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

Michigan Wines

Bernie Rink had been growing wine grapes on his property overlooking Lake Leelanau for more than a decade when he opened his tasting room in 1976. His vineyard was the first commercial vineyard in the region.

Aaron Selbig

Highway M-22 has reopened near Glen Arbor. It had been closed since Sunday after a storm left hundreds of trees blocking the scenic highway.

Most businesses in Glen Arbor were open Thursday, even without power. Jacob Wheeler publishes the Glen Arbor Sun and says the town wants people to know it is ready for business.

“Glen Arbor business owners and the chamber and The Homestead and the powers that be do not want tourists, potential tourists, dissuaded from coming here,” says Wheeler.

Peter Payette

Traffic over the Mackinac Bridge last year was down more than 20 percent compared to the late 1990s, and there is no single explanation for the trend. But there is one region where residents say they know what happened to their tourists and have a plan to rebuild.

Susie Keirns has been coming to the Les Cheneaux Islands area her whole life. She’s sitting next to a cabin on the beach in Hessel that her mom stayed in 70 years ago when she was expecting Susie’s sister.

“My sister’s 70 now,” she says. “So that tells you how many years we’ve been coming up.”

Peter Payette

For many families in Michigan, high summer means a trip to the Upper Peninsula. But the number of people who cross the Mackinac Bridge has been declining steadily for almost twenty years.

It looks like that trend could turn around this year. But it also appears that many longstanding ties between visitors and the U.P. have been lost along the way.

Taleen and Marshall Jackson live in Mt. Pleasant but their hearts are in the U.P.

“We try to get up here as much as we possibly can,” says Taleen at the end of a June weekend in St. Ignace.

Alan Newton / NewtonPhotography.us

For more than 30 years, Stone Circle has been a gathering place for poets, storytellers and musicians around the campfire on Saturday nights. Terry Wooten says the event, held at his home north of Elk Rapids, was inspired by his parents.


A pot of money used to clean up abandoned pollution sites in Michigan is just about gone. So in Antrim County, where a plume of contamination threatens drinking water, commissioners recently decided to spend $250,000 on the problem to partially match $750,000 the state offered in return.

It's a deal that could signal a new approach to environmental clean up for the state.

Great Lakes Exploration

The head of underwater archeology in France is still interested in a site in Michigan he visited in 2013, looking for the remains of the Griffin.

Michel L’Hour is listed as the project director in a proposal to the State of Michigan to take wooden samples from beams on the bottom of Lake Michigan. The beams, and other debris, were found off the Garden Peninsula near an area that was excavated two years ago.

Amelia Payette

It didn’t look like an attack at first when American Indians in the Straits of Mackinac joined the rebellion against the British. Ojibwa and Sauk Indians started a game of baggatiway – renamed lacrosse by the French – in front of Fort Michilimackinac.

Indian women watching the game kept hatchets under their garments and passed them to the warriors when they rushed the fort. They quickly killed more than 15 British soldiers and held the fort for a year. One observer reported seeing the attackers "furiously cutting down and scalping every Englishman they found."
 

Peter Payette

The State of Michigan is weighing whether to open the door to commercial fish farming in the Great Lakes.

Millions of rainbow trout are raised for food by Canadians every year in Lake Huron and promoters of the business say Michigan should follow suit and could even become a world leader in aquaculture.

State officials are trying to figure out what the risks are and the idea is likely to face opposition from sport fishing groups and other conservationists.

Northwest Michigan Horticulture Research Center

May 17th, 2002 was the official date when tart cherry trees reached full bloom in northern Michigan that year. The orchards looked normal but most of the cherry buds had been destroyed in April by freezing cold.

The Leelanau Enterprise ran a headline that summer that said “No Cherries.”

Ben LaCross is a second generation grower on a farm north of Cedar. He says nobody could recall a cherry crop failing so completely.

Peter Payette

A tribal councilor in Leelanau County is accused of criminal sexual conduct. The charges against Derek Bailey involve girls under the age of 13.

Bailey is a council member for the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians. He was formerly the chair of the council and also ran for state office in 2012.

Now he faces five counts of criminal sexual conduct and the most serious charges, first degree, could get him a life sentence. Bailey’s attorney says he plans to plead not guilty.

This piece is the first for The Living Memory Project, an occasional series connecting the past to the present in Northern Michigan.

On May 7th, 1979, Judge Noel Fox ruled in favor of three Indian tribes in a dispute with Michigan over fishing in the Great Lakes.

Judge Fox’s decision was blunt. He called the history of government dealings with Indians a “shameful record of broken treaties and unfulfilled promises.”

William L. Clements Library

Fort Michilimackinac opens today in Mackinac City. The original fort was built 300 years ago by the French during their war with the Meskwaki Indians.

Only a few pieces of the original Michilimackinac remain, but a reconstructed fort is open to visitors. Brian Dunnigan is a historian at the William L. Clements Library in Ann Arbor and says there is a fair amount of documentation detailing what the fort looked like in the latter part of the 18th century.

Ken Bosma

The deer herd in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is so depleted the state is even talking about closing the firearm season this year. It’s just one option listed in a report to the Natural Resources Commission about possible responses to the situation.

Wildlife biologists estimate the population of deer in the UP is at its lowest level in 30 years. Extremely cold winters, particularly in 2014, are to blame, according to the report.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

A fleet of Canadian-owned ships will be the first in the Great Lakes to have ballast treatment systems on board. The systems will kill invasive species that live in the ballast tanks of ocean going ships.

It’s a big step toward solving a problem that has plagued the Great Lakes for decades. But the issue is still contentious.

Peter Payette

Swimming in North Twin Lake in Grand Traverse County could cost you $100 this summer. New rules for the lake allow park employees to write tickets if someone swims outside the designated swim area.

Swimming in the lake beyond the marked area has been against county rules  for two years, but the county created a new ordinance this winter so the sheriff’s department does not need to be involved in enforcement.

Parks director Kristine Erickson says it is now a civil infraction.

Peter Payette

Vintners in Michigan could have another disaster on their hands this year. Last year, Michigan vineyards produced about one fourth of the grapes grown in a normal season. The results could be about the same this year and that might leave wineries with little in the their cellars.

Tom Carr

Michigan has a number of wind farms because the state basically made them mandatory in 2008. That was when lawmakers decided a certain amount of our electricity must come from renewable resources, and utilities built wind turbines to comply.

Now, wind energy is, by some measurements, among the cheapest ways to keep the lights on. But nobody seems to be rushing to build more.

In fact, the man who has developed the wind farms we have in northern Michigan says his enthusiasm for wind is waning.

Michigan State University

Traffic over the Mackinac Bridge has been in a steady decline for almost 20 years. That fact is included in a report on Michigan's tourism industry out this week from Michigan State University.

Traffic over the bridge peaked around 1998, when almost five million trips were made. The number dropped below four million just before the recession in 2008. It has continued a steady decline except for a slight bump coming out of the recession.

The Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce supports a sales tax increase to fix Michigan’s roads. That’s good news for the plan that has lost some key support in recent weeks. The higher tax would raise more than a billion dollars a year for transportation spending.

Critics say there was another option, one that did not involve new taxes. But Doug Luciani, President and CEO of the Traverse City chamber, says they looked at that plan too.

“It didn’t address the full load of the transportation needs,” he says. “It fell far short of what the transportation needs are.”

Peter Payette

Terri Wooten never wanted to write academic poetry.

“I had a vision of writing for the common people,” he says.

More than 30 years ago, he built a circle of boulders—88 in all—behind his house north of Elk Rapids. Since then, poets and storytellers have gathered around the campfire to perform for audiences that sometimes number more than 100.

This month, an anthology of Wooten’s poetry is out called "The Stone Circle Poems." Peter Payette stopped by his house and sent this postcard.

The federal government wants faster Internet connections nationwide and has raised the minimum speed for what it considers broadband. That is unlikely to help the thousands of people in northern Michigan who have something like dial-up service and have for years.

National Weather Service

UPDATED 6:50 pm

Gaylord hit 35 degrees below zero this morning, one of the coldest temperatures ever recorded there. A volunteer observer noted that temperature. The thermometer at Gaylord Regional Airport went down to minus 31, according to the National Weather Service.

Other cities set records for the day, including Traverse City at minus 22, two degrees colder than the previous record for February 20th.

Neither of those approach the coldest temperature ever recorded in Michigan.

Faculty members at Northwestern Michigan College will soon decide if they want a union. Ballots are being mailed today to 89 instructors at the community college in Traverse City.

The faculty has not publicly stated what it hopes to gain from a union. A spokeswoman for the Michigan Education Association, the organizing unit, declined to comment on the vote.

Marguerite Cotto, NMC’s vice president of lifelong and professional learning, says the concerns she’s aware of include issues like faculty wanting more say in how employees are evaluated.

There are now more than 200 licensed breweries in Michigan. And that is starting to change the rural landscape up north.

This month, an investment group in Traverse City finalized plans to plant up to 400 acres of hops. That would roughly double the amount of hops now growing in Michigan.

And it signals the arrival of big investors into the business.

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