Author: Christine Crissman
The Watershed Center Receives $150K Grant to Initiate Green Infrastructure Stormwater Program in Elk Rapids
| August 30, 2019 | 3:04 pm | News & Events | Comments closed

The Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay has received a $150,000 grant from the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation’s Sustain Our Great Lakes (NFWF-SOGL) program to initiate a stormwater program in the Village of Elk Rapids focusing on green infrastructure.  Funding will specifically be used to retrofit a grassy area adjacent to the village marina into a bioswale and existing flower beds at a local park into rain gardens.

“We are absolutely thrilled to have this investment from the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation to kick off a green infrastructure program in the Village of Elk Rapids,” said Sarah U’Ren, Program Director at The Watershed Center.

The goal of the project is to increase stormwater storage and infiltration capacity at various locations in the village to reduce harmful pollutant inputs to Grand Traverse Bay. “In addition to reducing pollutants typically found in stormwater such as toxins, pathogens, nutrients, and sediments, we estimate this work will reduce the amount of stormwater reaching the bay by approximately 1 million gallons/year,” U’Ren continued.

This project will strengthen a long-term partnership between The Watershed Center and the Village of Elk Rapids that will catalyze efforts leading to the adoption and installation of future green infrastructure practices in the village. “This is a time to celebrate our partners at The Watershed Center. Without them, Elk Rapids would not be able to accomplish this,” stated Village President James Janisse. Assistant Village Manager Caroline Kennedy agrees, stating “this is a great example of how strong regional relationships are the key to implementing shared goals. The Watershed Center has been persistent on our behalf and we thank our grant partners for recognizing the demonstration capacity of this very important project.”

The Village of Elk Rapids recently passed a resolution declaring their support for green infrastructure policies and practices to manage stormwater impacts and stand ready to initiate a larger campaign for green infrastructure support and implementation. “We also acknowledge the leadership of Royce Ragland and her Green ER team, which has set the groundwork and prepared us to qualify for such projects,” Janisse continued.

National Fish & Wildlife Foundation funds will be paired with Great Lakes Protection Fund support provided to Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin Sea Grant programs aimed at helping marinas make their facilities more environmentally sustainable by harnessing the power of green infrastructure. The Sea Grant programs will be working with Ohio State University who will lead the monitoring and data collection for the project.  “Funding from the Great Lakes Protection Fund will provide scientific evidence to support innovative stormwater treatment at marina facilities across the Great Lakes, leading to improved stormwater management in communities across the region,” said Ryan Winston, Assistant Professor at Ohio State University.  Edward C. Grace Memorial Harbor in the Village of Elk Rapids was selected for that program, providing $100,000 in cash and in-kind support to assist with installation of the bioswale and other green infrastructure practices, as well as monitoring their effectiveness.

Additionally, the NFWF-SOGL project will be matched with a $10,000 grant from the Herrington-Fitch Family Foundation, as well as both in-kind and cash match from the Village of Elk Rapids.

Voice Your Support for Trees at These Upcoming Meetings
| July 23, 2019 | 5:25 pm | News & Events | Comments closed

This time of year, when the sun’s rays are intense and we seek refuge from the heat and rays, we appreciate our trees. Trees in parking lots help keep our cars cool. Trees along our boulevards shade our sidewalks, making our strolls more pleasant. And a day at the beach is so much better with the shade of a large canopy allowing us to escape the sun between swims.

Trees make our lives better. They produce the oxygen we breathe, purify our water and air, shade our homes and businesses, stabilize our soils, provide us with delicious fruits, and shelter our wildlife. Trees in urban areas make our cities more desirable places to live. They filter, infiltrate, and evaportransporate stormwater. They provide privacy screening and muffle urban noises. As we continue to face an uncertain climate future and increased population growth, our trees will help us fight erosion, flooding, extreme temperatures, and poor air quality in both urban and rural settings.

Our trees and the natural resources make our corner of northern Michigan a desirable place to visit and live. They are critical to our “up north” identify. This summer, if you’re a resident or visitor of Grand Traverse County, we encourage you to pay attention to some very important tree conversations. On Wednesday, July 24 at 8am the Grand Traverse County Board of Commissioners will discuss managing land use at Cherry Capital Airport, which we anticipate will include a discussion on the management of large tracks of healthy forest near the airport. The City of Traverse City will discuss a draft Landscaping and Tree ordinance at the August 20, 2019 meeting. The City is seeking written feedback about this draft ordinance until August 12.

The Watershed Center encourages you to attend these public meetings and share your thoughts about trees and how you think our community can best protect these treasured assets. The future of our trees (and our community) will be brighter if we all speak up about protecting what makes this place so special.

Open Water Swim Events in Grand Traverse Bay Seeking Volunteers
| July 22, 2019 | 6:25 pm | News & Events | Comments closed

Shelli DiFranco
The Watershed Center
231.935.1514 ext. 5





TRAVERSE CITY, Michigan – July 22, 2019 – Celebrate clean, healthy water in Grand Traverse Bay with the Kids Swim for Grand Traverse Bay on Friday, August 9 and the Swim for Grand Traverse Bay on Saturday, August 10. Both events benefit The Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay and you can get involved by participating or volunteering.

Registrations for the fourth annual Swim for Grand Traverse Bay and the second annual Kids Swim for Grand Traverse Bay are currently open and will remain open until the races begin. Packet pick-up for the Kids Swim will be Friday, August 9 from 3-5:30 p.m. at West End Beach. Packet pick-up for the Swim will be on Friday, August 9 from 3-7 p.m at Volleyball Beach. 

“The Swim for Grand Traverse Bay events are great because it gets community members into the water we work to protect,” said Christine Crissman, Executive Director of The Watershed Center. “Our hope is that the spirit of the event and the experience of swimming in the bay will show people the importance of fishable, drinkable, swimmable water and inspire new advocates for our efforts.”

These events would not be possible without the work of volunteers. “If you take pride in our water and want to help us put on a fun and successful event, consider donating your time,” said Crissman.

Volunteers will be treated to a pancake breakfast on Saturday, August 10. Interested parties can sign up online. Volunteer opportunities include:

    • Safety Squad: Serving on the safety squad is a great opportunity for an experienced open water paddler (kayak, SUP, or surf ski). Volunteers will monitor the field of swimmers and individual support kayakers, assist with swimmer counts along the course, and create additional visibility in the bay. Mandatory safety briefings will be held before each event.
    • General Volunteers: A small crew is needed to help with pre-race set up and organization, packet pickup, and event clean-up.


  • Photographers: Individuals with photography skills are needed to take photos at the events. We ask that you use your own camera and spend a few hours at the event. Images will be published online and in print, for public relations and in fundraising materials, but not for profit. 
  • Buoy Set Up & Retrieval: Help set & retrieve the course buoys on Friday, August 9 and on Saturday, August 10. Equipment and coordinates are set, and we just need a boat and the expertise to get them in the water. 


In addition to these volunteer opportunities, The Watershed Center is also in need of certified lifeguards for both events to ensure the safety of our swimmers and support paddlers. Certified lifeguards will receive $50 per event and a free ticket to the pancake breakfast on August 10. Help support our swimmers and clean water in the Grand Traverse Bay. 

For more information, visit


# # #

The Watershed Center is a non-profit organization that advocates for clean water in Grand Traverse Bay and acts to protect and preserve its 1,000-square mile watershed, which covers portions of Grand Traverse, Leelanau, Antrim, and Kalkaska counties. Learn more at

Inspiring Then and Now: A Brown Bag Reunion with Initiators of The Watershed Center
| June 25, 2019 | 6:40 pm | Point of (Water) View Blog | Comments closed

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








Grand Traverse Region Beach Testing Begins June 19
| June 14, 2019 | 12:43 pm | Community News | Comments closed

Sarah U’Ren
The Watershed Center
231.935.1514 ext. 2





TRAVERSE CITY, Michigan – June 14, 2019 – The Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay will begin its annual beach testing on June 19. Twenty six area Lake Michigan and inland lake beaches in Benzie, Grand Traverse, and Leelanau counties will be tested for harmful E.coli bacteria every Wednesday through September 11.

Beach test results will be available by noon on Thursdays and posted shortly thereafter on the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes & Energy’s (EGLE) BeachGuard website, as well as The Watershed Center Facebook page and the Grand Traverse County Health Department website. If test results show high bacteria levels, local Health Departments will post advisories at impacted beaches and the beaches will immediately be re-tested until results return to acceptable levels.

Elevated bacteria levels, including E. coli, at beaches pose a threat to public health and cause illness, especially in young children and people with compromised immune systems. The presence of E.coli in surface water indicates fecal contamination is present at the beach, which includes a host of other harmful viruses and bacteria. Beachgoers are encouraged to take simple actions to reduce the risk of E. coli at beaches, such as not feeding ducks and other birds, disposing of diapers (including swim diapers) in trash cans, and having young children take frequent bathroom breaks.

“Every year, we are proud to be able to offer this service within the watershed,” said Sarah U’Ren, Program Director at The Watershed Center. “Our weekly testing for E.coli bacteria is an integral piece of our efforts to keep our residents, visitors, and beaches healthy.”

The Watershed Center also reminds beachgoers not to swim near storm drains, especially during and immediately after rain, as water from the storm drain may contain E. coli and other harmful pathogens from animal feces that are washed into the drains during a storm. The risk of elevated E. coli levels after a rain event decreases as sunlight breaks down the bacteria in open water.

Funding for beach monitoring comes from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency BEACH Act Funds, as well as EGLE’s Clean Michigan Initiative, the City of Traverse City, and Acme Township. Testing will be conducted at the following beaches:

Lake Michigan

  • Empire Beach
  • Frankfort Beach

Grand Traverse Bay – West

  • Bryant Park (Traverse City)
  • Sunset Park (Traverse City)
  • Senior Beach (Traverse City)
  • Clinch Park (Traverse City)
  • Volleyball Beach (Traverse City)
  • West End Beach (Traverse City)
  • Greilickville Harbor Park
  • Suttons Bay Beach
  • Suttons Bay Marina Park Beach
  • Northport Beach

Grand Traverse Bay – East

  • East Bay Park (Traverse City)
  • Traverse City State Park
  • Acme Bayside Park
  • Sayler Park (Acme)

Inland Beaches

  • Almira Township Park (Lake Ann)
  • Bellows Beach (Crystal Lake)
  • Beulah Beach (Crystal Lake)
  • Gilbert Beach (Long Lake)
  • Interlochen State Park (Duck Lake)
  • Neddows Beach (Lake Leelanau)
  • South Bar Beach (South Bar Lake)
  • Taylor Beach (Long Lake)
  • Twin Lakes Park (North Twin Lake)
  • Whitewater Township Park (Elk Lake)


# # #

The Watershed Center is a non-profit organization that advocates for clean water in Grand Traverse Bay and acts to protect and preserve its 1,000-square mile watershed, which covers portions of Grand Traverse, Leelanau, Antrim, and Kalkaska counties. Learn more at