This July, The Watershed Center will celebrate our 25th anniversary. Looking back, we have accomplished countless projects and initiatives that have kept our water clean, giving us ample reason to celebrate. But we didn’t do this alone. To celebrate properly, we wanted to go back to the beginning and reconnect with those that made our work possible.

In the early ‘90s, some forward-thinking, engaged community members started meeting over brown bag lunches to talk about the most unique natural water body in this area – Grand Traverse Bay. Newly formed and well-established environmental organizations sat around a table with elected and appointed officials, planning groups, municipal staff, state agencies, educational organizations, engineers, and many others. They talked about common areas of interest, accomplishments they should celebrate, barriers they were facing, and what they could do together to affect change and have a positive impact on the health of the watershed. These conversations led to joint grant applications, policies and ordinances being adopted, shared funding and resources, coordinated projects, common messaging, and the formation of The Watershed Center.

A few weeks ago, I invited as many of the original cohort as I could find to reconnect over another brown bag lunch. They shared memories of the people and organizations involved in the early days, laughing and remembering stories that haven’t been told for many years. We talked about the numerous successes we have collectively accomplished and what challenges we are still facing. With a renewed sense of enthusiasm and devotion to enhancing the environmental health of our community, we even began talking about what we might want to collaborate on next. Even though 25 years may have passed, our community is still profoundly dedicated to protecting our valuable water resources and tackling any obstacles that threaten its health.

Throughout the twenty years I have lived and worked in this community, I have been involved in numerous partnerships, collaborations, and networks. The environmental community up north is full of passionate, dedicated people working for influential organizations; so many, in fact, that we can often be confused with one other. However, each one of these groups respects each other’s work and recognizes the greater impact we have from working together. I believe this culture of collaboration was fostered by those brown bag lunches and continues to strengthen today.

The Watershed Center began with a vision for collaboration that will make and keep our water clean. The board, staff, and volunteers here have worked hard in pursuit of that, but we have been supported along the way. So many of the original brown bag lunch attendees are colleagues I continue to talk with, rely on, have projects with, and highly respect today. That spirit of collaboration has not faded; something that can be seen by the successes of our collective work. I am truly humbled and inspired by each of them and am so grateful I could sit with them again to talk, laugh, learn, and continue to strive to keep our water clean for generations to come.

Christine Crissman is the Executive Director of The Watershed Center








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