Discovery Pier Fishing Access Improvements

Grant: # 1920

Grant Amount: $295,147.00

Board Decision Year: 2020

Discovery Center Great Lakes (Traverse City)

McDonough, Matt ([email protected]) 231-409-4285

2020 GLFT Access to the Great Lakes Fishery - Access to the Great Lakes Fishery

Project Details

Project in Context

Discovery Pier is located in Elmwood Township, Michigan approximately one mile north of the city limits of Traverse City on the West Grand Traverse Bay arm of Lake Michigan. The pier was constructed in the 1930s along the Greilickville corridor as a coal delivery dock for Traverse City’s former coal power plant until it closed in 2002.

In 2016, a $1 million grant from Rotary Charities of Traverse City was used to purchase the former coal across the street from Traverse City Light & Power, beginning a new chapter for the Greilickville shoreline and renamed the property Discovery Pier. For several years Discovery Center Great Lakes served primarily as a landlord for water-related nonprofits present on the Discovery Center campus and for boats docked at Discovery Pier. In 2019, the organization was restructured with a new mission to connect people of all ages, needs, and abilities to the Great Lakes. Since that time, Discovery Center Great Lakes has focused on transforming Discovery Pier into a barrier-free public park with amenities that complement the neighboring Greilickville Harbor Park to the north and developing educational and recreational programming.

While the Traverse City region boasts many opportunities for affluent, able-bodied people to have Great Lakes experiences, many people have been excluded from these experiences due to physical and financial barriers. Great Lakes fishing, for example, often requires access to a boat which limits these opportunities to those who are physically able to board a boat and those who can afford to participate. In addition, no barrier-free Great Lakes fishing piers existed within 40 miles of Traverse City which, once again, limited fishing access. This lack of access informed our decision to focus on creating barrier-free access to fishing in West Grand Traverse Bay. While a barrier-free public fishing pier benefits all anglers living in and visiting our area, the purpose of this project is to increase fishing access for people living with physical disabilities and people with limited financial means.

Goals of the Effort

The goal of the Discovery Pier Fishing Access Improvements project was to create a new, universally accessible fishing area at Traverse City’s old coal dock. This project included the completion of engineering plans; stabilization of the pier’s infrastructure; and installation of fishing area amenities including barrier-free pathways and parking, new fishing area railing—40% of which is at a lower level for people who use wheelchairs and small children, and three new shade structures with benches. These new amenities provide a safe and dignified space for people of all ages, needs, and abilities to participate in pier-based Great Lakes fishing.


The key result of this project has been the construction of a new, universally-accessible fishing area at Discovery Pier. Prior to the improvements made in this project, Discovery Pier was nothing more than a gravel lot which was used primarily for parking and was open to the public. While fishing was allowed at Discovery Pier, the lack of infrastructure made pier-based fishing inaccessible for many with physical disabilities. In addition, the railings did not have armrests or rod holders and lacked lower sections so only those who could cast over the four-foot railing could fish.

The new paved parking lot, perimeter sidewalk, railings with rod holders and arm rests—40% of which is at a lower level for people who use wheelchairs and young children, shade structures, ADA picnic tables, and wheelchair-compatible benches have created a barrier-free fishing area for our community.

On June 10, we hosted our first Discover Fishing at the Pier program which introduced 60 local youth and their families to fishing skills at Discovery Pier. This program was made possible by another Great Lakes Fishery Trust grant. In addition to the 100 people that participated in this program, we have observed many people using the new fishing area to fish on their own.

PACENorth, an organization that provides all-inclusive care for the elderly, has arranged four fishing outings at Discovery Pier. In addition, 10 youth associated with Norte, a local youth cycling program, visited Discovery Pier to fish as part of one of their camp programs. We have also observed many individuals fishing from the Pier that are not associated with any organized group.

We have received overwhelmingly positive feedback from both individuals and organizations that have used the site. The growing use of the Discovery Pier fishing area proves that the intentional, barrier-free construction filled a gap in Great Lakes fishing access in our region.

Products and Resources

There are no websites that were developed specifically for this project, however, there are some photos and site plans available on our organizational website. You can learn more about our organization and this project at