Category: News & Events
Grand Traverse Region Beach Testing Begins June 16
| June 8, 2021 | 3:40 pm | News & Events | Comments closed


The Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay will begin its annual beach testing on June 16, 2021.  Seventeen area beaches in Benzie, Grand Traverse, and Leelanau counties will be tested for harmful E.coli bacteria every Wednesday through September 8. 

Beach test results will be available by noon on Thursdays and posted shortly thereafter on the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes & Energy (EGLE) BeachGuard website, The Watershed Center Facebook page, the Grand Traverse County Health Department website, and the Benzie-Leelanau District Health Department website and Facebook page. 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.”

Beach goers are reminded not to swim near storm drains, especially during and immediately after a rain event, 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, the City of Traverse City, Acme Township, and the Village of Empire. This year Lake Michigan beaches will mainly be tested due to lack of grant funding for inland lake testing.  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 South Shore 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

  • South Bar Beach (South Bar Lake)
New Partnership Enhances Protections for Water Resources
| June 3, 2021 | 6:53 pm | News & Events | Comments closed

We are surrounded by precious water resources in northern Michigan. The lakes, rivers, streams, and wetlands in this area provide drinking water and wildlife habitat, allow for endless recreational opportunities, and draw residents and thousands of visitors to the region. A desire to better protect northern Michigan’s waters encouraged Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council, Huron Pines, The Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay, and Conservation Resource Alliance to form a partnership to strengthen protections for our valuable resources.

Although collaborations among the organizations for small-scale projects are common, the groups often work in discrete geographic areas or on separate projects. As The Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay Executive Director Christine Crissman noted, the partnership provides opportunities to share resources for water conservation and cover a larger geographic area.

“All of the organizations have their own areas of expertise,” said Crissman. “However, the issues facing our waters are systemic and watershed wide, and some of the projects we want to tackle are too big for one group to accomplish on their own. We want to show Northern Michigan that we’re working collectively to protect clean water and that by collaborating we can accomplish some really big things.”

Gail Gruenwald, Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council’s executive director, conceived of the partnership in 2020 and invited the participants to join. The organizations held several virtual meetings last year, facilitated by Parallel Solutions, LLC, to determine how to collaborate on projects while maintaining autonomy. “While this planning effort started with an effort to better coordinate and not duplicate work across the four organizations, the result was an agreement to share opportunities to expand upon the protection Northern Michigan’s waters receive,” says Gruenwald. “We are excited to see where this goes.”

Conservation Resource Alliance Director Amy Beyer said that the long-standing trust among Northern Michigan conservation groups is a unique experience that has led to this new, “advanced” model for the four organizations. “It spells out careful, coordinated project planning, joint fund-seeking, and collaborative communications,” said Beyer. “It’s sort of a 400-level course in doing conservation work through partnerships.”

Huron Pines Executive Director Brad Jensen said that having a strong partnership will benefit all of the organizations involved. For example, Huron Pines covers northeastern Michigan, and doesn’t do as much policy or large-scale monitoring as Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council in the northwest. Being able to use the Watershed Council’s monitoring resources would benefit Huron Pines and Northern Michigan’s waters. The organizations can also bundle grant projects for impacts at a larger scale.

“I would just say that it presents a new opportunity to work more closely together,” said Jensen. “We’re all in it for the good of our watersheds, and this gets us one more step ahead in our efforts.” 

Leelanau Township Public Policy Essays, Volume 2
| May 6, 2021 | 1:35 pm | News & Events | Comments closed

May 2021 – Leelanau Township resident and retired public policy advocate Doug Whitely complied his second essay collection to inform, inspire, encourage discussion, and offer recommendations to the citizens of Leelanau Township to help build a better future for the community. Essays include thought-provoking data and discussions on the local economy, recreational trails, real estate trends, and environmental threats.

The Watershed Center’s Executive Director Christine Crissman authored the essay Clean Water and Septic Inspections: Ensuring the Future of Clean Water and Our Local Environment. Michigan is the only state on the nation without uniform standards for how septic systems are designed, built, installed, and maintained. District health departments have their own sanitary codes that regulate the installation of septic systems, but once the systems are installed they are rarely (if ever) inspected again.

“Currently, there remains a lot of uncertainty regarding effective septic system oversight and a continued lack of acceptance of the human health and water quality implications of undermaintained and/or failing septic systems. The lack of oversight and regulation should not prohibit property owners from taking necessary steps to prevent water quality degradation and human health effects before they happen. It is our responsibility to maintain our septic systems for the health of our neighbors and the protection of our waters.”

Christine Crissman, TWC Executive Director

Read the entire essay collection “A Collection of Public Policy Essays for Leelanau Township, Michigan: Volume Two.”

The Watershed Center and Local Partners Prepare for First Annual Great Lakes CleanUP
| April 23, 2021 | 3:56 pm | News & Events | Comments closed

April 24 – May 2, 2021

Traverse City, MI – The Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay is coordinating a series of shoreline cleanups around Grand Traverse Bay as part of the first annual Great Lakes CleanUP April 24- May 2, 2021. Registration for these events is free and open to the public at

Thanks to an Environmental Protection Agency Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grant, The Watershed Center is partnering with Buffalo Niagara WATERKEEPER®, New York State Pollution Prevention Institute, Friends of the Detroit River, and Milwaukee RIVERKEEPER® to coordinate shoreline and near-shore cleanups to safeguard drinking water sources and critical habitats throughout the Great Lakes basin. This collaborative, volunteer-based project aims to remove 68 metric tons of trash from across 17,120 acres of Great Lakes shorelines by the end of 2022.

“We are honored that our friends at Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper are leading this coordinated effort across the Great Lakes basin,” said Grand Traverse BAYKEEPER® Heather Smith. “By removing trash along our shorelines, we are preventing man-made products such as plastics and other synthetic litter from threatening our drinking water and the health of fish and wildlife.”

Each year 22 million pounds of plastics enter the Great Lakes and poses a tremendous threat to the 40 million people that depend on the Great Lakes as a drinking water source and the hundreds of native species that live in and rely on the lakes. Plastic debris eventually breaks down into microplastics that bioaccumulate in fish and wildlife throughout the Great Lakes – from the largest sturgeon to the smallest microorganisms. Plastics also attract toxic chemicals such as PCBs that bind to plastic surfaces when present in water. 

The Watershed Center’s cleanups along the Grand Traverse Bay shoreline include Do-It-Yourself contactless cleanups from April 24 through May 2. Trash collection kits will be provided. The Watershed Center will also be hosting a series of organized, safe, public beach cleanups:

  • Saturday, May 1 at 10am at the City of Traverse City Volleyball Beach
  • Saturday, May 1 at 10am at the Keith J. Charters Traverse City State Park Beach
  • Saturday, May 1 at 2pm at the Old Mission Lighthouse Park

Practical and effective safety guidelines will be implemented to ensure the wellbeing of all volunteers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Facemasks and proper social distancing will be mandatory for public cleanup events.

The Watershed Center is supported in the Great Lakes CleanUP by its local partners: City of Traverse City, Elmwood Township, Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, Grand Traverse Freshwater Society, Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy, Green Elk Rapids, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council, Peninsula Township, Surfrider Foundation Northern Michigan Chapter, and Village of Elk Rapids.

Community Engagement Internship (position filled)
| February 4, 2021 | 3:37 pm | News & Events | Comments closed


Community Engagement Intern; part-time at $15/hour for 2 years; approximately 4 hours per week for 2 years with an additional 6 hours per week for approximately 16 weeks each spring; flexible start date (February/March); potential remote position with some in-person requirements


The Community Engagement Intern will support a range of activities furthering The Watershed Center’s mission to advocate for clean water in Grand Traverse Bay and act to protect and preserve its watershed. S/he is responsible for supporting the staff’s outreach activities, coordinating trash clean-up events, creating content for social media, and coordinating volunteers. This position requires a genuine enthusiasm for The Watershed Center’s mission and the ability to project that enthusiasm to others. Strong attention to detail as well as interpersonal and communication skills are essential to effectively interact with and build trust and confidence among our audiences.


  • Reports to: Executive Director
  • Supervises: none
  • Works with: Grand Traverse BAYKEEPER®, Program Director, Legal Counsel
  • External stakeholders: elected and appointed government officials, contractors, citizen advocates, donors, volunteers, public


  • Coordinate trash removal events over the course of a week at several sites along the Grand Traverse Bay shoreline and the Boardman River
  • Work with landowners to obtain necessary permission to host trash removal events
  • Coordinate local marketing and promotion for trash removal events, including press releases, social media, event calendars, and media alerts
  • Recruit, track, and coordinate volunteers for trash removal events
  • Inventory, order, provide, and maintain necessary equipment for trash removal events
  • Create original content for TWC’s social media channels, website, newsletters, and print materials
  • Assist with other essential tasks as needed, including water quality monitoring, data entry, advocacy tracking, and watershed education.


Success is measured by the degree to which:

  • Required work is completed on time and budget goals are met
  • Written communication is clear, concise, professional, and free from error
  • Reported level of satisfaction from stakeholders and public averages good or better
  • Supporters, volunteers, staff, and Board are satisfied with work products


  • Experience in copywriting, editing, and proofreading preferred
  • Experience with graphic design and production of marketing materials preferred
  • Experience creating story maps and proficiency using ArcGIS preferred
  • Interest in and familiarity with environmental policy (especially water quality policy) and local government processes preferred
  • Extremely detail-oriented with strong organization and research skills
  • Excellent prioritization and multi-tasking abilities
  • Exceptional time management skills and ability to meet deadlines
  • Demonstrated ability to work independently and as part of a team
  • Exhibit professionalism with superior social and interpersonal skills
  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills
  • Strong computer skills (familiar with Microsoft Office Suite, Adobe Creative Suite, Word-Press, Salesforce)
  • Strong experience utilizing social media
  • Able to work flexible hours


Please email resume and cover letter stating your suitability for this position to Christine Crissman at Applications will be accepted on an ongoing basis until the position is filled.

The Watershed Center is an equal opportunity employer and will not discriminate in employment, promotions, or compensation based on sex, age, race, religion, color, national origin, marital or veteran status, or disability.