History of WATCH


Howard Nielson called an organizational meeting to deal with problems arising from the Medusa Cement plant. Fifty people attended. Four summer residents pledged $25,000 each to fund the organization. The name WATCH, Inc. was adopted and the group was chartered to include all of Charlevoix County. The organization sought and received its 501(c)(3) exemption in January of 1984. Howard Nielson was elected President and Jerry Puhl Vice-President.


State Attorney General Frank Kelly and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources entered into a class action lawsuit with WATCH against Medusa for excessive dust pollution.


WATCH signed a consent agreement with Medusa Cement Company.

Concerned about water quality and over-development of Lake Charlevoix, WATCH organized a tour of Lake Charlevoix by renting the Beaver Island Ferry. 150 people, representing all of the townships; the cities of Boyne City, East Jordan, and Charlevoix; the Department of Natural Resources, Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council, the State of Michigan, and concerned citizens took the tour.

WATCH worked with the Charlevoix County Planning Commission and helped to finance the new Lake Charlevoix Planning Advisory Committee. All of the townships and cities in the county were represented on the committee, which met monthly for 18 months and wrote a plan for the Charlevoix County Planning Commission.


“Water’s Edge” planned to develop 900 feet of shoreline on Lake Charlevoix, building 350 condominiums. WATCH opposed the high-density development and formed a committee called ALERT (Area Leaders Environmental Response Team). ALERT gathered signatures and forced a referendum by Charlevoix township voters, which defeated the zoning change. WATCH and the developers agreed through mediation to 40 units on the shoreline and 90 units behind. The Department of Natural Resources ruled that the 90 units could not be built due to wetlands protection, so only 40 units were built.


Hemingway Point Condominiums attempted to increase its boat harbor size. WATCH opposed the plan because the larger marina would have extended too far into the lake and been detrimental to fish and wildlife. The Department of Natural Resources agreed and did not allow the expansion.


WATCH opposed plans to build condominiums on Lake Michigan’s North Point in Charlevoix Township due to the impact on environmentally sensitive sand dunes, and concerns about density. Little Traverse Conservancy persuaded the property owners to sell the 40 acres in question for $750,000. WATCH helped raise the funds to purchase the land, now held in public trust for all to use.

WATCH filed suit against Dan Berlage and development of Park Place Condominiums due to the number of zoning variances being given by the City of Charlevoix. The suit resulted in a mediated agreement.

A property owner planned to build a residence over a boat house on the north side of Round Lake. The Department of Natural Resources requested that WATCH enter a lawsuit to prohibit living quarters over boat houses on open lake waters in Michigan. After three days of testimony before a judicial tribunal in Lansing, a ruling that set state precedent was issued. It held that no one can build and live over a boat house on the lakes of Michigan.


WATCH undertook a recycling project for Charlevoix County.

WATCH adopts Stover Creek in the “Adopt a Stream” program.


Medusa Cement announced that it was considering burning tires for fuel in its cement manufacturing process. WATCH called a public meeting and hired environmental experts to testify on the issue. Medusa chose not to pursue tires as a source of fuel.

WATCH adopted 2 miles of M-66 at Ironton in the “Adopt a Highway” program.


1400 feet of railroad property at Depot Beach on Lake Charlevoix is offered for sale at $140,000. WATCH approached the Little Traverse Conservancy, which declined to purchase the land. Then it approached the City of Charlevoix, but the City declined to purchase or accept the land if purchased by WATCH and donated to the City. As a result the land was sold for multi-million dollar building sites.

A ruptured underground high-pressure oil pipe at the Medusa Cement plant results in a spill of 100,000 – 200,000 gallons of fuel oil. The company dug many water wells to recover the oil, a process that will continue for many years, monitored by the Department of Environmental Quality and WATCH. As a result of this action, no oil has seeped into Lake Michigan.


Toxic chemicals from a 1960s waste disposal pit used by the American Mold Company leaked into ground water and contaminated nearby home sites and the Lake Charlevoix shoreline on Ferry Road. The plant’s Ohio officials refused to clean the plant site. Michigan Department of Environmental Quality contacted WATCH, which threatened a lawsuit. After a year of pressure by the DEQ and WATCH, the plant officials agreed to clean the site and remove contaminated soils.


Cedar Ridge Landfill in Ironton was nearing its capacity. Waste Management, owners of the landfill, requested a 40-acre expansion permit from the Eveline Township Board. WATCH opposed the expansion because the landfill is in the Lake Charlevoix watershed. WATCH urged the township to deny the zoning change, which it did. Waste Management appealed to the Charlevoix County Planning Commission. WATCH hired environmental attorneys to present briefs and speak against the rezoning on WATCH’s behalf. Once again, Waste Management’s petition was denied, so the company appealed to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, and lost again. The landfill is now covered with a plastic cap, soil, and grass.


The City of Charlevoix presented plans to expand the city marina docks on Round Lake. WATCH agreed that the docks needed to be repaired and modernized, but the plan would have extended the docks more than 400 feet into the lake. WATCH argued that this would have adversely affected the beauty, character, and navigation of the lake, and called a public hearing on the matter. More than 100 people attended the meeting. The city conducted public hearings and worked with marine engineers to finalize a plan that the community would support, a floating dock system that today extends 200 feet into Round Lake.


Watch continued its involvement in the Round Lake marina expansion, and with the cement plant, owned at that time by Cemex.


WATCH celebrated its first 20 years of environmental action in Charlevoix County. The City of Charlevoix approved its final plan for the Marina, a plan very similar to the one submitted by WATCH. WATCH became involved in the Boyne City dock expansion project at the request of Boyne City residents; and joined with residents of Charlevoix’s Boulder Park in an effort to require Charlevoix Township officials to enforce its mining ordinance against Cemex. WATCH also became involved with a group called “This is Our Town” whose purpose was to stop WalMart from building a super store on the banks of Stover Creek and filling its wetlands.


WATCH announced the successful conclusion of its campaign to stop WalMart. WATCH’s president was appointed to the Charlevoix County Sanitary Code Board of Appeals. WATCH supported the efforts of the Charlevoix County Drain Commissioner to protect the waters of the county. Four members of WATCH joined the Lake Charlevoix Watershed Advisory Committee.


WATCH presented a water quality forum called “Water, Water Everywhere: A Citizens’ Guide to Protecting Your Water Supply and the Great Lakes,” featuring Erin McDonough of the National Wildlife Federation, Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council, and others.

WATCH welcomed the purchase of the cement plant by St. Mary’s Cement, a Brazilian company. The new owners contacted WATCH and promised to clean up the plant.

WATCH became involved with storm water treatment as part of Charlevoix’s East Park Project; a limestone mining proposal in Norwood Township; and commercial wind turbine generators.


WATCH announced that St. Mary’s has kept its promise and cleaned up the cement plant. Water and air pollution have been dramatically reduced.

WATCH became involved in sand filling projects on Lake Charlevoix’s shoreline; provided three volunteers for the “Experience Lake Charlevoix” project,” sponsored by Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council and Lake Charlevoix Association; and sponsored a program to encourage motorists to shut off their engines while waiting at the drawbridge, called “Idle Free Charlevoix.”


WATCH established a committee to focus on global climate change, Conservation and Renewable Energy (CARE). The committee presents the CARE ENERGY FAIR at the new Charlevoix Library.


WATCH produced its second CARE ENERGY FAIR.


WATCH began work on three initiatives: WATCH in the Schools, a 4-year program that begins with the introduction of an environmental science curriculum in the middle and elementary schools; the Lake-to-Lake Bike Trail, which will connect Ferry Beach with Fisherman’s Island State Park; and the Idle Free campaign, which will encourage drivers to turn the key when they are waiting at the Charlevoix bridge.


WATCH hosted its first MEECS environmental workshop for teachers, kicked off the Idle Free campaign in partnership with the City of Charlevoix, and began the work of bringing the City of Charlevoix, townships, businesses, and individual property owners on board with the Lake-to-Lake trail project.  Groups of stakeholders met and decided to support the trail for “multi-use” — for bikers, hikers, skiers, snowshoers, and snowmobilers.


WATCH launched its Facebook and Twitter pages.  It hosted two MEECS workshops for teachers, and included some from Emmet and Antrim counties for the first time.  The Lake-to-Lake Trail initiative moved forward, with planning supported by the Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians.  The Idle Free effort enjoyed its second year.


WATCH kicked off the year by setting a new set of priorities:

The MEECS program will celebrate its third year with a grand finale — all six modules (5 updated and a new Climate Change module) for teachers throughout northern Michigan, sponsored jointly by WATCH and the Charlevoix-Emmet Intermediate School District, and funding provided by the Michigan Geographic Alliance at Central Michigan University, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, the Petoskey-Harbor Springs Community Foundation, and the Charlevoix County Community Foundation.  The 2-day workshop event will take place on October 12 and 13 of 2012.

The Lake to Lake Trail initiative reached its funding stage with a grant proposal submitted by the City of Charlevoix.  Pending availability of federal funds for the trail program, the project will move forward in fall of 2012.

Idle Free banners went up in the spring of 2012, and will as usual be returned to storage in the late fall.



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