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
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.
The City of Traverse City has been the beneficiary of numerous donations of land or money for City properties, including:
- Perry Hannah’s many gifts to the City (e.g. Hannah Park, Oakwood Cemetery, etc.),
- Floyd Clinch’s gift of the West Bay waterfront creating Clinch Park,
- The work of Dr. James Hall and others to acquire the Open Space,
- Efforts of the community to acquire the former Smith-Barney property, etc.
Even the transfer of the TCLP Bayside Plat to the City to be included in the Open Space is a way that the City has benefited. In short, most of the City’s prized open waterfront was acquired through the generosity of the community, not through arm’s length purchases. Because of the City’s efforts and vision, other jurisdictions, such as Acme, have been inspired to acquire bay front property for public access.
Great effort has gone into acquiring private, often commercial water front for public use. With the former coal dock, a unique working waterfront is already in the public domain and can now be made accessible in to the public in unique and exciting ways.
No individual or private entity profits. The Discovery Center (a 501 (c) 3 non-profit entity) will be the operator of the Community Pier, Harbor and Marina taking all the financial risks and rewards to sustain the Phase 2 Discovery Center facilities and further its mission and those of its member non-profits. Generating an on-going revenue stream from related business ventures (referred to as a “Social Enterprise”) is an established practice for stabilizing funding for non-profit organization rather than relying solely on fundraising and donations. Conceptually, the market-rate rental slips will cover the non-profit aspects of the Community Harbor and generate about $80,000 a year, after all expenses and debt reduction, toward the operation of the Discovery Center. The State of Michigan will be paid about $25,000 a year for the bottomlands lease and the private property owners will be paid rent in roughly an equivalent amount for the use of their riparian shoreline and sharing their parking. However, they will not participate in any profits.