The Rotary Club of Traverse City did not meet at a local hall or restaurant on Tuesday, June 23. Instead, members found themselves sitting in folding chairs, braving the heat and eating box lunches in a large garage.

A strange place to find a crowd of businesspeople? Perhaps, but there was a reason. The Rotarians had gathered to dedicate the Discovery Center, a coalition of four nonprofit organizations that will be sharing a donated piece of land on M-22. The groups: Maritime Heritage Alliance, the Watershed Center, Great Lakes Children’s Museum and Traverse Area Community Sailing, all have missions relating to the water they now abut.

This is in line with the wishes of local businessman Michael Dow, who donated the million-dollar property, with its generous amount of space and 50 feet of waterfront. Dow gave the property over to Rotary Camps and Services, the club’s landholding arm. Rotary then helped form the Discovery Center and involve the nonprofits.

The meeting had a town hall atmosphere: there was a speaker from each involved party, each of the nonprofit groups thanked Rotary and all those involved and several Rotarians were recognized for their work on the Discovery Center.

Each of the involved groups has found what it needed in the property. The garage where the meeting took place houses the shipbuilding Maritime Heritage Alliance. The group, whose volunteers build and restore replica tall ships, now has a permanent home and workshop.

The Watershed Center, which monitors water quality in the Grand Traverse Bay region, and the Great Lakes Children’s Museum were both able to escape high-rent addresses downtown and secure a very visible location for their groups.

Great Lakes Community Sailing is not currently housed on the property, but looks forward to using the deep water dock on the bay for future sailing instruction.

After the meeting, the Rotarians dispersed to tour the facilities. They wandered through the watershed offices where executive director Andy Knott extolled the eco-friendly features of the building. They congregated in the air-conditioned children’s museum, where they formed small knots of conversation, with children pushing around and through to make their way to the exhibits.

Those that spoke Tuesday talked about the opportunities of this new location, the benefits of the dock, how these water-related nonprofits would now be able to cooperate, being so close.

The essence of the land donation, and the work of Rotary in stewarding that gift, was summed up by John Noonan, executive director of the children’s museum, as he addressed the club meeting. “What this means for my organization is a home," he said.

Photo(s) by Nathan Harris