Author Archives: Discovery Center

What’s Up With This Curb-work?

Sample island pieces

New Pedestrian Island Coming to Connect Discovery Center and Discovery Pier

The Discovery Center had discussions for years with the Michigan Department of Transportation to find an effective and affordable way to move pedestrians safely across M-22 to West Bay. Both overpass bridges and underpass tunnels are incredibly expensive, difficult to maintain, and challenging to design to accommodate people with disabilities.

Starting last fall, our conversations with MDOT began to make new inroads on a solution that had been previously proposed by several planners for Elmwood Township. We will install an at-grade crossing that catches the eye of passing motorists and gives pedestrians an island of safe refuge as they cross the two lanes of busy traffic. What’s unique about this island–the first in Michigan–is that is can be removed in the winter to accommodate snow plows.

Safety signOver the next couple of weeks we will install the island with bright yellow edges, crosswalk stripes, and appropriate signs to warn drivers of the pedestrian crossing. The crosswalk itself will be equipped with ramps and tactile detectable warning surfaces. This should make it easier and safer for people of all ages, needs, and abilities to safely cross M-22 between the Discovery Center and Discovery Pier.

Please use the new pedestrian crossing once it is installed–even if it means going a few yards out of your way. It will be safer for everyone and get drivers accustomed to being extra alert around the island.

Discovery Center Driveways Closed to Aid Pedestrians

In order to make all of this work, the Discovery Center will be consolidating access into one main driveway. This may be a small inconvenience for those of you in cars and trucks, but a great improvement in safety for those on foot, riding bikes, or being pushed in a stroller.

Plan drawing of pedestrian island


Maritime Heritage Alliance Boat Auction

MHA_ShipLogo31st Annual Boat Auction
& Nautical Garage Sale
Saturday, June 3rd at 9 am

13268 S West Bay Shore Drive
9 am viewing; 11 am auction.

Ongoing garage sale of nautical items.

Ron Bancroft Auctioneer of donated watercraft to benefit Maritime Heritage Alliance programs of preservation & team building/sailing for at-risk youth. Auction boats: Rebel sailboat, jet skis, kayaks, canoes, SeaRay, Rinker & more.

View boats online

Inland Seas’ Utopia Covered by 9&10

9&10 News describe Inland Seas exiting new plans for the Utopia in 2017:

The ship will offer a variety of hands-on learning experiences and will be docking at Traverse City’s soon-to-be Discovery Pier so Fred says people of all age groups can learn from the ship first hand, “So Utopia is going to be docked at the newly formed Discovery Pier in Traverse City and this is a publicly accessible tall ship harbor so the ability to add a new tall ship to the harbor in Traverse City is really exciting for us.”

For complete story, click here.

Schooner Utopia arrives at Discovery Pier

At  17:45 on Thursday, September 29, 2016 the Utopia finished its journey from Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. It landed on its new berth at the Discovery Pier. Ellsworth Peterson generously donated his famed 65-foot schooner, Utopia, to the Inland Seas Education Association (ISEA).

The Schooner’s Remarkable History

UtopiaThe staysail schooner was designed by the late Fred J. Peterson. It was built in 1946 by Peterson Builders and began its maiden sea voyage in 1947 when she cruised the North Atlantic, Mediterranean Sea and Caribbean Islands. In November 1956, Fred Peterson and crew embarked on an epic three-year  cruise around the world. They stopped at ports in the Azores, Tangiers, Gibraltar, Canary Islands, Trinidad, Havana, Tonga, Galagapos, the Solomons, New Guinea and dozens more. It is estimated Utopia has logged more than 60,000 miles, including several Chicago-Mackinac races. In recent decades, Utopia has been owned and skippered by Ellsworth Peterson. He has been a goodwill ambassador in Door County, Wisconsin and elsewhere, hosting numerous non-profit events and receptions.

Fred Sitkins, Executive Director of ISEA, said of the schooner, “We are thankful for the story of Utopia and the Peterson family and will work hard to ensure that this story is told to as many people as possible.”

Utopia’s Future

While specific plans for Utopia are still to be determined after Coast Guard inspection, ISEA plans to use her at the Discovery Pier next summer. A grant secured from the Worthington Foundation will allow Inland Seas to purchase a remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV) and develop an underwater course for school groups and the public beginning in 2017. This program will be run from Utopia.


New Name Unveiled

At a TC Ticker recess event on July 13, the new name for the dock formerly known as “Coal” was unveiled. In order to connect the programs and activities currently being offered at the Discovery Center, the new name will be Discovery Pier. (Photo courtesy of the TC Ticker.)

To see more check out the Ticker article.


Article in The Ticker on the former coal dock

Great coverage in The Ticker about plans for the former coal dock. Fred Sitkins is quoted:

“The possibility this presents is unlike anything I’ve ever seen,” Inland Seas Education Association Executive Director Fred Sitkins says. “Having the opportunity to at times have all three tall ships in that basin is a real attraction.”

We look forward to working with Rotary to develop a plan for this unique community assert.

Rotary Charities Grants $1M to Buy Coal Properties

A Wonderful Opportunity for the Discovery Center!

Rotary announced that an offer has been made to acquire the former coal properties on West Bay from Traverse City Light and Power (TCLP) for public use and community benefit. Rotary Charities of Traverse City, will fund the purchase with a $1,000,000 grant. The properties will be transferred to Rotary Camps & Services, which owns the Discovery Center, which has committed another $500K for improvements to the properties. “The initial focus for the property will be the conversion of the former coal dock to another open space for the community with universal access to West Bay,” says Rotary Camps & Services Chairperson, John Hall.

Scope of the Purchase Offer

The purchase offer includes the deepwater port, former coal dock, inner harbor, and the land along M-22, as well as the former coal storage lot across the road. When combined with the attractions and activities currently available at the Discovery Center and Greilickville Harbor Park, these parcels will provide the opportunity for a Great Lakes waterfront. Mike Wills, President of the Discovery Center Board , said “By blurring the property lines between the Discovery Center, the coal properties, and Elmwood Township’s park, marina and property on the west side of M-22 we have the opportunity to create a world-class waterfront for our community.”

john_baykeeperRotary Camps & Services will place use restrictions on the coal properties similar to those on the Discovery Center to ensure public access and extend our mission: securing a permanent home for tall ships, maritime history education, recreation, and freshwater education. The project is in keeping with Elmwood Township’s plan for a marina district, including extending public access to the waterfront, updating existing docks and preserving the deep-water port.



“We are happy to have a community discussion about the future of this valuable city asset,” said Timothy Arends, Executive Director of TCLP. “This seems like a promising opportunity to create more space for the public to enjoy along our waterfront.” The Discovery Center is eager to present our vision for the former coal dock to the community and to engage in that discussion. After seven years of working to ensure this unique asset remains available for community use and benefit, we’re thrilled to finally see it happening” says Rotary Charities Chairperson, Gregg Smith. “By opening the property to the public for the first time in many years, a formerly industrial property has the potential to become an integral part of an increasingly vibrant and public waterfront.”

ManitouThe former coal dock is currently the home to Traverse City’s tall ships, including the Madeline and the Manitou. If the offer is accepted, it will help ensure that Traverse City remains a place where you can enjoy the scenic splendor of a schooner plying the waters of West Bay. These iconic boats have become emblematic of Traverse City and our love for our maritime heritage. The Maritime Heritage Alliance and Traverse Tall Ship Company will have a secure home.

During the 20th century, the coal dock served an important role in our community’s industrial past. (See Pictorial History of Former Coal Dock.) In the 21st century, it can serve an important role in enhancing the the special sense of place that he;ps make Traverse City such a unique and appealing spot.

The transaction is subject to approval by the TCLP Board and City Commission, which will consider the transaction at a special joint study session on September 28.

Key Players

CharitiesRotary Charities has assets of over $48 million, which has allowed it to invest over $54 million in over 1,100 grants to the five-county Grand Traverse region since 1977, including over $1.5 million to the City of Traverse City. Other $1 million grants made by Rotary Charities include NMC’s University Center (1994), the State Theatre Project (1997), and the Great Lakes Water Studies Institute (2004).

CampsIn addition to the Discovery Center, Rotary Camps & Services owns over 1,700 acres in Grand Traverse County, which includes Camp Greilick, the regional Boy Scout camp, and Camp Sakakawea, the regional Girl Scout camp. It also owns East Creek Reserve in Garfield Township, with a network of public trails. Camps & Services also served as an incubator for start-ups, such as the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy, the Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation, HomeStretch and NorthSky Nonprofit Network.

TCLP LogoTraverse City Light & Power is a community-owned, community focused municipal utility that offers reliable energy at low cost rates in the region to over 12,500 customers in Traverse City, and parts of Blair, East Bay, Elmwood, Garfield, Peninsula and Paradise townships.

Rotary Assumes Leadership Role in Pursuit of Coal Dock

Record-Eagle/Jan-Michael Stump

Record-Eagle/Jan-Michael Stump

A Record-Eagle article describing Rotary’s new leadership role in pursuit of acquiring the former coal dock for use by the public, and for improvements to the programming and activities at the Discovery Center ~ Great Lakes.

The Discovery Center welcomes this new initiative and the momentum the it will bring to the process.