Mike Dow’s Gift & The Role of Rotary Camps & Services


Mike Dow shared the community’s interest in developing the property as an education center. He liked the idea of a location that would house water-related nonprofits in the area. He knew this would increase the potential for these organizations to work together and share resources and in turn offer a place of exploration, learning, and awareness to the public. Of all of the organizations that were interested in the project, only Traverse City’s Rotary Camps & Services had the resources to manage its development. After careful thought and planning, in December of 2006 Mike Dow donated the property to Rotary Camps & Services, the land-holding arm of the Traverse City Rotary Club, and the collaboration of the nonprofit organizations began.

The property as it looked in the 1960s.
The property as it looked in the 1960s.
The Discovery Center parcel map.
The Discovery Center parcel map.

The Leelanau Trail, which is part of the TART Trail system, runs along the back of the property. With funding from the Department of Environmental Quality, the Discovery Center ~ Great Lakes leadership team is working on creating a natural resources protection plan for the property, as well as identifying the best location for an on-site nature trail connecting the front of the Discovery Center property with the Leelanau Trail. This will allow visitors to access the Discovery Center from the Leelanau Trail.

The property also includes 50 feet of West Bay frontage across the street on the east side of M-22, along with a wooden dock and a mooring field. The beachfront, dock, and mooring field provide the potential for fantastic learning opportunities, including the future possibility of advanced sailing instruction for Traverse Area Community Sailing.

Valued at more than a million dollars, Mike Dow’s charitable gift will benefit our community for generations to come. The value of the gift is not only in the land, but also in the long-term potential for the collaboration of area non-profits and the promise of an important educational community resource.


Although each of the nonprofit members had its own set of abilities and expertise to add to the mission, none had the individual resources to take on this vast project alone. However, the leadership decided that having someone to oversee the entire project was vital for its success. Rotary Camps & Services’ role is to ensure that Mike Dow’s intentions for the property are honored and to supervise the gift. This role has enabled the member organizations to focus their efforts on finding their best fit within the larger project

According to its mission, “Rotary Camps & Services identifies and addresses community needs and creates new, proactive collaborations primarily through the stewardship of natural resources and access to recreational opportunities. We are the land division of the Rotary family, owning and managing property for public use in the Grand Traverse Region.”

Rotary Camps & Services has also provided important leadership to the creation and launch of the Discovery Center ~ Great Lakes. Three Rotarians were appointed to the founding Board of Directors, which was guided by Rotarian Rob Lovell’s able leadership as Chair for the first three years. Rotary Camps & Services continues to be involved in the governance of the Discovery Center.

Finally, Rotary Camps & Services, with the financial backing of Rotary Charities, has also supported the Discovery Center and the individual organizations with valuable resources for collaborative strategic visioning, site planning, technology assessments, communications development, joint programming, business planning and the first steps toward implementation of many of these items.

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