Category Archives: Featured News

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.

Record-Eagle Editorial Supports Sale of Coal Dock to Rotary

Editorial: Taxpayers are the winners in coal dock deal
They say money talks, and in the debate over whether to sell Traverse City’s unused, underused coal dock properties, one group is speaking through a megaphone.

Three months ago, Rotary Charities officials put their money where their mouth is by …

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.

Inland Seas Joins Discovery Center

The IPic 1nland Seas Education Association is proud to announce they have joined the Discovery Center-Great Lakes as an affiliate off-campus Partner. The mission of the Discover Center-Great Lakes is a direct correlation to the Inland Seas mission of inspiring Great Lakes curiosity, stewardship, and passion in people of all ages. It just makes sense that we work together collaboratively to impact the greatest numbers of individuals with our important work.

Inland Seas is lookiPic 2ng forward to working with all of the partner organizations within the Discovery Center Great Lakes campus. The solutions our Great Lakes need are multi faceted and will be discovered when organizations like those belonging to the Discovery Center-Great Lakes are doing their best work. Inland Seas believes effective collaboration will allow all organizations to do their best work.

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.

Let’s Go Sailing Exhibit Opens at Great Lakes Children’s Museum

Today, the Great Lakes Children’s Museum opened a new exhibit entitled “Let’s Go Sailing” on the Discovery Center campus. The exhibit features a table with built-in fans to propel model “boats” that can actually sail upwind!  The boats are “printed” with a 3D printer, courtesy of Alpha 3D Professional, and fitted with 4 wheels that allow them to “track” on the table to demonstrate the lift created by the wind across the sail. Quantum Sails of Traverse City contributed to the exhibit by helping to design the boat. A video loop on a wall-mounted flat screen TV shows a continual loop of video clips of sailing action provided by Traverse Area Community Sailing (TACS), another of the Discovery Center partner organizations that provides sailing instruction for area youth of all ages.

Black Mountain Yacht Club








Back in the mid-70’s West Bay Boat Works (Bob Core and Bob Sprenger) leased the Coal Dock harbor from Traverse City Light and Power, adding some docks and a travel lift. Sail North (Mike Wills) acquired WBBW in 1984 and with it, the coal dock marina lease, adding about 60 slips to Sail North’s 20 or so (still in use since about 1973).



The coal dock would get 3 or 4 deliveries by self-unloading ships every year. Between deliveries, coal was taken from the pile every day for the power plant and wind blowing across the pile would coat the boats in the marina with fine black dust. The worst was when off-loading coal from ships to the dock by conveyor.

There was nothing we could do about the dust except clean our boats frequently; we had to accept the dust as a condition of the lease with TCLP. So, instead of grumbling and complaining, we decided to make diamonds out of coal! The marina was dubbed “Black Mountain Yacht Club” and a high-contrast photo of the marina and black mountain became the logo.


Boaters were given membership cards and BMYC T-Shirts became a hot commodity, proudly worn in yachting circles around the area and by customers of Sail North’s bareboat yacht charter fleet.

bmyc_shirtWant to place and order? Maybe we will resume production if there is high demand!

Black Mountain Yacht Club was extinguished in about 1995 when TCLP decided to remove the docks because of the cost to replace the rotting wooden sea wall along the west side of the harbor. Today, the harbor is home to the Maritime Heritage Alliance’s schooner Madeline, cutter Champion and other vintage wooden boats, along with the Traverse Tall Ship’s charter sailing ship Manitou. The school ship Inland Seas ties up frequently, too, when plying lower West Bay. Preserving dockage for the tall ships and opening the dock to the public is the Discovery Center’s primary goal.




Tall Ships at the Discovery Center


We are the first to admit that parking on the dock is NOT ideal, nor the highest and best use of the dock. But, in the short term, it makes this project feasible and without it, not. Once pedestrians have a way to safely get across the highway (think medians with safe at-grade crossings, bridges, tunnels, shuttles, trams, trolleys) to remote parking lots, we can move parking off the dock. Those solutions will take time and money, but when they are in place, parking can be moved off the dock to free up activity space. In the meantime, there is room around the perimeter for fishing, picnicking, strolling and interpretive displays

We are the first to admit that parking on the dock is NOT ideal, nor the highest and best use of the dock. But, in the short term, it makes this project feasible and without it, not. Once pedestrians have a way to safely get across the highway (think medians with safe at-grade crossings, bridges, tunnels, shuttles, trams, trolleys) to remote parking lots, we can move parking off the dock. Those solutions will take time and money, but when they are in place, parking can be moved off the dock to free up activity space. In the meantime, there is room around the perimeter for fishing, picnicking, strolling and interpretive displays

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.