Recreation Northwest

Bellingham Traverse ROOTS.

If you like stories, here’s the abridged version of how the Traverse came to be…

img_traverse_11The Story- My name is Todd Elsworth and The Bellingham Traverse is my creation. Born in Bellingham, raised in Kirkland, I graduated from Western Washington University in 1992. After graduation, I moved to Ketchum, Idaho where I met Mike “Baldy” Wilson who introduced me to the writings of David James Duncan. Reading The River Why is a strong reminder how much salmon matter to the people of the Northwest and the commitment that we as humans must have to protecting their habitat.

On my own life journey, I told my buddy Baldy that I was headed to the Northeast to pursue my dreams of studying and teaching American History. Baldy’s response was “You are a salmon boy- born in the Northwest, you will return”. With this in mind, I traveled by sailboat from Seattle through the Panama Canal to Antigua in the Caribbean. Then up to Portsmouth, New Hampshire where I lived for six years and became an active member of the community.

While in Portsmouth, I became involved with a bicycle advocacy group-Seacoast Area Bicycle Routes by creating an event to raise money for a bicycle/pedestrian bridge. The event was a success and consequently ran for four years. After a short teaching career, I joined close friends at a design house, Harbour Light Productions, where they were able to take philanthropy to the next level helping non-profits throughout the region with design, web production and other related consulting services. Next, I became involved with many groups and gained a strong understanding of the unique needs and roles that non-profits play in any community. It was then time to continue the journey, but before leaving New Hampshire, I competed as a soloist in The Son of Inferno Pentathlon- it took me 6+ hours to finish.

Returning to Bellingham in 2001, I wanted to create an event that was essentially an extension of myself. It went back to the readings of Duncan- who had then released a book titled “My Story as Told by Water”. I had viewed my own life’s journey in an parallel to that of salmon. Here was an opportunity to create an event that helped to tell the story of salmon.

The ideas spawned from there. The goal was create an event that would help raise the visibility of the importance of salmon in the ecological landscape while taking part in recreational activities that people enjoy in the region. It had to be a big circle, so I literally connected the dots of the local parks utilizing the extensive network of greenways and roads to make for a scenic yet challenging course.

It was also important to have it be a community event. Many athletic events raise money for good causes that are health related, but not many raised money for the environmental community. I started with a list of groups that stood out as leaders including Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association, RE Sources, North Cascades Institute, Conservation Northwest (previously NWEA) and many others. The objective was to give these groups an opportunity to be seen by the public in a forum called the Eco-Expo that hosted booths of the groups near the finish line.

The Bellingham Traverse was begun in 2001 and has morphed over the years. Now you know the rest of the story. (there’s more to it than that, but you have to sit down and drink a beer with me if you want to hear it)

As co-founder and executive director of Recreation Northwest, Todd promotes outdoor recreation and brings people together to enjoy, preserve and improve the places where we play.

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