The FitLot outdoor fitness park, located on the Lansing River Trail near downtown Lansing, opened in 2020. Urban outdoor exercise opportunities are growing in number.

Outdoor exercise in the time of COVID-19

OUTDOOR EXERCISE: From local restrictions on gathering sizes to gym closures, staying fit during the COVID-19 pandemic might seem a near-impossible task. Despite that, many Michigan communities have adapted existing physical fitness programs and implemented new ones. We talk to Boyne Mountain Ski Resort and the National Fitness Campaign. By Lillian Young. FOR PETOSKEY, CHEBOYGAN, LANSING CITY PULSE AND ALL POINTS.

Rising domestic violence during pandemic worries transgender community

LGBTQ COVID: Domestic violence reports in the United States increased in 2020 in correlation with COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, with LGTBQ community members disproportionately likely to experience domestic violence. Advocates say expanding Michigan’s civil rights law to protect against discrimination based on gender-identity and sexual orientation would help. We hear from Detroit-based Equality Michigan, a Southfield state senator and advocacy programs in Grand Rapids and at MSU. By Brandon Chew. FOR LANSING CITY PULSE, GREENVILLE, WKAR, IONIA, DETROIT AND ALL POINTS.

Virtual classes especially hard for 22,500 students with autism

AUTISM COVID: Online learning forced by COVID pandemic is especially hard for the 22,500 Michigan students with autism who need structure and stability. Some parents are finding ways to cope. We talk to an MSU researcher, a parent mentor in Iron Mountain and parents in the Clawson and Berkley school districts. By Taylor Haelterman & Luke Sloan. FOR DETROIT, LANSING CITY PULSE, WKAR, MARQUETTE, BAY MILLS, ST. IGNACE, SAULT STE. MARIE AND ALL POINTS.

Michigan cherry ornament.

New uses for cherry pits makes landfilling a ‘waste of a waste’

CHERRY PITS: Michigan’s tart cherry industry — the largest in the U.S. — may have a way to make money from, of all things, the pits, while making soil more productive and reducing toxic metals in contaminated water, a new study using Antrim County cherry pits shows. Converting waste pits to useful purposes — a charcoal-like, carbon-rich substance called biochar made by heating pits in a zero- or low-oxygen environment– could lower costs for processors and reduce the industry’s environmental impact. We hear from Cherry Marketing Institute, Cornell university researcher and the president of a company that processes cherries in Kewadin and Hart. Top producing counties include Oceana, Benzie, Leelanau, Grand Traverse, Allegan, Charlevoix and Antrim. By Eric Freedman. FOR OCEANA, BENZIE, LEELANAU, TRAVERSE CITY, CHEBOYGAN, PETOSKEY, MICHIGAN FARMER, CORP!, GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS, HOLLAND, HARBOR SPRINGS, LUDINGTON, MANISTEE AND ALL POINTS.

Great Lakes classrooms move outdoors during pandemic

OUTDOOR CLASSROOMS: There are some schools and alternative programs that are keeping kids out of school — literally — during the pandemic. Winter or not, they’re teaching outdoors. We talk to the Detroit Waldorf School, a private school in Detroit, and the Cambridge Farm and Forest School in Ontario, which are giving students new outdoor learning options. By Chioma Lewis. FOR DETROIT AND ALL POINTS.

The great escape of gardening grows during pandemic

GARDENING ESCAPE: The COVID-19 crisis has boosted public interest in gardening. We hear from the creator of Kalamazoo’s “U-Pick Garden,” where she grows thyme, basil, oregano and other herbs, and the manager of the New North Greenhouses in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. By Anne Hooper. FOR STURGIS, THREE RIVERS, GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS, MICHIGAN FARM NEWS, SAULT STE. MARIE AND ALL POINTS.

Midwest fertilizer runoff adds to low-oxygen zone in Gulf of Mexico

FERTILIZER RUNOFF: Fertilizer runoff from seasonal heavy rainfall on Midwestern farms is traveling down the Mississippi River and creating a “hypoxic zone,” or low oxygen zone in the Gulf of Mexico, a recent study warns. The Great Lakes face a similar threat from nitrogen runoff. We talk to MSU Extension experts in Hillsdale and Gratiot counties and to the lead author of the study. For news and agriculture sections. By Lillian Young. FOR MICHIGAN FARM NEWS, ALCONA, HILLSDALE AND ALL POINTS

Pieces of microplastics are common on Great Lakes’ coastal dunes shorelines.

Microplastics threaten Great Lakes, and not just the water

MICROPLASTICS: Microplastic particles, typically studied as aquatic pollutants, have become common in coastal dunes on Great Lakes’ shorelines, a new study says. The situation is worse than originally expected, based on findings from Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. Sources include a Michigan Sea Grant educator in the Saginaw Bay area. By Lillian Young. FOR ALCONA, ST. IGNACE, CHEBOYGAN, SAULT STE. MARIE, HOLLAND, LUDINGTON, MARQUETTE, MANISTEE, OCEANA, BENZIE, TRAVERSE CITY, PETOSKEY, LEELANAU, HARBOR SPRINGS, BAY MILLS AND ALL POINTS.

Students doing traditional dance at Holland’s Tulip Time Festival.

Loss of popular festivals in 2020 means loss of revenue

CANCELED FESTIVALS: The pandemic has scuttled festivals across Michigan, slamming host communities with a major economic hit. We talk to officials at two of the largest, Traverse City’s National Cherry Festival and Holland’s Tulip Time Festival. By Kathleen Fitch. FOR TRAVERSE CITY, LEELANAU, HOLLAND, GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS, CORP! AND ALL POINTS.