Peter Payette

Executive Director

Peter Payette is the Executive Director of Interlochen Public Radio. He was previously the station's News Director. For many years, he hosted the weekly program Points North and has reported on a wide range of issues critical to the culture and economy of northern Michigan. His work has been featured on NPR, Michigan Radio, Bridge magazine and Edible Grande Traverse. He has taught journalism and radio production to students and adults at Interlochen Center for the Arts. He is also working on a book about the use of aquaculture to manage Great Lakes fisheries, particularly the use of salmon from the Pacific Ocean to create a sport fishery in the 1960s.

Peter has vacationed in Benzie County his entire life. His wife Sarah is his biggest fan. They have three children, Isabelle, Amelia and Emmet, and live happily in Traverse City's Kid's Creek Neighborhood. 

Many of his favorite stories are about obscure fish in the Great Lakes or the new arrivals changing the food web.  He also admires the people keeping the rock 'n' roll revolution alive in the woods of northern Michigan and enjoys any story that reconnects the past to the present.

Ways to Connect

Sara Kassien

We might not know exactly what a changing climate will mean for northern Michigan. But Joe VanderMeulen says we can prepare for it.

“Preserving species diversity and preserving natural areas will give us the greatest shot at retaining some of the beauty of this area,” he says.

VanderMeulen has launched a new media project that focuses on climate change and related issues like development and invasive species.

U.S. Forest Service

In the 1970s, people complained the Pine River had become a “canoe freeway.”

Mark Miltner owns Pine River Paddlesports Center and says people like the river because it’s fast.

“It’s just a little livelier than most Michigan rivers,” he says. “It has more personality, has more push, has more fun factor.”

Peter Payette

Instructors at Northwestern Michigan College say union negotiations are at an impasse, and at issue is how much say the faculty has in how the college operates.

The faculty formed a union last year and is negotiating its first contract.

Members voiced their frustration on Monday night at a meeting of the board of trustees.

The Pine River is one of the fastest flowing rivers in Lower Michigan and one of the most popular. But its popularity created a problem the U.S. Forest Service wants to fix.

The project would mean the end of a sandy bank, about 160 feet high, that attracts crowds of paddlers.

The issue pits people’s enjoyment of the river against the river’s health and even public safety.

U.S. Forest Service

The Pine River is one of the fastest flowing rivers in Lower Michigan and one of the most popular. Heavy traffic in the summer has created a problem the U.S. Forest Service wants to fix.

The project would mean the end of a sandy bank, about 160 feet high, that attracts crowds of paddlers. It’s an issue that pits peoples’ enjoyment of the river against the river’s health and even public safety.
 

The bank is just above Low Bridge, about 20 miles east of Manistee. It’s almost almost pure sand from top to bottom.

Gord Cole / Aqua-Cage Fisheries

The debate over fish farming in the Great Lakes is underway in Lansing. Committees in the state house are considering competing bills. One package of bills would create rules allowing what’s called cage or net pen aquaculture. Other legislation would ban fish farms in the Michigan waters of the Great Lakes. IPR News Director Peter Payette has been following this story and spoke with David Cassleman.

Traverse City Area Public Schools

Some parents on Old Mission Peninsula want to know if they can pay higher taxes to keep their elementary school open. Traverse City Area Public Schools has proposed closing three elementary buildings to save money, including the school on Old Mission Peninsula.

The idea of raising taxes to keep a school open sounds simple but is something school districts are not allowed to do in Michigan. An amendment to the state constitution known as Proposal A made vast reforms to public education funding and prohibits a local school district from asking voters for more money to operate schools.

Parents on Old Mission Peninsula are talking about a way to work around that law.

Peter Payette discusses it with David Cassleman.


Peter Payette

Mark Baker announced in December he was selling his farm. But now he says he has a new plan: he wants to help other military veterans take up farming.

 

Tall Ships America

Tall Ships America will return to the Great Lakes this summer. The event, Tall Ships Challenge, will bring the fleet to every lake and will include a stop in Bay City.  A race from Bay City to the Straits of Mackinac is also planned. On Lake Michigan, the race will likely be from Chicago to Green Bay.

There will be about 20 ships in the fleet, including two this year from Europe - a Spanish galleon and Viking-style ship from Norway.

Department of Environmental Quality

Michigan has more than 280 contaminated sites that are “orphans.” That means the company that made the mess no longer exists and the state has to deal with it.

But Michigan is running out of money to tackle these environmental problems. That was not good news for Antrim County, home to one of the largest contaminated sites in the country. State management of an underground plume of trichlorethylene (TCE) has been crucial here for years and will be needed in the future.

Food inspectors used a warrant signed by a judge to visit a farm near Cadillac last week. State police troopers were also on hand for the inspection of Bakers Green Acres last Thursday.

A spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Jennifer Holton, called the inspection “routine.”

But the farmer, Mark Baker, characterized it on his YouTube channel as a “raid.”

“They pulled in like it was a raid,” he says. “Like we were going to run the other way or flush drugs down the toilet.”

Clements Library, University of Michigan

Henry Rowe Schoolcraft did as much as anyone else to make Michigan a state. As the U.S. Indian agent, he negotiated a treaty with tribes up north, who gave up millions of acres of land in the deal.

Schoolcraft married Jane Johnston Schoolcraft, a poet who was half Ojibwe. But he still thought of Indians as savages and that it was his job to lift them out of their “barbaric” state, according to Eric Hemenway.

Hemenway is a member of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians who works in cultural preservation.

Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy

Petobego Pond was a big winner at the Natural Resources Trust Fund board meeting this week. The fund board recommended spending almost $2.5 million to help preserve 43 acres at the south end of the pond along East Grand Traverse Bay near Elk Rapids. The land is privately owned and forms a peninsula between the bay and the pond.

Peter Payette

The founder of a charter school in Traverse City is back in federal court next week. A judge will sentence Steven Ingersoll for up to five years for his recent convictions of tax evasion and conspiracy to defraud the federal government. Those crimes had to do with his financial dealings in Bay City.

The hearing is also raising questions about whether Ingersoll abused his power when he was running Grand Traverse Academy. When he cut ties with the school, he owed the public academy $1.6 million dollars.

Recent changes to the rules for deer hunting are changing the sport.

The rules apply to much of the northern Lower Peninsula, and they're more restrictive, making it harder to shoot a buck.

Plenty of hunters objected when they were put in place.

But after a few years, some say it’s a dramatic improvement and could make the region a hunting destination for people from other states.

Illustrated for Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper in 1860

On the 40th anniversary of the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, we got to thinking about how much the media has covered this particular event. With 8,000 known wrecks on the Great Lakes alone, why would this wreck be so popular? And why does it seem like our collective knowledge of maritime history starts and ends with the Edmund Fitzgerald? 

The best explanation seems to be Gordon Lightfoot and his chart-topping song “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” 

 


Vanessa Diffenbaugh's first novel, The Language of Flowers, is about a foster child aging out of the system. Her second and latest book, We Never Asked for Wings, takes on immigration and education. Vanessa Diffenbaugh's books tackle big topics that highlight regular peoples' struggles and triumphs. Diffenbaugh talked to Sarah Bearup-Neal, a writer and artist from Glen Arbor.

Peter Payette

When Sue Ann Round decided to move her art gallery from Suttons Bay to Traverse City, some of her friends urged her not to do it.

“In general, galleries have not made it very well in Traverse City,” says Round, who has owned Michigan Artists Gallery for 14 years.

But Round figured the city was ready, since there had been so much cultural development in the past decade, with new restaurants and events like the Traverse City Film Festival.  


Jeb Bush has upset a popular musician here in northern Michigan. Bush has been using the song "The Workingman's Hymn" on the campaign trail. It was written by Joshua Davis, a singer from Traverse City.

Davis actually wrote the song in 2008 to protest the policies of Jeb's brother, George W. Bush. He says he can’t believe Bush is using it.

“If [Bush] would look into the song a little bit and realize what it's actually about, he wouldn't want to use that song," says Davis. "It makes him look ridiculous.”

Aaron Selbig

Meet Travis Duncan, manager of the Swamp of Suffering. That's the main attraction at Screams In the Dark, a big haunted house set up on the county fairgrounds near Traverse City.

Duncan plays a zombie that’s dressed as a member of a SWAT team. He and his small army of volunteers see themselves as something resembling a theatre troupe.

“This whole idea is to set up an illusion that you’re actually in a swamp," says Duncan. "You’re in a mausoleum, you’re in a graveyard. So we try to keep people in character so they can give that illusion and keep that illusion up.”

Wikipedia

Mykl Werth grew up as the art form he now loves was being abandoned in the U.S. He was a boy in the 1950s when dances like the Twist were popular and left people dancing next to each other. The ecstasy of the 1960s enthroned individual expression and led to the typical social dance we see today: a bunch of people shuffling around solo.

Mykl didn’t start dancing himself until he was 38. When he did, he quickly took an interest in partner dancing, which meant ballroom dancing. But he says it was no fun memorizing all those steps and people in the classes looked grumpy to him.

“I found it pretty laborious,” he recalls. “I wasn’t enjoying myself and if I wasn’t going to enjoy myself I wasn’t going to keep doing it.”

So he decided there had to be another way and he came up with a method all his own that he calls “co-creative.” It begins with dancers leaning away slightly from their partner. He says that creates a shared balance point a couple can move around naturally.

Peter Payette

One of the phrases sometimes used to describe what is great about life Up North is “small town character.” What that means is a little vague, but the real estate market generally proves it is valuable: homes in many villages and cities up here are worth more every year.

Acme Township is a rural community that has no village. In fact, it is not much of a destination at all, unless you are going to the Grand Traverse Resort. Acme is mostly farmland with a few businesses along US-31 and M-72 and, of course, that glass tower reaching 17 stories into the sky.

Jeff Henley says it’s too bad people think of Acme as a gateway to Traverse City.

“Why can’t we make Acme a place to stop?” he wonders. “Instead of having to go through a gateway to get to something. Maybe you’re already there. Just look around.”

Community Newspaper Holdings

The executive editor of northern Michigan’s largest newspaper has been ousted. The publisher of the Traverse City Record-Eagle, Paul Heidbreder, confirmed that Mike Tyree is no longer with the paper. Heidbreder would not discuss the situation further.

Last year, the Record-Eagle’s owner, Community Newspaper Holdings, had honored Tyree by naming him to its President’s Circle.

Peter Payette

(This is our first story in a new series on IPR.) 

Around the time Ben Davila was thinking about leaving San Francisco, a friend sent him a BuzzFeed article about nine private islands you can buy for less than an apartment in San Francisco.
 
Davila was well aware of the problem. He had a small recording studio in his apartment that he wanted to expand, but there was no way he could afford it.
 

Aaron Selbig

Do you live in Paradise? How’s it going?

Those are questions we want to explore this fall on IPR News Radio in our series, Which Way to Paradise: Struggle and Promise Up North.

Parts of northern Michigan are booming and we are constantly told Traverse City, in particular, is a top 10 place to live, work and play. Who is coming here and why? How has the region changed and what is missing?

Our first two stories illustrate both sides of the coin. Ken Daniels just moved his family to Texas. He says he can’t make a living at $13 an hour with no benefits.

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