Grand Traverse Bay Watershed Center Hosts Water Quality Town Hall

The Great Lakes are a precious resources and a local environmental group is working with shoreline communities to keep them beautiful.

It takes a village to keep the Grand Traverse Bay clean. Well, 44 townships, 11 municipalities and 4 counties, to be exact. The Grand Traverse Watershed Center went on a three-stop tour of shoreline towns to find out people’s biggest environmental concerns.

“We can do a million-dollar project on a stream, but everyone in the community needs to figure out how they can play their part,” said Watershed Center executive director Christine Crissman.

A curious crowd in Elk Rapids showed up to the third and final meeting. On their minds tonight: invasive species, wetlands and boater pollution.

The Watershed Center wanted to know what their biggest concerns were, what areas they need to focus their cleanup efforts on and how residents use the water and shoreline.

The center is also updating its watershed protection plan. The plan categorizes and prioritizes the watershed’s biggest threats and outlines solutions to problems of pollution and contamination.

The plan was last touched back in 2005. A lot has changed since then.

“In the last 13 years, there have been some things that have changed dramatically, and some that didn’t at all,” said Crissman. “The water levels went from record low to higher than usual levels.”

On Thursday, the US House of Representatives gave environmental efforts a boost when they passed the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to protect watersheds.

It’s support at the national level, and now local groups like the Watershed Center are touching base with locals to find solutions at the community level.

Jim and Jennifer Lawrence attended Thursday night’s town hall because they have seen changes they don’t like on their shoreline. They’ve lived in Elk Rapids for four years and they’ve seen a decline in water quality.

“We’re both concerned about the wild life that is around our house,” said Jennifer Lawrence. “In four years, we’ve seen some changes, we see far less wildlife, less breeding pairs of animals.”

They went to the meeting to hear what they can do to help.

“Our water quality is what’s drawing people here but what we have to do is manage it,” said Jennifer Lawrence.