Category: Community News
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)


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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


Grand Traverse Bay Officially Frozen
| February 13, 2018 | 3:49 pm | Community News | Comments closed


UPDATE February 26, 2018  Grand Traverse Bay thawed on Sunday, February 25, ending a 14 day streak of being iced in. We will continue to monitor ice on the bay and if it refreezes this season, we will resume counting the days frozen from 14.


TRAVERSE CITY, Michigan – February 13, 2018 – Grand Traverse Bay officially froze on Sunday, February 11, according to The Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay. The bay is considered frozen when west bay freezes up to Power Island for at least 24 hours.

In 2015, the bay was declared frozen on February 16 and stayed frozen for 53 days, but it has not frozen the last two winters. This marks the eighth time it has frozen over since 1990, according to Heather Smith, Grand Traverse BAYKEEPER® at The Watershed Center.

“Back in the early to mid-1900s the bay froze 80-90% of the time,” said Smith. “Around 1990, ice cover dropped to 20-30%. Annual variation in ice cover is due to weather patterns, with changes in climate impacting the long-term trends.”

Besides providing recreational opportunities such as ice fishing and skating, another benefit of having ice cover is reduced evaporation, according to Smith. “Less evaporation could contribute to higher water levels in the spring.”

The Watershed Center anticipates there could be thawing in the days ahead as above freezing daytime temperatures are expected. As such, Smith urges caution on all bodies of water, including east and west bay.

The Watershed Center will continue to monitor conditions on the bay and will keep the official log of the number of frozen days through the season.

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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

Proper Snow Storage Practices
| January 19, 2018 | 4:18 pm | Community News | Comments closed

In the winter, we often receive concerns or complaints of poor snow storage practices on some of our most environmentally sensitive lands – near lakes, streams, and rivers. Snow piles resulting from parking lot and street plowing can contain contaminants including salt, sand, heavy metals, petroleum products, bacteria, pathogens, and pesticides.  When snow piles are stored near waterbodies, they pose a real threat to water quality.

Removing snow from parking lots and roads is critical for public safety, and luckily there are best management practices for snow storage to ensure water quality and public health remain protected.  The following tips, developed by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), are intended to guide municipalities, commercial and industrial site managers, and homeowners with snow storage decisions:

  • Snow piles should be away from, and not within, waterbodies, wetlands, floodplains shorelines, and beaches. Piles should be located at least 50 feet away from the ordinary high water mark of any waterbody.
  • Snow piles should not be located in wellhead protection areas. Piles should be 50 feet from your private water supply well and 200 feet from any community water supply well.
  • The best snow pile sites are those that drain to infiltration basins, or vegetated depressions, that trap and filter snowmelt before it enters our water resources.
  • Snow piles should not be near sites such as playgrounds and parks where people can easily be exposed to contaminants.
  • Avoid snow piles in areas where contaminants in snowmelt can be introduced to the groundwater, such as areas of fractured rock surfaces.
  • Storage sites should not have readily erodible soils or be located on bluffs or steep slopes.

Local governments – townships, municipalities, and counties – may have local laws or ordinances that guide snow management activities; check with your local planner or zoning administrator to learn more about potential ordinances in your area.

The State of Michigan also plays a role in ensuring that snow storage practices do not negatively affect our water resources. Part 31 of Michigan’s Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act prohibits the discharge of pollutants into Waters of the State when pollutants have the potential to impair our waters. Please report any questionable snow storage practices in or near waterbodies to the Grand Traverse BAYKEEPER®, Heather Smith.

TWC Raises $20,000 through SwingShift and the Stars
| November 21, 2017 | 3:22 pm | Community News | Comments closed

The Watershed Center is proud to share that we have raised more than $20,000 thus far through SwingShift and the Stars. All funds raised will support our mission of protecting and preserving Grand Traverse Bay and its watershed through our advocacy and on-the-ground programs. A huge thank you to our dancers, Traverse City Commissioner Richard Lewis and instructor Holly Provenzano for their commitment, time, and talent over the past few months.

Donations will continue to be accepted through early January 2018. Donate online here.

Thank You Detroit Red Wings and ITC
| September 13, 2017 | 9:10 pm | Community News | Comments closed

We had some very special guests stop by our offices today – players from the Detroit Red Wings and staff from ITC Holdings Corp. as part of their 2017 MI Wings Community Tour!

We’re thrilled to have been chosen as one of the community stops. We introduced the players to our staff, board member/Baykeeper Emeritus, and one of our star volunteers, took them on a tug boat tour and showed them aquatic insect specimens.

And they treated us to a custom Red Wings jersey and a generous donation to help us continue advocating for clean water in Grand Traverse Bay and it’s watershed.

Thank you Red Wings and ITC!

Baykeeper Heather Smith shows Detroit Red Wings players Ryan Sproul, Nick Jensen and Anthony Mantha aquatic insect specimens.


Our executive director Christine Crissman is thrilled to receive a custom Red Wings jersey!


Thank you ITC Holdings Corp. and Detroit Red Wings for selecting us as part of your 2017 MI Wings Community Tour!