Our History

The property as it looked in the 1960s.

The property in the 1960s.

The Greilickville corridor served the Traverse City community as an industrial waterfront for more than 70 years, bringing fuel, road salt, and other commodities to the region. The land that Discovery Center ~ Great Lakes stands on has been home to several industrial and commercial businesses over the years, restricting the public’s access to the Grand Traverse Bay waterfront. In 2006, the property was donated to Traverse City Rotary by Mike and Rhea Dow, with the intent that the property serve the public. Valued at more than a million dollars, the Dow’s charitable gift will benefit our community for generations to come.

Soon after, Elmwood Township launched an ambitious planning process to evaluate and assess the long-range potential of its shoreline and waterfront in the Greilickville Waterfront Area Study.The Greilickville community was most interested in development of the Discovery Center ~ Great Lakes property as an education center.


The Diamond Alkali unloads coal at the newly constructed Sears dock in the mid-1930s. 

In 2016, Rotary purchased a former coal dock across the street for $1 million the City of Traverse City and Traverse City Light and Power. In the 1930s, the dock had been created by filling the Great Lakes bottomlands of West Grand Traverse Bay. Discovery Center ~ Great Lakes gained water frontage for the people with the creation of Discovery Pier.

Rotary Camps & Services, the property management arm of Traverse City Rotary, is the steward of this project. Their role is to ensure that Mike Dow’s intentions for the property are honored and to supervise the gift. This enables our partners to focus their efforts on their programming, advocacy and maritime activities that make Discovery Center ~ Great Lakes a destination for the whole community.

Further, the real estate conveyed by this Warranty Deed . . . shall at all times be used by . . . [Rotary], its successors and assigns, principally as a location for a collaborative water related educational facility or facilities committed to the promotion of historic preservation, the importance of environmental stewardship, the joy of discovery, and the pleasure of water-based recreation. Other compatible, subordinate uses shall be permitted in order to support and sustain the principal use.

Deed restrictions from December 7, 2006 transfer from Mike and Rhea Dow to Traverse City Rotary.

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