A quiet revolution is taking root in Marquette. Aptly named Revolutions, a program aims to give young people access to the Upper Peninsula's great outdoors via bikes and skis, while building self-esteem, self-reliance, and a strong work ethic.
Lindsay Bean and Mark Hall love bikes and biking. They appreciate the peace of pedaling slowly down a tree-shaded path, and the rush of bouncing downhill along a wooded dirt trail. They equally enjoy the pleasures of gliding over sparkling snow on cross-country skis, or snowshoeing on a crisp winter day.
Sharing this appreciation with youth in and around Marquette is the goal of Revolutions, their fledgling youth bike, ski, and snowshoe program. The program, open to youths ages 11 through 18, offers participants not only an opportunity to learn the finer points of biking, skiing, or snowshoeing, but also an education on maintaining and repairing their equipment.
Bikes have always been a part of my life, ever since I was a little kid," says Bean. "Bikes have been a means of exploration, fun and transportation. My bike got me to my friend's house, school, kept me busy in the summer, provided a sense of freedom, and allowed me transportation--which in turn allowed me to earn money."
"Where I grew up (downstate Alma) it was all farm country, eight miles from town," says Hall. "When my brother and I got bikes we rode into town constantly. (Bikes) got us out, got us moving, gave us independence."
Bean and Hall believe bored kids can be attracted to unhealthy thrills such as drugs, alcohol, and petty crimes.
"An active body equals an active mind," says Hall. Revolutions offers an antidote for boredom, combining physical challenges, natural highs, and life skills that will serve participants now and in the future.
"Not a lot of kids are cut out for competition sports. A lot of these kids get left behind. We want a place where we can teach kids how cool it is to work on bikes, get them out in the community riding and make them good citizens; give them knowledge and give them tools," he says.
The bike program will meet twice a week from June through August. Hall and Bean are in the process of securing nonprofit status with the IRS and searching for a program site. They hope to find an affordable, centrally located building that can be a meeting place, workshop, and sales area. In the workshop, Revolutions participants will learn bike, ski and snowshoe repair and maintenance; in the sales area, refurbished bikes, skis, and snowshoes will be available for the public to rent, with proceeds going to support the program.
Revolutions members will be expected to be active--and respectful--participants. "There will be set expectations throughout the programs and in the shop," says Bean. "Kids will be expected to come to their sessions and participate. We'll set pretty typical ground rules such as no smoking, no swearing, no drugs, no fighting, etc. We want kids to be safe in our programs. This includes emotional safety, so we'll strive to create an accepting and supportive environment where kids feel they can gain confidence, challenge themselves, and find friends and role models."
Cost is not a barrier; the program is free of charge, and participants will have access to bikes/skis/snowshoes at all times through the duration of the program.
"In the winter inactivity runs rampant. Kids tend to play more video games; they forget how fun it is to be outside and active. Getting out in nature in the U.P., no matter what the season, is important," says Hall.
Hall and Bean are hoping parents will be drawn into the program as well. "We don't want parents to use Revolutions as a kind of day care," says Hall. "It would be nice to have parents come in at the end of each summer session, and have participants work on their parents' bikes, too. How cool would it be to have program participants pass on knowledge of bikes to their parents?"
Revolutions board member Tara Laase-McKinney is an avid biker and enthusiastic supporter of the program's goals. "
I think it's great that there's going to be more opportunities for more kids in town. Not all kids are into competitive sports, but they (all) need something to do. It's good for them to learn some skills that translate into the rest of their lives," she says.
Laase-McKinney has been assisting Bean with grant writing, and says several locations in downtown Marquette look promising as possible Revolutions sites. She encourages interested parents and participants to keep checking Revolutions' website and Facebook page for updates. "We're excited and confident that we can get this program going," she says.
Another aspect of Revolutions is still in its earliest stage of development. Hall and Bean hope to give second-year participants the option of working as interns either in the rental shop or in the program's fossil-fuel free yard care service. Interns will earn a stipend, or may accumulate hours toward the purchase of a bikes, skis, or snowshoes.
"We're not sure how yet how we're going to implement the lawn care program," Hall says. "I was going to start it as my own personal business. Then I thought: Wrap it up in the program, help kids get their first jobs." His vision includes participants rolling through Marquette on bikes, pulling lawn care equipment on bike trailers. "It could even expand into a leaf raking service in the fall," he adds.
Hall, who describes biking as "a mechanical art form," hopes Revolutions will be a confidence builder for every participant. For every young person to learn "to tear down a bike and put it together, that would be wonderful. Basic bicycle mechanics translates into a lot of other fields. If they take this and do things they've never done before, they will hopefully be more apt to take different challenges in their lives."
Bean and Hall's dream of a quiet, fresh-air revolution is slowly building momentum. "We're in the dormant stage right now but the gears are still turning. We're still out here," says Hall.
Deb Pascoe of Marquette is a freelance writer and a peer recovery coach for Child and Family Services of the U.P. A former columnist for The Mining Journal, her book, "Life With a View ," a collection of her past columns, is available in area bookstores.