Who We Are

Photo Credit: Kevin O'Meara

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We are a small, but mighty organization devoted to protecting the water you love.

The Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay is the only organization solely dedicated to the mission of protecting and enhancing the quality of the Grand Traverse Bay watershed and all its waterways.

We are a passionate non-profit led by scientists and policy experts who are committed to the enduring health of the bay. Guided by research and data, we are leading the discussion on water protection and restoration in our region.

We blend our expertise with education, advocacy, collaboration, and action to serve as a multifaceted resource for our community. With the development of science-based watershed protection plans, our efforts are always intentional as we monitor progress toward a healthy, clean Grand Traverse Bay. By getting our hands dirty with on-the-ground projects and engaging partners and volunteers to expand our reach, we are making a difference.

Above all else, we know the waters of our region are treasured by many and we understand the impact of beautiful, clean water on our overall quality of life and the local economy. We believe by fostering a community-wide commitment to clean water, we will all enjoy our waters for generations to come.

Strategic Plan | Annual Report

Our Mission

The Watershed Center advocates for clean water in Grand Traverse Bay and acts to protect and preserve the bay’s watershed.

Our Vision

The Watershed Center is the leader in protecting and preserving the bay’s watershed and achieving broad community commitment to clean water.

Our Values

The Watershed Center’s board and staff believe its work is best accomplished when:

  • We use, model, and promote consensus-building, collaboration, and openness to all perspectives on issues affecting clean water in the bay’s watershed.
  • Our actions, activities, and decision-making are ethical, principled, and based upon the best current science.
  • We work as advocates, not adversaries, as much as possible, believing there are always ways to resolve issues without jeopardizing clean water.
  • We believe the water quality of the bay and the economic viability of the region are totally dependent upon one another.
  • We encourage and seek to achieve behavior change that makes and keeps our water clean.
  • Above all, we stand up for what is best for the protection and preservation of the entire Grand Traverse Bay watershed.



Christine Crissman 
Executive Director
231.935.1514, ext. 1
directly at 231.299.0707


Sarah U’Ren
Program Director
231.935.1514, ext. 2
directly at 231.299.0095



Heather Smith
Grand Traverse Bay WATERKEEPER®
231.935.1514 ext. 3
directly at 231.299.0118



Michelle Handke
Director of Philanthropy
231.935.1514 ext. 4
directly at 231.282.9729



TJ Andrews
Legal Counsel 
231.935.1514 ext. 3



Rick Kane
International & Emergency Response Professional

Rick served in a number of senior international business and technical management positions, as an advisor to several federal agencies, and lives in the U.S., Canada, and Asia-Pacific. The Great Lakes are in his DNA – he “retired: to continue working on environmental opportunities and issues in the region. Rick is an avid conservation and nature photographer and graduate of the University of Michigan and University of Dallas.

Christopher Carol
Corporate Council

Chris moved to Traverse City in 2011. Like many others, he was drawn to the beauty of the surrounding area but has since developed a true appreciate of how important preserving the environment is.


Nicole VanNess
Transportation Mobility Director

Isaac Avila Rodriguez
Private Banker

Kelli Mengebier
Development Consulting

Kelli is a native of Traverse City and grew up on Long Lake. She has had a career in non-profit fundraising and is the co-founder of HKM & Associates. Kelli has a deep love for her community and the water that makes it so special.


Christine Petersen
Health Care Consultant

Christine is a board-certified internist with a fellowship in oncology and over 30 years of management experience in Managed Care. She lives in Elk Rapids where she is the Vice President of Green ER and Vice Chair of the Elk Rapids Downtown Development Authority.

Royce Ragland

Royce is a resident of Elk Rapids, chairs the village Planning Commission, is a founder and chair of Green ER, and has served on a number of regional boards. Her professional career of over 30 years includes education, economics, and management training for government agencies, organizations, and universities around the country.

Brittany VanderBeek
Director of Development & Community Engagement

Brittany is a Michigan native who followed her dream to move to Traverse City in 2020. She has spent her career championing business as a force for good in the community, working in sustainability consulting, and leading development and community engagement. You will find Brittany near Grand Traverse Bay and its surrounding waters almost every day year-round.

Join our Board of Directors

Are you looking to use your skills, experiences, and passions to protect clean water right here in your community? If you are interested in joining The Watershed Center’s board, please contact Christine Crissman at ccrissman@gtbay.org or 231.935.1514 x1.

We protect the water you love.

Photo Credit: Robert Degabriele