The Grand Traverse Bay coal dock is one step closer to opening to the public.
Click below to view the Jan 29, 2016 TV 9&10 news report
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.
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.”
Rotary 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.”
The 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.
Rotary 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).
In 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.
Traverse 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.
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.
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.
Meeting Scheduled! The Traverse City City Commission will hear our proposal on Monday, April 21 at 7:00 pm in the Commission Chambers at the Governmental Center. You can find the Board agenda by clicking here.
We are on the agenda during Public Comment as:
Reserved public comment request from Mike Wills, representing Discovery
Center Great Lakes regarding its interest in the Traverse City Light and
Power Coal Dock Property.
No action is expected to be taken; however, there will be an opportunity to make individual publi comment after Mike’s presentation. The presentation will be televised live on Charter Government Channel 191 and available to view on-line live or later at your convenience.
Click here to view the Record Eagle April 13, 2013 Editorial: Public must have major say in coal docks future.
The Discovery Center’s proposal for a Community Pier, Harbor and Marina is on the City Commission’s April 21 Agenda.
Going into tonight’s meeting, the perception and fear was that the property would transfer to the City upon the motion being presented. While the motion passed, what we learned and heard at the meeting is that this was really only a motion to approve the transfer, whereupon the City Commission will initiate a public process to fully investigate all the issues, risks, opportunities and options regarding the Discovery Center Proposal and the property itself. But, no deed will be signed and no transfer made until the City, upon conclusion of the process and careful, thoughtful deliberation, makes a final decision as to the future of the coal dock and then passes a resolution to either accept the transfer of property or dispose of the property in some other manner. Once the two bodies agree, only then will transfer to any entity occur. TCLP will continue to own, maintain and manage the property in the meantime.
Given the repeated assurances during the meeting of Mayor Michael Estes, City Manager Jered Ottenwess, Commissioners Barbara Budros and Jim Carruthers that our proposal would be given fair, open and public consideration, along with statements of personal support for our proposal from them and most of the TCLP board members, I am personally at peace that we can trust them all to give this amazing concept, supported by so many in our community, a fair chance to become reality. It will not happen quickly, nor should it. What we have conceived needs to be understood, supported and accepted by the community at large.
There was great angst, fear and mistrust leading up to tonight’s meeting and I accept responsibility for much of that. There was a lot of time spent and much discussion fueled by this proposed action, which resulted in good discourse amongst all the parties and no adverse action. In the end, it may have galvanized our resolve to do good for the community and an appreciation for the roles we all play.
So, my personal Thank You to the TCLP Board Members and City Commissioners who graciously bore up under the pressure and managed to navigate a delicate situation honorably and respectfully. And a Thank You as well to all the individuals and organizations who spent their valuable time to support this great vision. My enthusiasm for the project and confidence that the good vision we have will become reality is undiminished.
We all want what is best for the community, so let the discussion begin! Next stop, April 21 presentation to City Commission.
Mike Wills, Chair
At the February 13th joint study session with Traverse City Light & Power and the City of Traverse City, Marsha Smith of Rotary got up and made a very well-reasoned argument for the process and criteria that the City should use for disposing of surplus property. Her memo in support of her public comments can be found here: Rotary Memo regarding Surplus Property.
She made the following especially compelling argument:
For over 50 years the City of Traverse City has listened to the citizens and worked systematically to open our bay front for public use. This thoughtful and visionary framework has led to a world class waterfront that is accessible to all, regardless of economic status or physical ability. It has been the catalyst for adjoining units of government in Acme and Elmwood Townships to do the same.
Honestly, why would the City choose to reverse that trend now?
The Record-Eagle came out with a another favorable editorial today. The paper recognizes the long-term benefit that a a public waterfront educational attraction would have for our region. It concludes:
There are dozens of details yet to be worked out before the city signs on to this or any plan for the coal dock. But city leaders owe it to area residents now and decades from now to give it a fair shot. It’s a chance that won’t come again.
You can find the full editorial here…
Meeting Scheduled! The joint study session of the Traverse City Light & Power Board and the City Commission will occur on Monday, February 10 at 7:00 pm in the Commission Chambers at the Governmental Center. You can find the Board packet by clicking here.