A tough decision made easy

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Guest post: Considering a move

~ Guest Post by Stuart Campbell. Stuart is originally from Whitehall, MI. A graduate of University of Michigan, he lives with his wife Molly and daughter Jane in Baltimore.

When my wife and I recently began considering a critical return to Michigan with our 8 month old daughter, an uprooting of our 5 year-old sapling of a residence in Baltimore, Traverse City immediately jumped out. A simple search of non-profits, events and recent developments in Traverse City made us very eager to begin another job search for a new homestead just a short drive from other family members in West Michigan.

What to look for in a community

Important to us is a sense of community. I am now working for an environmental non-profit in Baltimore, and the sheer number of similar groups in TC was a bit of a surprise and a wonderful sign. Foremost among the serendipitous findings was the area’s own local currency, the Bay Buck.

TC’s newest Lil Library.

Baltimore’s own local currency, the BNote, is starting to find traction among the city’s small businesses and new collaborations continue to come out of its use. That Traverse City has the Bay Buck suggests similar community goals.

The directory also led me to this blog, where we with much excitement I learned about the Little Libraries sprouting up around the City. With support from the public library, these are the perfect example of community anchors, neat features in a neighborhood that can keep children interested in reading while acting as an exciting conversation starter.

The Little Libraries, TART Trails, the Village at Grand Traverse Commons and other shared places are what make the prospect of moving a pleasure rather than a cross-country hassle. We love knowing we could choose on a given summer day to join a famous festival or walk a quiet, tree-lined sidewalk with our daughter just a few blocks away.

Introduction to: The bay is half your pay

I doubt there will many surprised to say that I have not found a job in Traverse City despite the multitude of generous responses from groups such as ISLAND, SEEDS, the Grand Traverse Conservation District, Edible Grand Traverse, and, of course, My WHaT. In my desperation, I wrote emails to staff inquiring about jobs. I was initially surprised by the numerous and pleasant replies I received, given that none of the people to whom I wrote knew me at all. Not only that, but many went out of their way to be helpful, pointing me toward other groups, individuals and upcoming projects to research and contact. I have realized that the candid and caring responses were not flukes but part of a community willing to accept new members. These are folks who share the ideals of sustainability and want to foster a cooperative spirit within their city.

Two of the topics I’ve been fortunate to discuss with these local groups continue to very important to me and I would love to help implement them in the northern Michigan.

One is to create a shared common space for events, teachings and exchange of goods. While physical locations like this exist, such as libraries and parks, the mental and emotional network can be expanded to include Free Schools or a roaming Free Store. These are opportunities to enrich others with your knowledge or simply help each other while reducing the waste stream. These could help foster the community in which we seek to raise our children and which we could potentially turn to in hard times (or merely hard winters!).

The other idea is to further engage residents while also serving an ecological purpose by planting native edible plants. This may seem esoteric to some, but can simply entail landscaping areas with native berries. Myriad benefits arise from this when one considers the impact on wildlife and dependent pollinators, storm water reduction with their deeper roots, and community enhancement through shared experience and local food.

How often have you biked, run or fished near a stranger and given the requisite head nod, or even commented “Weather looks good today, huh?” Imagine rows of blueberry bushes along Boardman Lake. In your morning walk, you stop to see what’s ripe and are greeted by a stranger with her own empty container who yells “Big bunches over here!”.

While plants like Wild Allspice, Highbush Cranberry and others cannot replace one’s current diet, what they can do is connect us and our youth to the outdoors while connecting each other, further growing the already flourishing community that is Traverse City.

My wife and I, and our daughter, haven’t given up on being part of it.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Got a job lead for Stuart? Email him at stuarthmcampbell@gmail.com


  1. Max Wolf
    October 3, 2012 at 9:46 am

    I’ve lived here a long time and Traverse City doesn’t seem that rosy to me, although I admit to having a rather dark outlook most of the time, so maybe it’s just me. Bay Bucks? I haven’t seen one of those in ages, I don’t think most people use them do they? I like the berry bushes idea. I hope you find what you’re looking for, Stuart.

  2. October 3, 2012 at 10:04 am

    For what its worth, I recently was paid in full with Bay Bucks for two jobs. I use them at Oryana, the State Theatre, Green Island, Higher Grounds, and in donation jars when I know it is acceptable. MyWHaT also takes contributions in Bay Bucks.

  3. Stuart
    October 4, 2012 at 8:38 pm

    Max, thanks for the comment! I suppose a small part of it is “the grass is always greener” but folks have been incredibly kind thus far. And I think the Bay Buck might catch on, especially with the “buy local” emphasis that MLUI and others are championing. Baltimore’s BNote already has 150+ businesses accepting it! We’ll see what happens up there…;)

  4. October 4, 2012 at 11:01 pm

    Max, I wish you’d have joined us on Monday evening for the first Bay Bucks annual meeting. Our bylaws require an annual meeting after membership reaches 100+ and it’s been more than that for awhile. It was a good meeting … pizza and great member input. I add at least a couple of new members each month. So far in October, 3 new members have been added. So we’re growing. There’s an online BB Directory, if you’re interested. http://www.baybucks.org.

  5. June Thaden
    October 5, 2012 at 11:52 am

    Stuart, I moved to Traverse City in 1980, and I’ve been forever grateful that I live here with the beautiful bay and wonderful woods, lakes and trails in the area. The big plus here is the people with whom I can share my passions for community, recreation, and progressive ways to solve the problems which face us. I have found the Grand Traverse area to be so satisfying for me personally. Of course, I did grow up in “downstate” Michigan, and knew this area as a teenager, but I didn’t realize the communities of people with whom I could bicycle, help build trails, hike, and join in conversations about our energy & political futures — and grow in my understanding of the world.

    I did have the good fortune of coming here to a good job (in a weak market in my profession).

  6. October 5, 2012 at 1:34 pm

    Stuart – what a sweet post. I returned to TC after 9 years away in Portland, OR and Greenville, SC. (Both model cities for reform in many ways). Unfortunately, I have not been able to find work in MY field here and will most likely have to leave soon. It’s really tragic HOW MANY people want to live here and can’t. You should see the comments on any FB post of a pretty N. Michigan photo from folks in TX or TN, that just wish they could move home.

    I always say, if everyone who wanted to live in Michigan actually moved here, by golly, we’d have an economy!

    At the end of this particular rope-

    Alexis Wittman, LEED-AP
    architectural research and design
    northport and portland

  7. October 14, 2012 at 7:09 pm

    June and Alexis,
    Thank you for the comments! The community and proximity to nature are certainly what are calling us back, though it’s definitely a “join the club” situation after Good Morning America and chef Mario Batali spilled the beans!

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