Tree Number 105: Remembering Susie Stephens

Nancy MacKerrow (L) spearheads the tree plantings.

On a chilly morning in November, I joined some Spokane folks to plant a commemorative tree at the new trailhead for the Fish Lake Trail. This wasn’t just any tree planting and this wasn’t just any tree. We were there to celebrate the on-the-ground progress that bike and trail advocates have made in recent years in Spokane–particularly the development of the Fish Lake Trail—and we were there to remember Susie Stephens.

Susie Stephens was a legend in her own time. A Spokane native, Susie was a past Executive Director of Washington Bikes. Her first major task as the brand new and untested ED was hiring me, and she was fond of telling folks that hiring me “was the best decision she ever made at the Bicycle Alliance.” Hey, how could I not be fond of this woman?

Councilman Jon Snyder participated.

Susie became a bright and shining star on the national bike and pedestrian advocacy scene, loved and known by many. She was hired as the first ED for Thunderhead Alliance—now known as the Alliance for Biking and Walking. But as the fates would have it, Susie was struck and killed by a bus as she legally crossed a street in St. Louis at a national pedestrian training in 2002. In the blink of an eye, she was taken from us.

But Susie has not been forgotten. In 2003, her mother Nancy MacKerrow, planted several trees in her memory in Spokane. Today, the Susie Forest now exceeds 100 trees sprinkled around the globe and continues to grow.
“Trees mean life,” states Nancy, and each tree not only stands as a legacy to Susie and the livable communities she advocated for, but they also commemorate other people, events and milestones. When we planted tree number 105 at the trailhead that November morning, we were also celebrating the progress bike and trail advocates made with the Fish Lake Trail.
In May, the Bicycle Alliance staff plans to plant a Susie tree in Seattle. We’ll share the details as they emerge. If you’d like to plant a Susie tree in your neck of the woods, contact Nancy to arrange for one.
If you don’t like where you are, pedal.
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