bikes. I think it is a great opportunity to have freedom. It’s almost like flying,” he said. “There’s something about the freedom that it provides you. I want kids to have that experience.”

Norte is so much more with the Paul around. This year, in addition to fixing bikes, building skills tracks, and general odds and ends at the Wheelhouse, he is following other interests and volunteering as an assistant coach for Adventure Bike Club. Next winter, he’d like to help with balance bike programs in schools. He’s helping create a course for the National Cherry Festival Kids Balance Bike Race this July 3. This challenge is where he earns the title, Master of Fun.

“Just help others. That’s our responsibility,” Paul said in closing. “It’s our responsibility to take care of our community.”

Thank you, Paul. For taking such good care of Norte and your community. 🧡


If you’re interested in Joining Paul and hundreds of other outstanding individuals as a volunteer, fill out an application and let us know. We love making new friends. Also, join us at the June 16 TC Rides as we dedicate the first slow roll of the summer to our wonderful volunteers. In the fall, we fittingly award a super volunteer The Paul Deyo Service Award


COVID POLICY: Norte is committed to the safety and well-being of our community. We confidently deliver programs and events because our staff and families follow preventive measures and monitoring protocols for COVID-19. We also generally look out for each other and stay outside as much as possible. If you are unvaccinated, please wear a mask. We encourage everyone eligible to vaccinate as soon as possible. If you are not feeling well, please join us the next time when you feel better. Let’s work together and #stopthespread.


Bigs & Littles, the Norte Experience

Bigs Littles

Bigs & Littles, the Norte Experience

Four months ago, on a frigid January afternoon, Cecilia Chesney, ED of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwestern Michigan, and I took a walk at the Civic Center together. She greeted me with a gift of a Packers hat. She’s a huge Green Bay fan and the team was about to face Tampa Bay in the playoffs. We then walked and talked about kids in our community facing adversity. I was thankful for the warmth and grateful for Cecilia.

Cecilia and I talked about the power of relationships and mentorship. We hatched plans to team up to do better as the year progressed. This Saturday, we will put that talk into action by hosting the first-ever Bigs and Littles Bike Day. This event will provide a happy, adventure-based experience for bigs and their littles. It’ll give a taste of Norte‘s Adventure Bike Club and the joys of developing the skills, confidence, and friendships that arise from exploring your community on two wheels.

‘m a massive fan of Big Brothers Big Sisters and their work. Since 1970, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwestern Michigan has brought smiles to children’s faces by matching them with adult volunteers in rewarding mentoring relationships. Mentoring is a powerful thing, providing an opportunity for someone to ignite and empower a child’s potential.

If you’re not a Big yet, why not? Cecilia’s team makes it easy to get started.

I’m excited to roll with Bigs and Littles this weekend and, hopefully, many times ahead. Together we can help lift children facing adversity and positively change their lives for the better, forever.


PS. If the organization you support is involved with youth development and is interested in partnering with Norte on a bike experience, don’t hesitate to let me know.

We’re Hiring: Systems and Communications Coordinator

Systems and Communications Coordinator

Norte is seeking a Systems and Communications Coordinator to join Team Orange. The ideal candidate will be passionate about happy, healthy, strong communities and active-for-life kids. 

The Norte Systems and Communications Coordinator supports a range of administration and communication activities to help further Norte’s mission. This position requires a genuine enthusiasm for Norte’s work and a passion for helping build happy, healthy, strong communities.

Strong interpersonal and communication skills are essential to interact and strengthen relationships inside and outside the organization effectively.



  • Reports to: Communications Director
  • Supervises: None

They will also work closely with our teams: communications, programs, development, and administration. This position will develop and strengthen external relationships with community members, such as partners, donors, volunteers, and the general public.



The Systems and Communications Coordinator’s responsibilities fall under three categories, data management, administration, and communications—ideally, integrating them to enable the organization to tell its story internally and externally. 

Systems Management 

  • Ensure data is accurate, meaningful, up to date, and accessible for all staff, including detailed data lists and reporting.
  • Integrate data between databases and prepare for export.
  • Develop, maintain, and implement engagement plans across multiple platforms, including the creation of communication templates. 


  • Collaborate with the Communications Director to deploy communications strategy and ongoing communications, including creating content for the weekly newsletter and social media platforms. This role requires cross-team coordination and compelling narrative and visual storytelling skills. 
  • Support all teams by measuring and evaluating progress across programs and turning that data and testimonials into compelling reports.
  • With the Communications Director, manage and update Norte’s website, including drafting, editing, and publishing posts, pages, and events. Maintain a clean and efficient website structure.


  • Manage Norte’s general email inbox
  • Assist with scheduling staff, board, and committee meetings
  • Assist Executive Director with administrative duties on an as-needed basis



Success means: 

  • Required work is on time, and goals advanced.
  • Written communication is clear, concise, professional, and free from error.
  • Data and communication plans are adhered to and improved when appropriate.
  • Data and communication outcomes are measured, and target goals are achieved.



At least two years of relevant experience.

Formal Education or Equivalent

Bachelor’s degree or work equivalent.

Desired Skills

  • The desire to learn and grow professionally
  • Superior social and interpersonal skills
  • Effective problem-solving and communication skills
  • Extremely detail-oriented with solid organization and time management skills
  • Demonstrate the ability to work independently and as part of a team
  • Prior experience with, or willingness to learn: Salesforce, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, WordPress.



  • Daily computer work.
  • Occasional light lifting.



The Systems and Communications Coordinator is a full-time FLSA exempt position with a starting annual salary of $42,000.

  • Benefits: Medical, paid vacation, paid holidays, technology stipend, flexible work schedule.
  • Hours: Often M-F during the day plus occasional work on weeknights and weekends.



A typical day will consist of working with eight other remarkable people in Norte’s business casual environment at the Clubhouse in Grand Traverse County Civic Center Park.



Write a compelling cover letter and submit it along with a resume to Ty Schmidt at ty@elgruponorte.org with “Systems and Communications Coordinator” in the subject line.

Applications will be accepted until 5 pm EST on Wednesday, June 23. 

The ideal candidate would start employment mid to late July 2021. 


Norte is an equal opportunity and an at-will employer. The above position description describes the position currently available and is not intended to be an employment contract. Norte reserves the right to modify the duties or position description at any time. This position is located in Traverse City and is considered to be exempt.

# # #


Happy. Healthy. Strong.

Bikes for All, All for Bikes 🚲

Bikes for All, All for Bikes 🚲

Norte‘s Bikes for All program is known for serving special needs students still attending school programs. Bikes for All works with TBAISD’s New Campus, Oak Park, and others. Bikes for All MeetUps — Tuesdays adds an option for those 26 and older whose social opportunities are limited due, in part, to aging out of school programs. While this first run was a small group of five, it proved the concept, and we hope to expand it.

A special thank you to Rose Coleman of the Grand Traverse Pavilions who loaned us “The Duet,” which accommodates non-pedaling individuals. The bike not only looks fantastic, but the experience also places the rider front and center so that they can feel the wind on their face and view the passing world unobstructed.

This summer, join us every Tuesday beginning on June 8 at 10:30 am, weather permitting. The fleet of adaptive bikes is limited, but we will be ready to ensure everyone has a marvelous time. Annie and I both would love to have too many riders — the more friends and smiles, the better.

As a Norte Board member, I feel fortunate to work toward Norte‘s mission of providing biking for all community members. It’s even more special doing so with Annie and her growing list of friends. Come on out, and let’s roll together!


Sue Paul, Norte Board of Directors

P.S. Norte is looking for volunteers to help us with our expanding Bikes for All programming. If helping ensure that everyone has an opportunity to ride bikes sounds up your alley, give us a shout. We’re also looking for gently used adaptive bikes in need of a good home.

If you’d like to donate financially to help grow the Bikes For All program, please made a gift and help us reach our 2021 goal.

$2,300 of $5,000 raised
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Donation Total: $50.00


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Giving Back and Changing the World

Giving Back and Changing the World

Recently, Joelle Mabey​ was perusing Norte’s website and saw that our More Girls on Bikes fundraiser hadn’t met its goal of $5,000. Having worked to help empower women as a teacher and through her charity work in Haiti, she didn’t hesitate to close the gap with a significant donation.

“For many girls, riding a bike is their first small taste of freedom. There’s nothing like the exhilaration of wheeling a bike out of the garage on a cloudless summer day to cruise around the neighborhood, hair whipping by her ears, and streamers fluttering from the handlebars,” described Joelle.

Joelle is hyper-aware that boys and girls ride bikes at about the same rate from ages three to nine. Then around age 10, the numbers of girls riding drop off considerably. As they reach adulthood, women make up only about 25 percent of people who ride bikes.

“When girls start hanging up their helmets, they’re getting left in the dust, both literally and figuratively,” she said. “The exercise and outdoor time that bike riders experience boosts moods, fights obesity and increases overall health. A recent study showed girls who either bike or walk at least 15 minutes to school scored higher on cognitive tests.”

Helping young women develop healthy habits and excel is one reason Joelle supports Norte’s More Girls on Bikes program. But the main reason may be the added significance of developing confidence and independence. When a young woman has more autonomy with how she moves around her community, she establishes responsibility and experience, boosting self-appreciation.

“When girls ride bikes, it’s more than just a fun way to pass the time—a bicycle is one of her first teachers,” said Joelle. “Achievements like learning to ride a two-wheeler without assistance are a lesson in balance, tenacity, and grit. It’s a way for her to see the benefit of falling and getting back up again. Navigating her way a few houses down on her bike teaches street smarts, the importance of personal safety, and independence.”

We at Norte firmly believe that you’re in perfect balance anytime you’re on a bicycle. That experience does wonders for self-esteem for people of all ages, genders, and abilities. Joelle supports Norte because she sees value in our focus on safe, healthy, empowering access throughout our programs.

“I believe I have the power to help improve the lives of others and count it as a privilege that comes with its own sense of obligation,” said Joelle. Over the years, she has donated and been involved with many causes, from Habitat for Humanity, Poured OutHands To HaitiCompassion International, and other humanitarian and disaster relief efforts.

“Acting on these powerful feelings of responsibility is a great way for me to reinforce my values and helps me feel like I am living in a way that is true. Sharing the experience of donating has also shown my children that they can make positive changes in the world from a young age.”

Thank you, Joelle. Our work is made possible by people just like you—people who see a need, a value, and who act on their sense of community and follow their heart and mind as one.

And, we couldn’t agree with you more, Joelle. More Girls on Bikes creates healthy, independent, confident, strong girls. And strong girls will change the world.

Ride on.
Team Orange.

P.S. On Friday, girl power could lead the charge in the Kids vs. Adults — A Bike-Off. It’s National Bike to Work Day, so let’s see what the adults can do against the kids! And, on Sunday, our VIP Slow Roll meets up at 2 pm at the Clubhouse. If you’d like to join the VIP circle in time for the VIP Slow Roll and meet individuals like Joelle, please review our Otwell HubColectivo, or Business Champions pages to see what’s right for you.

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Board of Directors: May Meeting Minutes

Board of Directors: May Meeting Minutes

Recently, Norte’s Board of Directors approved the publishing of minutes after each meeting, beginning with May 11, 2021.  As minutes are published, they will be archived at Our Governance. If you ever have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out at hello@elgruponorte.org.


To view, click through to full-screen view in the frame below.

Roll on with Eats by Bike Week

Roll on with Eats by Bike Week

Grab a bike, an Eats by Bike Week bingo card from Norte and hit local Businesses Champions for tasty eats.

As Northern Michigan Bike Month hits its mid-way mark, Norte invites everyone to join them in celebrating good eats accessible by bike. Eats by Bike Week is May 17 – 21 and encourages individuals to support the local restaurants and cafes that help Norte put more kids on bikes through their Business Champions program.

“The concept is straightforward. Visit elgruponorte.org to download your Eats by Week bingo card (PDF), then saddle up and hit up our region’s great eateries,” said Wes Sovis, Norte’s Donor Relations Specialist. “I can’t wait to see how many of them I can visit and dive into. I might need to ride a bit farther that week to work some of it off.”

In addition to combining the simple pleasure of biking with supporting local businesses, participants also have the chance to win prizes from Norte’s merchandise store. “To be entered to win a Norte Prize Pack, participants must submit a photo of their sweet eats to Norte — either through tagging us in a public post on social media or by emailing it to us,” added Sovis. Norte also offers a bonus Norte cowbell to everyone who submits five photos to achieve a “bingo” on their card.

Bike Month began in 1956 by The League of American Bicyclists to display the many benefits of bicycling and encourage others to get rolling. This year’s theme is #BikeThere to promote the everyday tasks accomplished on a bike. Norte’s Eats by Bike Week from May 17-21 exemplifies the #BikeThere credo while demonstrating the purchasing power of those who bike for everyday tasks.

To make the most out of Bike Month, Norte offers the following reminders.

  • Give your bike a tune-up and get in early as local bike shops get busy quickly.
  • Obey the rules of the road and ride with respect for others. We’re all in this together.
  • Make sure your bike has working lights. You never know when you’ll need them.

For a complete list of activities for Northern Michigan Bike Month, visit Norte’s website at elgruponorte.org. On their website, you can also peruse Norte’s Wall of Champions, a list of businesses that support the organization with donations.

Download your Eats by Bike Week Bongo card and #BikeThere (PDF)



Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) strongly recommends continued effort to stop the spread. The following steps need to be taken together for the best protection.
  • Health Check – Self-monitor and stay home if you’re feeling sick.
  • Wear a mask – Take it off when you eat or drink, then put it back on, even outside.
  • Physically Distanced – Keep six feet apart as much as you can.
  • Wash Hands – Wash hands regularly. 20 seconds with soap and water.

Norte also supports socializing outside in well-ventilated areas and getting a vaccine as soon as available.  If we all work together, we will beat this pandemic.

Bike There—Adventure and Empowerment Await

Bike There

Adventure and Empowerment Await

I don’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t have a bicycle. I also don’t remember anyone teaching me how to ride. My older brothers and sisters must have taught me, but I suspect their pedagogical method was along the lines of, “Keep up or stay behind.” In reality, they probably ditched me often. But the way I remember it, I not only kept up with them, I bravely struck out on my own and left them in the dust.

That’s the power of the bicycle. It’s a machine like no other. It can transform a mere mortal into an uber-efficient, supremely balanced, go-anywhere supernova. The bicycle is empowerment. It is independence. It is freedom.

Many of the most important life lessons I’ve learned I learned while riding my bike. I was a typical Generation X latchkey child. Adult supervision wasn’t something I had to worry much about. For the most part, our neighborhood’s pack of kids was left to their own devices, roving from house to house searching for food and following our curiosities that expanded outward from the subdivision as we grew older.

Having a functional bicycle was a ticket to a larger world full of adventure. When I was about eight, I was inspired by a calling from deep within: a calling for candy that could only be sourced two miles down the road at Lake Ann Grocery.

I remember coming to the end of my subdivision where the quiet street meets the county road, stopping to contemplate my options, and then gunning it. Up the big hill, along the straightaway, and past long stretches that, back then, were only woods. It was much farther than I expected it to be. Passing cars were a welcome relief; they might be able to save me from the bears I was sure were going to come out of the woods at any moment. The fear of wild animals pushed me, and the temptation of that candy bar pulled me to remarkably high speeds, given that I was an eight-year-old on a makeshift single-speed with a banana seat.

I was relieved to roll into the bustling village of Lake Ann. I sat in the park and enjoyed my Whatchamacallit before heading home. However ill-advised by today’s safety standards, that trip was an early lesson in perseverance and determination. I struck out on my own to pursue my goals, overcame my fears and physical limitations, and achieved my chocolatey aim. At the time, it felt like absolute freedom. It was also my little secret, and there is power in secrets.

As I grew more confident and upgraded to a 12-speed Ross Signature, I struck out farther. As a teenager, I regularly biked the 15 miles to Traverse City to hang with the city kids. I learned to climb the hills, using all my strength. I learned to ride fast and learned back roads to limit my exposure to traffic. A few years later, the bicycle remained my go-to transportation choice throughout college and allowed me to save money quickly without owning a car. I had a ticket to ride.

The pushie crew at Minuteman Messenger in Melbourne, Australia, 1997

After graduation, the bicycle became my livelihood for a year abroad. I landed in Australia with $300 and a work visa good for one year. In two weeks, after stretching the truth about how well I knew Melbourne’s streets, I landed work subcontracting as a bicycle messenger—a pushie.

Still, today, delivering express packages by bike remains one of the most empowering jobs I ever had, and it introduced me to new people every day, from CEOs on the 55th floor to co-workers struggling with addictions and families to feed. We even had a retired CEO join our crew. He was slow, so we gave him the dregs. I was able to pay off a modest student loan with my earnings and head to China. Thanks, bicycle.

This is all to say: May is National Bike Month, a time to celebrate the elegance, value, and gift of the bicycle. Established in 1956 by The Bicycle Institute of America, National Bike Month showcases the benefits of human-powered movement by bike and encourages everyone to give it a try. For me, bike month is a chance to reflect on the riches I have enjoyed thanks to this handy, accessible, and equitable tool.

How are you celebrating Northern Michigan Bike Month? And, what’s your story? Do you remember your first destination by bicycle? Your first time out alone? Please share with us on social media or send me an email. I’d love to hear how the bicycle has impacted your life.

Bike There!

Advocacy and Communications Director

Top image: The Walkway over the Hudson in Poughkeepsie, New York 📸 kriosusa

*A version of this column was original published in the Northern Express. 

P.S. Coming up for Bike Month, tonight’s Ride of Silence, this weekend’s  24 Hours at the Civic Center, and next week’s Eats by Bike Week—get your bingo sheet for the latter and the #BikeThere

2021 Bike Month Poster

Download your Mike Erway Design poster for Bike Month.

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Celebrate Northern Michigan Bike Month

Celebrate Northern Michigan Bike Month

During May, Norte has almost daily activities to encourage more people to go outside and roll with the organization’s spin on National Bike Month. Join us, #BikeThere

With spring in the air and the snow finally at an end, Norte invites individuals in Northern Michigan to experience the joy of getting out for a bike ride. Norte‘s Executive Director, Ty Schmidt, urges everyone to lean into Bike Month and try riding a bike for everyday tasks.

“Every day, people across the globe, many of them right here in Michigan, prove daily that the bicycle remains one of the most efficient, accessible, convenient, and safe ways to stay active and get things done,” said Schmidt. “I hope folks use Bike Month to develop a habit of biking to school or work, running to the store, going to the dentist, or getting their vaccination. Bikes are an expression of freedom.”

Norte‘s May calendar is rolling with opportunities for families to participate at all skill levels and confidence. The month kicks off on Sunday, May 2, with the annual Previously Loved Bicycle Neighborhood Yard Sale. This event runs from 11 am–2 pm outside at the Norte Wheelhouse in the Grand Traverse County Civic Center. Norte will have donated bikes for sale, and for $10, individuals may sell their own.

“If you don’t have a bike, don’t let that stop you from experiencing Bike Month,” said Schmidt. “The yard sale is a great opportunity to find a perfect bike to keep you rolling throughout the summer, into fall, and beyond.”

2021 Bike Month PosterClick for the 2021 Bike Month poster (PDF)

Other highlights of the Bike Month include Bike to School Day on May 5, Take a Mom Mountain Biking on May 9, and 24 Hours at the Civic Center from noon on Saturday, May 15 to noon on Sunday, May 16. The latter is what Schmidt calls a “move-a-thon,” where individuals pledge to walk, run, or roll around the one-mile long Civic Center track for 30 minutes out of 24 hours. Participants pledge $20 and encourage others to donate to their cause. The funds raised are invested back into Norte‘s youth programming and improvements at the Civic Center.

Bike Month began in 1956 by The League of American Bicyclists to put on display the many benefits of bicycling and encourage others to get rolling. This year’s theme is #BikeThere to promote the everyday tasks accomplished on a bike. #BikeThere is exemplified by Norte with Eats by Bike Week from May 18-21. Norte will provide a bingo card of local restaurants and encourage individuals to visit as many of them as possible while wearing their orange Norte gear and, of course, arriving by bicycle.

To make the most out of Bike Month, Norte offers the following reminders.

  • Give your bike a tune-up and get in early as local bike shops get busy quickly.
  • Obey the rules of the road and ride with respect for others. We’re all in this together.
  • Make sure your bike has working lights. You never know when you’ll need them.



Let’s Roll! 



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Ready for Spring, Ready to Roll

Ready for Spring, Ready to Roll

Ben Boyce previews the Previously Loved Bicycle Neighborhood Yard Sale happening Sunday, May 2.

Right now, Norte‘s volunteer mechanics are busy fixing up used bikes for spring. They turn more donated bicycles into ready-to-ride bikes for our bike libraryEssential, and to sell every day. The money raised through our used bike sales supports Norte‘s busy season ahead.

This Sunday, May 2, we take that experience to another level with the annual Previously Loved Bicycle Neighborhood Yard Sale. Our goal, to be honest, is to clean out the Wheelhouse and make way for another year of bikes, programs, and adventures. It’s also a great way to jump-start Northern Michigan Bike Month.

The yard sale is an excellent time to repurpose an old bike — or two — and get rolling. We sell used bikes of all ages, types, and sizes, including many that are not-all-that-used. We will also have a few fixer-uppers priced to move, in addition to bike accessories that we have accumulated over the year—need a used car rack?

We also invite the public to clean out their garage and sell a used bike themselves. Individuals are invited to sell their bike or bike accessory for a small table fee of $10.

If you needed another reason to visit Norte this weekend, it might be your first chance to meet our newest staff member and proud Wheelhouse Manager, John Deely. John has big plans for the Wheelhouse, and coincidentally, his plans require more room, so the yard sale is perfectly timed.

With John at the helm, the Grand Traverse region can look forward to a new and improved Norte Wheelhouse. A more organized, useable space will help us grow our youth and adult programs, increase Norte‘s volunteer base, and grow the Community Bike Shop. All helping build a happy, healthy, strong community.

Help Norte spread the bike love and find your new favorite bike thing at the Previously Loved Bicycle Neighborhood Yard Sale.

Let’s roll!

Ben, Program Director

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24 Hours for Our Favorite Place

24 Hours for Our Favorite Place

Moving Norte from the Schmidt Family Garage to the Grand Traverse County Civic Center in 2017 wasn’t my idea. However, looking back, it’s proved to be one of Norte‘s best and wisest decisions—thank you for the nudge, Ashlea.

Right in the hub of Northern Michigan, this active and thriving park has provided nothing but good fortune to Team Orange. In return, I firmly believe our presence has brought renewed energy, interest, and activity to the Civic Center. There’s a vibrancy nowadays at both the south and north end, home to the Norte Clubhouse and the very orange Wheelhouse, respectively.

From these doors, we continue to roll out transformative programs for hundreds of young riders and families. We provide community services like the Community Bike Shop and sling bikes through the Kids’ Bike Library. We plan to keep this up for years to come; we also plan to invest in this home. As we’ve highlighted before, we will soon build a world-class pump track, and we’re working towards a new Education Center. To do so within the boundaries of this fabulous park would be a dream come true.

24 Hours at Civic Center Title Sponsor Logo

Register Today

That’s where 24 Hours at the Civic Center comes in. The event began as a mash-up of Eastern Elementary’s Jog-a-thon and the American Cancer Association, Relay For Life. Norte‘s 24 Hours at the Civic Center celebrates one of my favorite features here—the loop—while helping folks meet their movement goals and raise funds for both Norte and the Grand Traverse County Civic Center.

The idea is simple. Pledge a 30-minute time slot over 24 hours to walk, roll, skip, or generally move around the one-mile track. Enlist friends and family not only to consider joining you but to support your effort financially. The money raised will be invested back into Norte and improvements at the Civic Center.

We have big plans at NorteJoin us beginning at noon on Saturday, May 15 to noon on Sunday, May 16, to celebrate this bright future at the Civic Center. Visit 24 Hours at the Civic Center for the details and to register.

Let’s roll!

Ty Schmidt, Executive Director




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Board of Directors: April Meeting Minutes

Board of Directors: April Meeting Minutes

Recently, Norte’s Board of Directors approved the publishing of minutes after each meeting, beginning with April 13, 2021.  As minutes are published, they will be archived at Our Governance. If you ever have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out at hello@elgruponorte.org.


To view, click through to full-screen view in the frame below.

Walking and Rolling, Safely into Spring 😷

Walking and Rolling, Safely into Spring 😷

Last month, as I walked into the Hagerty Center in Traverse City, a sense of community spirit swept over me. It was not just exciting to see people; it was inspiring to experience citizenship. We’d gathered not only to protect ourselves but out of civic responsibility to protect our community from COVID-19. A vaccination needle never felt so good. I trust that we’re finally in the homestretch of this pandemic.

But we’re not quite there yet. In the race between the coronavirus’s variants and collective immunity, the variants are in the lead. Northern Michigan remains at extremely high risk. Our positivity rates remain in double figures, and hospitalization rates hover near capacity. Michigan is again leading the nation in cases with alarming weekly trends.

Thankfully, we continue to learn more about how to contain this virus every day. We know so much more than we did a year ago about which preventive measures work. Those measures are now daily habits. As Norte enters spring programming, we will continue to implement these precautions to protect Norte staff, our young riders, volunteers, and the wider community.

We ask everyone to stick to the swiss cheese approach. Recognize that each protective action you take is another layer of prevention. Even after vaccination, these precautions are necessary to stop the spread and to stop further mutations. All of us need to stay vigilant and patient as people get vaccinated, and case numbers decline.

We continue to monitor the data and place public health front and center. We’re limiting access to the inside of our buildings, requiring masks for all visitors, and encouraging everyone to become vaccinated. We require masks from start to finish for our bike programs and events and will continue to social distance, wash our hands, and monitor our health. If you have a child in our programs, please help us by going over the rules with them using our COVID-19 Precaution Sheet.

We’re going to get through this challenge, and we’re going to continue to thrive. And, it starts with all of us putting our civic pride on full display. Let’s keep rolling, friends.

Together we can #stopthespread.

Gary, Advocacy and Communications Director

P.S. Please follow the latest CDC guidelines and keep abreast of Michigan’s latest data and information at the state’s coronavirus portal. Learn more about the vaccines and where you can get your free shot at COVID-19 Vaccine



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Board of Directors: March Meeting Minutes

Board of Directors: March Meeting Minutes

Recently, Norte’s Board of Directors approved the publishing of minutes after each meeting, beginning with March 9, 2021.  As minutes are published, they will be archived at Our Governance. If you ever have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out at hello@elgruponorte.org.


To view, click through to full-screen view in the frame below.

Ready-to-learn kids and Missy

Ready-to-learn kids and Missy

Watching Lowell High School win their eighth straight state team wrestling championship two weeks ago reminded me of my favorite Red Arrow, Missy.

Missy is smart, driven, and direct. She is strong-willed and determined. Above all, Missy is a leader.

I was fortunate to witness that leadership in action while working with Missy, then the city of Traverse City’s planning assistant, on an ambitious $2 million Safe Routes To School project to improve access, increase connections, and safety around our 10 in-town schools. A transformative project that began five years ago in 2016 and featured many walking audits, parent and student surveys, and action planning meetings along the way.

A game-changing project that will come to fruition this summer with 3.5 miles of new sidewalks, bike lanes, trails, and improved crosswalks for our neighborhood schools. A community-wide project that collaborated with all four school districts as well as many partners including Northwestern Michigan College, Michigan Department of Transformation, Grand Traverse County, Garfield Township, and TART.

A first-of-its-kind-for-Michigan project because it also includes an innovative 3-year “systems change” component funded by Rotary Charities that supports upstream solutions focused on mind-sets, policy, advocacy, and education. A project that, in my opinion, would not have happened without Missy.

She was the driving force of a dream team that came together in 2016. This talented crew included Jessica Carpenter, Tim Lodge, Alex Yockey, Russ Soyring, Meg Thomas-Ackerman, Debbie Hershey, and Laura Otwell. Together they kept the focus and navigated with calm and professionalism in support of kids walking and biking to school.

A former Willow Hill Elementary mom — Go, Falcons! — Missy is a champion for ready-to-learn kids.

  • Kids who can safely, independently, and confidently get themselves to school.
  • Kids who arrive to class with their brains turned on because they were able to get the wiggles out first.
  • Kids like her boys, David and Jack, who love to get out and explore.

Missy received a master’s degree in Public Administration from Central Michigan University in 2018 and now lives in Hilton Head, South Carolina where she works as their senior planner but her legacy here in Traverse City is undeniable.

In addition to the Safe Routes To School project, Missy was also instrumental in the Slabtown beach and bayside extension trail, 9 miles of new sidewalk in Traverse Heights, the pedestrian crossing lights on the parkway, and the re-envisioned Eighth Street.

These successes didn’t come easy. Despite many challenges, Missy didn’t quit. She kept pushing and working hard to see these projects through. Projects that would change the odds in favor of health, happiness, and social connections. Projects that made her community better for everyone.

“Never Yield” is the motto of the Lowell wrestling team and I think Coach Boudro and his Red Arrow squad would be proud of their alumnus for living that creed.

On behalf of countless ready-to-learn kids today and for generations to come, thank you, Missy.


*A version of this article was originally published in the Traverse City Record-Eagle on April 8, 2021.
Photo credit, Tessa Lighty from 10 schools in TC seeking money for safer routes in 2018. 

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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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