Traverse City Record-Eagle

Our Views

October 29, 2013

Editorial: City must seriously weigh nonprofits' coal dock plan

Given the reaction from local governments, the official vision for Traverse City’s old coal dock is hardly as inspiring or exciting as that offered by a group of nonprofits.

Traverse City Light & Power, which owns the 2.2-acre chunk of fill that juts into West Bay, doesn’t want it. Traverse City, to whom the site would likely revert, doesn’t have any plans for it. Elmwood Township, which has made its adjacent township park and marina a showpiece, isn’t interested in the land on a lease basis.

It’s time, then, for the conversation to turn to a proposal from the Discovery Center Great Lakes, a group of nonprofits housed on adjacent property owned by Rotary Charities.

The Discovery Center would like to manage the property and open it to public use. It would almost immediately become one of the most popular and well-used sites on the bay.

The Discovery Center wants to expand its buildings and create a public marina of up to 100 slips, plus build a pedestrian bridge over M-22. Mike Wills, chairman of the Discovery Center board, said he expects to make a formal proposal to the city and Light & Power in a few months.

The old coal dock, which for three decades or so was the site where Traverse City Light & Power unloaded and stored coal for its bayfront power plant, is unique. It boasts one of the best views of the bay and the city anywhere, it’s a rare deep-water port on West Bay and would be an ideal fishing spot.

Right now, a locked gate bars public access.

Traverse City Mayor Mike Estes said selling the property isn’t out of the question; Elmwood supervisor Jack Kelly said the township would be interested if the price was maybe a buck. Estes said that won’t cut it.

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