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

Safe and Responsible

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.”

Safe and Responsible

Life is always better on a bike. Just ask Amy.

Volunteer bike coach, Amy Strom, with her golden retriever Milo.


The temperatures might be in the teens outside, but here at the Clubhouse and Wheelhouse, we’re gearing up for spring and summer. One activity underway is tuning up bikes to put more people than ever on two wheels this year. If you are interested in helping, step right up.

We’re also preparing for more kids than ever in our spring and summer bike programs. After School Adventure Bike ClubSpring Mountain Bike, and Summer Bike Camp registrations are underway. Last year, we learned that safely calling young riders together for a few hours of outdoor adventure is a welcome relief for life’s challenges and stresses. Not only for the kids but for the adults who signup to coach them.

Recently, I reached out to one of our newest volunteer coaches from last year, Amy Strom, to ask her for some words of wisdom for anyone out there considering coaching. Her response makes me think of spring and puts a smile on my face.


I can attest that there is a place for any volunteer at Norte, regardless of their biking skills. Last fall was the first time I volunteered. I knew teaching mountain biking to older kids was not in my wheelhouse (pardon the pun), but I was thrilled to see that they needed assistant coaches for younger riders. I gave it a try and loved it!

I’m a novice on a mountain bike but an expert at advocating and promoting fun, safe activities for kids. Assitant coaching was a great experience. There is a need for more coaches, especially those who enjoy being the bike train’s caboose and purveyor of positive energy and encouragement.

Getting kids outside, interacting with each other, playing, exploring nature, overcoming fears, and developing new skills, both on and off the bike, is a gift to children and their families. It’s a privilege to promote and witness this as a volunteer. There are so many trails, parks, and beaches to explore, and it’s always better on a bike with a gaggle of giggling kids.

– Amy Strom

Amy is an active-for-life model citizen. You’re likely to find her out trekking with Milo (shown above) or out biking with her family and friends. Amy and her positive spirit are what we’re looking for in coaches and coaching assistants.

As we ramp up for our most ambitious year yet, we need over 120 coaches and coaching assistants. We have 12 trailheads spread across six counties, from Benzie to Charlevoix, and young riders in the hundreds are just biting at the bit for some adventure.

Are you interested? Check out our openings and apply today. If you have some basic bike skills and an interest in seeing more kids move, we have a place for you. I promise, seeing our young riders gain confidence and strength while having fun is pure joy. As Amy alluded to, the giggling is contagious.

Let’s ride!

Ty, Norte Excutive Director

P.S. We’re excited to hear from you. We need both paid coaches and volunteer assistant coaches, like Amy. Each position has unique qualifications and time commitments. If you have any questions, let us know. 


Safe and Responsible

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


Ready to suit up and be counted?

Matt Jones Winter Bike

Real winter is finally here, let’s get out there and enjoy it.


I love to ride a bike. I don’t love driving a car. Naturally, those preferences led me to become a bike commuter, and increasingly so over the years. I’m now more into the habit of grabbing my helmet instead of the car keys. At times, that meant slogging it out through the wettest Seattle hill climbs, the sauna-like afternoons in Thailand, or, now, the snowy trails and streets of Traverse City.

I don’t recall ever wishing I was in a car. The reasons are myriad. For one, I like letting my mind wander while I pedal. I like breathing steady under my own effort. I like seeing things and chatting with people. I also like changing the oil and buying gas less frequently. More than anything, I still really enjoy riding my bike.

Working at home this winter has cut down on my commuting time, but I still make an effort to get out and ride. I know many of you share my affinity for winter bike riding, and I invite those who haven’t quite embraced it to give it a try. Maybe it will become a habit.

Winter Bike Commuting isn’t complicated, but it has a few challenges you won’t find during the rest of the year. Here are a few tips to consider:

  • Drive and ride. I recognize the value of a motorized lift, and in the winter, I usually load my bike onto a car to drive to the TART Trail. This move is for safety as my commute includes Three Mile Road. Someday we’ll see a safer connection from East Bay into Traverse City, but for now, I’ll choose to be multimodal rather than white-knuckling it down Three Mile.
  • Dress in layers. It’s freezing out there, but with the right clothing, you’ll be toasty inside. I’ve found wearing a base layer made from wool, coupled with a windbreaker, my $5 Norte Buff, and a thin hat under my helmet takes care of my core. Roomy, thick mittens give me enough dexterity to shift and brake, but I will add pogies (handlebar pockets) when it gets frigid since my hands are historically cold. For the winter, I swap out the clip–in shoes for flat platform pedals and hiking boots with heavy socks for my feet—partially for warmth but also for quickly putting my foot down.
  • Watch the ice. It is not to be taken lightly. Riding bikes with wider tires and slightly dropping the tire pressure will help improve traction. If you can afford them, studded tires are excellent for providing traction in the snow and ice. Hugging studded mountain bike tires is exactly like hugging a cactus, but that’s what I’d like to do every time they save my bum because they mean that much to me. They cost a little extra and are worth every penny.
  • Plan ahead. The winter bike commute is slower. You can’t expect to make up time by pushing harder. If it isn’t the conditions slowing you down, it’s the 15 extra pounds of clothing and studded tires. You can also blame the extra effort on the air density, which I fully intend to do next time someone asks. Our friends at Ice Bike ran the numbers on this very topic: This Is Why You Are Cycling Slower in the Winter.

If you’re a winter bike commuter, consider committing to ride this Friday for World Winter Bike to Work Day. If you’re not a regular winter bike rider, consider giving it a try. Commit to ride by entering your location at and put northern Michigan on the map. The more people who embrace winter biking (and walking), the more normal it will become.

Whatever your reason for riding through the winter is, thanks for sticking with it. I’ll see you out there.


Ben, Program Director

Safe and Responsible

Doing Better, All Winter Long, Everywhere

Jean navigating snow in crosswalk downtown Traverse City

We applaud the City of Traverse City for continuing to improve on a decade of improvement. Ten years ago, the City didn’t give wintertime sidewalk and trail clearing priority. Over the years, they gradually invested in additional equipment and labor to clear more sidewalks and maintain access to numerous multi-use trails. As they continue to look for ways to improve, we welcome recent discussions to strengthen the snow clearing efforts and policy.

Norte is committed to helping. We are in our third year of The Great Northern Michigan Shovel Experiment. The program connects neighbors to neighbors in the spirit of community interdependence. It’s aimed at residential neighborhoods helping individuals who want to keep their walkways open but need help. The Great Northern Michigan Shovel Experiment works because people stand up, say they want to help, and pledge to do so. In addition to helping neighbors, Neighbors clear crosswalks and bus stops.

This year we’re adding another layer and looking to connect people who support winter accessibility with Traverse City’s Downtown Development Authority. The DDA, TART, and Norte collectively seek volunteers to become Snow Angel AmbassadorsThis will be an elite force to attack trouble spots downtown to improve accessibility and reduce ice and snow build up.

The DDA invests thousands in removing snow from downtown. Local businesses invest in clearing the sidewalk in front of their storefronts. The Snow Angel effort asks for help to clear pesky, hard-to-reach sidewalks and crosswalks where snow berms make crossing a nightmare. There hasn’t been much snow this year, but Punxsutawney Phil did see his shadow yesterday, and snow is in the forecast. To join, text WINGSTC to (231) 622-6171.

Still, it’s not enough. City Commissioners deserve our support as they consider clarifying the snow clearing policy. After a substantial snowfall, adding a specific timeframe provides clarity and expectation when a property owner must clear the sidewalk. If they model it after a city like Madison, Wisconsin, property owners could sign up for notifications when snow needs removing. Adding clear expectations is a good step forward, and a notification program would be a helpful addition.


Email City Commissioners support for the effort


There are over 80 miles of sidewalk in the City. Keeping clear passage during heavy winters is impossible without all of us chipping in where we can. There are champions among us, for sure. Those individuals who wake up at 5 am to snow blow entire blocks, chip ice off bridges, and shovel entire routes around schools. We can thank them by doing our part a little more.

For a destination like downtown, where every trip ends in a walk regardless of whether you drove, rode the bus, or walked, clear sidewalks and crosswalks are necessary. In our neighborhoods, clear sidewalks mean people can safely and comfortably access friends and local businesses. Clear sidewalks mean freedom to move and inclusion for everyone—throughout the year.

A walkable city is a happy city. Here’s how you can help



Safe and Responsible

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 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.


Great Coaches Needed for Growing Mountain Bike Program

Mountain Bike Team at Palmer Woods

Norte is planning its most ambitious spring season for 2021 and we’re looking for great coaches.

This past fall, we took a chance and expanded to seven practice locations for our Grand Traverse Region Youth Mountain Bike Team. It was a big success—like, huge. We smile every time we look through the fall program report bursting with positive rider and family feedback [2020 Fall Youth Mountain Bike Team Report]. 

However, we’re always looking for ways to improve. One thing is for sure, over the last few seasons, we have learned that demand for this type of youth programming exists across Northern Michigan. It seems there’s no limit to where riding bikes with friends doesn’t work; it’s a perfect recipe for happy, healthy, strong people — young and old. This spring, Norte will be offering more practices in more communities. We have riders, we’re rich with trails, and now we need to find the coaches. 

We’ve learned that the mountain bike program starts with extraordinary coaches. We seem to find just enough each year, but we must begin onboarding earlier to expand further into Northern Michigan. Early hiring will allow more time to get to know the new coaches, enable training, and for us all to get to know the trails together. Our end goal is to have the best coaches for the best young riders anywhere.   


Mountain Bike Team Practice


Here’s what we are looking for in a great coach. 

  • A great coach loves riding bikes and loves sharing that passion with young riders. 
  • A great coach is creative, adaptive, and puts joy into every practice.

A great coach will combine all that into one smiling, energetic delivery that makes riding bikes a natural outlet for our young riders. The right coach lifts the enjoyment level to a point where these young rippers don’t even notice that they are learning essential life skills like perseverance, independence, cooperation, and even math.   

Yes, of course, we made a list of coaches’ best traits that we’ve observed over the years. 

You’re probably saying, “Ben, I’m so much fun, and I’m so responsible it hurts! But I can barely ride no-handed, let alone pull off any sweet tricks. How can I be a youth mountain bike coach?” 

Take it from me. You don’t have to be a wheelie master or high flyer to be a great coach. Giving these kids your time and attention, letting them be kids in the woods on bikes, and then delivering them back to their parents safe and without significant injury is what we ask.  We can help you with all that. 

Sounds like a good time? Do you think you have the time and energy to commit to a five-week spring season? Check out our latest job post for the Youth Mountain Bike Team Coach for more details.

If you’re still reading this, you might also be interested in a similar coaching position for our Summer Bike Camp from June to August. A little sunnier, a little warmer, and a different group of campers each week, Summer Bike Camp is whole lot of fun too!




Happy. Healthy. Strong.


Join Team Orange: Now Hiring a Donor Relations Specialist

We’re hiring!

Norte is seeking a Donor Relations Specialist to join Team Orange. 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 Executive Director.

The Donor Relations Specialist provides administrative support, focusing on development and fundraising for a wide range of programming, outreach, and advocacy activities to further Norte’s mission of building happy, healthy, strong communities. Strong organizational and communication skills are critical to helping Team Orange transform the culture of health in the Grand Traverse region.


Norte’s Donor Relations Specialist will report to the Executive Director and work closely with the Business Manager and the rest of our remarkable team, both full time and seasonal staff, and the board of directors. This position will develop and strengthen external relationships with community members, such as partners, donors, volunteers, and the general public.


  • Strengthens and maintain Norte’s database, including managing donors, business members, campaigns, acknowledgments. 
  • Builds and maintains dashboards and reports to measure Norte’s advancement of the organization’s strategic plan. 
  • Executes the processing of donations and oversees donor acknowledgment procedure to ensure timely, accurate, and appropriate response to gifts
  • Assists with fundraising initiatives such as annual appeals, membership renewals, special appeals, major grants and donors, and other fundraising campaigns.


Success at Norte means:

  • Responsibilities and tasks are completed on time and thoroughly. 
  • Written communication is clear, concise, professional, and free from error.
  • Systems and procedures are adhered to, and ways to improve them pursued when appropriate.
  • A team effort resulting in a sense of belonging, acceptance, and support.


Leading candidates will have at least two years of relevant experience.

Formal Education or Equivalent:

Bachelor’s degree with excellent academic performance is preferred. In place of a college degree, applicants with relevant experience are also encouraged to apply. 

Skills Required: 

  • Exhibit professionalism when communicating on the phone, in email, or in-person.
  • Extremely detail-oriented with strong organization skills.
  • Exhibit excellent time management skills and ability to meet deadlines.
  • Demonstrate the ability to work independently and as part of a team.
  • Effective problem-solving skills.
  • Proficiency or willingness to learn Salesforce.
  • Proficiency with Google Suite, including Gmail, Calendar, Drive, Sheets, Docs, Slides.


  • The desire to learn and grow professionally


  • Daily computer work.
  • Occasional light lifting.


The Donor Relations Specialist is a full-time FLSA exempt position with a starting 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 along with seven other remarkable people in Norte’s business casual environment either at our Grand Traverse County Civic Center headquarters or off-site office. Remote work is also part of Norte’s work culture and is the norm during the pandemic.


Write a compelling cover letter and submit it along with a resume and to Ty Schmidt at with “Donor Relations Specialist” in the subject line.

Applications will be accepted until 5 pm EDT on Thursday, December 31, 2020. 

The ideal candidate would start employment mid to late January 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.


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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 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

Elk Rapids Update: Cranksgiving is Coming, Folks! 🌽

Cranksgiving Comes To Elk Rapids

The leaves are falling. The sun is shining. Yet, there’s a briskness in the air to remind us that winter is approaching. With that comes the reminder that we need to bundle up, put our hats on, and find ways to get outside even when the weather starts to turn.

I remind you to keep pushing yourself to find ways to get outside and enjoy all the seasons of Northern Michigan. And, remember, Norte is here to help.

This November, you can do your body right and help others. Norte’s annual Cranksgiving bike ride and food drive is on November 22. There are opportunities in Traverse City, Suttons Bay, and, this year, our very own Cranksgiving in Elk Rapids – our first year! Thankfully, we have the Chain Hub at Rotary Park to use our starting point because of many of you – thank you.

Cranksgiving is a national event that is a “food drive on two wheels. Part bike ride, part food drive, and part scavenger hunt. All you need is a bike, a bag, and a lock!” This year we add a mask, but the fun stays the same.

Are you ready to ride bikes, give back, and do good? You can register your team at Norte’s website. If you have any questions or are looking for some costume ideas, shoot me a reply.

I also wanted to shout out to all our coaches and volunteers who helped make our Mountain Bike Team at Maplehurst and Glacial Hills such a huge success. We had full registration at these locations and received so many positive survey results.

So, thank you, coaches. Thank you, volunteers.  We love you and can’t wait to ride bikes in the Spring.

– Lauren + Team Orange


Whether it’s having a role on the Project Team, or volunteering once in a while, or just staying up to date and coming out for a slow ride, get more involved by completing this form:


Cranksgiving: Food and Fun on Two Wheels

Our Cranksgiving Presser:

Norte invites Northern Michigan residents to form a team and sign up for this year’s Cranksgiving. The event combines a fun bicycle ride – costumes encouraged – with food collection to benefit local families. The annual event started in New York City in 1999 and launched in Northern Michigan in 2018.

This year’s Northern Michigan Cranksgiving begins at 11 am on Saturday, November 22. This year at three locations: Traverse City, Elk Rapids, and Suttons Bay.  

Cranksgiving riders will need a bicycle, a lock, a mask, and a minimum of $25 to purchase groceries and household items from participating Northern Michigan businesses. To collect all of the items on the shopping list, it helps to ride as a team, but solo riders are welcome. Registration for Norte’s 2020 Cranksgiving is free and currently open at the organization’s website,

“I love Cranksgiving. It’s a blast to see families and teams come out in the cold to have some fun, get a little ride in, and to do some good,” said Ty Schmidt, Norte Executive Director. “We have two categories, one for folks who want to ride 5-6 miles and another for a more leisurely 2-3 miles. Cranksgiving is a family event intended for people of all ages.”

This year, Norte is hosting Cranksgiving events in multiple locations in Northern Michigan. Currently, Elk Rapids, Suttons Bay, and Traverse City will simultaneously host events. However, Norte is interested in collaborating with other communities to hold Cranksgiving drives as well. “If your community is interested, let us know, and we can help you make it happen,” said Schmidt.

All Cranksgiving events will begin at 11 am, with check-in spread out from then until noon to allow for social distancing. At check-in, teams will be giving a shopping list and further instructions. When groups finish, they return the items to the starting spot. Norte will work with Food Rescue and area pantries to deliver the goods to families in need in the region. The ride should take around two hours.

To help keep everyone healthy and help stop the spread of COVID-19, Norte asks that all riders stay home if they have any symptoms before the event. Teams are required to wear a mask and maintain social distance. Although this is not a race, teams receive bonus points for posting to social media pictures of their team washing their hands.

Food Rescue will distribute items collected by the riders to the Northwest Food Coalition’s food pantries in Antrim, Benzie, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska, and Leelanau counties. “I look forward to spending the day with friends to have fun and do good. But Cranksgiving is something more, too,” said Taylor Moore, Food Rescue Manager for Goodwill Northern Michigan.

“Cranksgiving gives me the opportunity to think about why we need to have this event: because every year so many people struggle to buy their Thanksgiving meal,” Moore continued. “The Norte community knows better than most the power of collective action. Just as we can envision new trails and roads where vehicles take more notice, we can envision kids riding their bikes to school with stomachs full of nutritious food. This Cranksgiving, I’ll be envisioning new reasons to bike, and a Thanksgiving free of COVID and hunger.”

This year’s Northern Michigan Cranksgiving is presented by Norte Business Champion, State Farm Agent Susan Rauser. More information on Cranksgiving can be found online:

Norte’s Volunteer Awards for 2020 – Whoop!

Our fabulous 2020 volunteer award recipients: from left to right, Yarro Ireland, Charlie Pryde, Jason Plum, and Lisa Molmen. (Not shown, Sami Maldonado and Shea O’Brien).

None of Norte’s work is possible without hundreds of wonderful people who donate their time, energy, and financial resources to support happy, healthy, strong communities and active-for-life kids. This past weekend we honored this year’s volunteers who went above and beyond to help Norte pull through this crazy year. Thank you, Lisa, Jason, Sami, Shea, Yarro, and Charlie.

We’re overflowing with gratitude for all our wonderful volunteers – thank you.


The Paul Deyo Service Award is given to a volunteer who has gone above and beyond. His/Her contributions support Norte’s mission of encouraging happy, healthy, strong kids in the Grand Traverse Region.

 The 2020 Paul Deyo Service Award goes to Lisa Molmen.

The Leadership Award recognizes those who have helped Norte establish, improve, or grow a service. They may have also built a team or established connections within Team Orange. The leadership award goes to those who aspire to create change and inspire others to roll along with them. Jason Plum

The 2020 Leadership Award goes to Jason Plum.

The Youth Award recognizes volunteers that have played a crucial role in Norte’s youth leadership efforts. This award is given to an individual 18 years or younger who has positively impacted lives in the Grand Traverse region.

The 2020 YouthAward goes to Sami Maldonado.

The Advocacy Award category recognizes substantial efforts to influence public outreach and advocacy. These individuals keep the ultimate goal in mind and steer efforts accordingly. 

The 2020 Advocacy Award goes to Shea O’Brien.

The Golden Wrench Award  recognizes a volunteer who has gone above and beyond to help maintain our sweet fleet of Norte bikes. This volunteer has been committed to providing the Grand Traverse Region with safe, easy to ride bikes that won’t disappoint.

The 2020 Golden Wrench Award goes to Yarro Ireland.

The Community Captain recognizes an individual who has given time to making their own community a part of Norte’s grander vision – to make the Grand Traverse Region a safe, happy and healthy place to live. 

The 2020 Community Captain award goes to Charlie Pryde

Are you energized to work with happy, healthy, ready-to-learn kids and/or make your community a stronger, better connected, more walk/bike-friendly place to live? We want to hear from you. Volunteer with Norte.

Access. Connection. Health: A 2020 Bright Spot in a Northern Michigan Neighborhood

In 2018, Norte, along with many citizen advocates, pushed hard for more sidewalks in Traverse City’s Traverse Heights neighborhood – a historically underserved area. This effort was a continuation of years of work by multiple organizations, City staff, elected officials, and citizens from across the community. I hear Bob Otwell was doing the math and groundwork for increased sidewalk spending in the late ’90s when he served on the City’s Planning Commission. Thanks, Bob!

Today, we’re full of gratitude for all that work. And we can’t give enough thanks to the City of Traverse City for investing $4.5 million to build 9.2 miles of new sidewalk.  This sense of urgency and commitment speaks volumes about what we value as a community.

With the first year of that investment complete, we already see an incredible improvement in access, connection, and safety—a 2020 bright spot for sure. These new sidewalks support active living, social cohesion, and health.

Thank you to those awesome people who spoke up for a better Traverse Heights and more complete neighborhoods across the city.

And thank you, the City of Traverse City. Let’s keep it up!

Are you interested in making your neighborhood more walkable and more bikeable?

We’re here to help.


The Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation + Active-For-Life Kids: 3 Years of Growth and Impact in 3 Graphs

In 2017, five individuals helped the Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation put Team Orange on rocket fuel with a three year investment.

The growth and impact from that partnership – seen here in three simple graphs – has been incredible.





What’s next for Norte? 

This pandemic has provided a once in a century opportunity to bring enduring change to this amazing place we call home. Our multi-year ambitious strategic plan, the Big Orange Promise, to help transform the culture of health in the Grand Traverse region.

The goal is to help develop more – 8000ish more! –  independent, happy, confident, active for life kids who are empowered, move more, sit less, and be guardians of their health. 

Fueled by stubborn optimism, we’re 100% committed to using our talents to do good every day and benefit the lives of those we’re committed to serving; our kids.

We’re pressing on for them. Full gas. 

On behalf of thousands of these kids and families, thank you, Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation.


Read our Annual Report online or download a PDF version below.

Download “Norte's 2019 Annual Report” NorteAnnualReport2020-final.pdf – Downloaded 345 times – 25 MB



VIDEO: Northern Michigan Walks To School Day

We love this video by our friends at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan from last year.

Northern Michigan Walks to School Day is a community-wide, multi-school celebration. It’s a day for taking bold, strong steps to get to school and is part of the National Walk To School Day. This year, Northern Michigan Walks to School Day is next Wednesday, October 7.

Last year, over 1100 students from across Northern Michigan walked to school on the annual event. 2020 is throwing us a few curveballs, but we still believe that walking to school deserves a celebration. This year, we invite you to participate anyway possible. If you are attending school virtually, you can still count by including a walk as part of your school day. If you’re going to school, we invite you to organize your own class or a small pod to meet up and walk to school. Park and Strolls totally count. And, as always, if you’re taking the school bus, that stroll to the bus stop counts as well.

This year we will once again award The Most Walk-tastic to the school that shines the brightest. The 2019 recipient was Northport Public School. The award goes to the school with the most students walking on Walk to School Day.

Help Your School be The Most Walk-tastic


Northern Michigan Walk to School Day is made possible with generous support from Blue Cross Blue Shield of MichiganTBA Credit Union, and Traverse City Track Club. In addition to the 1000’s of students, over two dozen schools across Northern Michigan participated in the 2019 event. There is no age requirement. Everyone from pre k to 12th grade, including teachers, staff, and principals are welcome to join the walk.