Healthy Beaches

Keeping Your Family Safe

Beach Monitoring

During the summer months, The Watershed Center conducts E. coli testing at Grand Traverse area beaches in partnership with the City of Traverse City, Health Department of Northwest Michigan, The Grand Traverse County Health Department and the Benzie-Leelanau District Heath Department. Testing occurs every Wednesday from (approximately) mid-June to Labor Day.

If test results show high bacterial levels, beaches will be re-tested the following day.

Beaches to be tested in 2016 include:

Inland beaches

Grand Traverse County:

  • Gilbert Beach
  • Interlochen State Park
  • Taylor Beach
  • Twin Lakes Park

Benzie/Leelanau County:

  • Almira Township Park
  • Beulah Beach
  • Bellows Beach
  • Neddows Beach
  • South Bar Beach


Great Lakes beaches

Grand Traverse County:

  • Sayler Park
  • Bayside Acme Township Park
  • TC State Park
  • East Bay Park
  • Bryant Park
  • Sunset Park
  • Senior Beach
  • Clinch Park
  • Volleyball Court
  • West End Beach

Benzie/Leelanau County:

  • Elmwood/Greilickville Harbor Park
  • Suttons Bay Marina Park
  • Suttons Bay South Shore Park
  • Omena Beach
  • Northport
  • Empire Beach
  • Frankfort

Weekly results are posted on the state’s beach monitoring database, the Grand Traverse County Health Department website and The Watershed Center Facebook page.

Advisory System

Results for Traverse City beaches are posted on signs at beaches by the Grand Traverse County Health Department.  Results are also available at the Health Department’s website.  Here’s how the advisory system works:

  • Level 1: No tag — E. Coli levels meet MDEQ swimming standards for full body contact
  • Level 2: Yellow tag — E. Coli levels meet MDEQ standards for wading, fishing and boating. Contact above the waist is not advised
  • Level 3: Reg tag — E. Coli levels exceed MDEQ standards; no body contact is advised
  • Level 4: Reg tag Health Aler t– Excessive E. Coli levels and/or known gross contamination; avoid any kind of contact with beach waters

When any Level 2 or higher index is issued, the affected surface waters will be sampled and monitored until contamination levels return to acceptable levels.

Ordinances and Public Education

We work closely with the City of Traverse City, Elmwood Township and East Bay Township to adopt and enforce ordinances that prohibit feeding waterfowl and require pet owners to pick up their pet’s waste in public areas adjacent to waterways. The City of Traverse City adopted an ordinance in spring 2008 that prohibits feeding waterfowl.

Such ordinances will help minimize the flow of E. Coli into Grand Traverse Bay. A study conducted by the Watershed Center and the U.S. Geological Survey in 2001 found that bird droppings and stormwater runoff are likely sources of E. Coli in Grand Traverse Bay.
We also work with local governments to install signs and pet waste bag dispensers along public parks, beaches and trails, complete with information cards.

The Watershed Center also airs public service announcements on local radio stations. When people understand that their positive actions can have positive effects, it benefits water quality and public health.

In addition, we examine marina and street cleaning practices to determine if better management practices and technologies are available to decrease the amount of contaminants entering the runoff drains and subsequently Grand Traverse Bay.

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