Category Archives: Community Support

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.

Discovery Center Refines Its Waterfront Plan

We continue to work to ensure that we have fulfilled our responsibilities for both the economic and environmental due diligence associated with our proposed project. As a result, we are scaling back our original vision for a Community Harbor and Marina and are focusing just the Community Harbor and Pier, for now. All of our current efforts will be toward developing the best plan that we can for the area shaded blue below (the Community Harbor). The Community Marina is no longer a focus of our current plan.

Harbor & Marina

There is a unanimous sentiment among all of the Discovery Center partners that preserving the former coal dock for our community’s tall ships must be a paramount goal. None of us can imagine our region without the glorious sight of the gaff-rigged schooners plying the waters of West Bay throughout the summer. After 25 years, the tall ships have become integrated into our community’s unique identity.

Aerial photo of DCGLWe are developing a phased approach as we re-envision all of the opportunities for a regional waterfront attraction created from the former coal dock, including a safe harbor for the tall ships, a deep water port and access to West Bay fisheries, and general access to West Bay for our community’s residents and visitors alike. This phased approach will allow us to better focus our effort on working out a mutually agreeable arrangement with the City of Traverse for the use of the former coal dock to preserve existing and create new recreational and educational activities that will benefit Traverse City and the region. It will also make future development of the project more manageable.

Slide36Our vision and goals have always been to achieve the maximum community benefit for everyone involved. Converting our community’s former industrial waterfront into a public attraction will have a powerful impact for years to come. We will continue to work our environmental and economic due diligence to help make sure that this project will happen successfully and be sustainable in the long run. Please support our efforts.




Chemical Bank Workbee

October 13th was a bank holiday and the Discovery Center had the special good fortune to be visited by a team of twenty-four employees from the newly renamed Chemical Bank (f/k/a Northwest Bank). They came and worked all morning performing the labors of Hercules at the Discovery Center. They spruced up, cleaned up, and winterized the entire campus. And when you’re dealing with a large property, five buildings, and a waterfront, that’s a lot!

While we’re extremely grateful for all of the hard work from the two dozen Chemical Bank employees who gave up their morning to the Discovery Center, we also hope that helping us out was an effective team-building activity for the group.

Chemical Bank employees

18 of the 24 Chemical Bank employees who worked the Discovery Center on October 13th

Thanks to everyone:

Mona Alpers
Scott Ashurst
Jeff Bach
Mick Baird
Mack Beers
Lynn Chouinard
Candice Cole
LuAnne Dennis
Trish Dormitzer
Sam Drelles
Eric Fournier
Zach Hegg

Ian Hollands
Amy Jay
Matthew Knust
Sabina Landt
Lindsey Martinchek
Vickie Mathis
Justin Street
Susan Tarczon
Sid Van Slyke
Lori VanAntwerp
Cory VanBrocklin
Justin Wolf