About the Project
The White Lake Environmental History Project began in June 2012 and will continue through May 2013 and beyond, if funds are acquired for the next phase. It is being implemented by the White Lake Community Library and Great Lakes Consulting.
The project is an attempt to answer the questions: What were the circumstances surrounding the lake’s historical pollution? How did we get White Lake cleaned up?
Local resident Tanya Cabala, of Great Lakes Consulting, had been involved with the efforts of the White Lake Public Advisory Council (PAC) to clean up White Lake for several decades and wanted to answer these questions. She felt a project to explore answers would be important for a number of reasons:
- It would help current and future residents better understand how the historical pollution problems came about.
- It could uncover little known stories.
- It would help people better understand what was done to achieve restoration of White Lake.
- It would help to close an era.
- It would help the community chart a different path forward.
- White Lake’s story could be an example for other communities.
Tanya sought the White Lake Community Library as a partner, as there was already a strong interest in collecting and maintaining historical resources for the community. Shelley Williams, the library’s new director, was very much interested in knowing more about the community’s pollution issues and local history. The library board was equally as enthusiastic about the project. And so it began.
View the video of Tanya Cabala's interview about this project.
Developing the Project
The first step was to find funds to support the project. The Michigan Humanities Council was approached. Its staff suggested first applying for a planning grant to clarify the project’s goals into a workplan. The library, working with Tanya, applied for and received funds for a planning grant to convene key community members in a workshop. It was led by Great Lakes author, Dave Dempsey, and retired history professor and local history author, Dan Yakes. They guided the group in a discussion focused on developing an approach to discover and understand the objective facts surrounding White Lake’s environmental history, and the community’s response to the history.
The workshop attendees enthusiastically brainstormed ideas on themes and issues, a chronology and geographic area to cover, sources of information, historical context, audience, information gathering techniques, program and exhibit ideas, fund sources, and creation of a project advisory council. A leading goal was to engage the White Lake area community fully in the project by utilizing a website and community blog, conducting oral interviews, and presenting educational events. A vision of the project in two phases took shape. The initial stage would focus on collecting community input and creating a digital resource. A final phase would incorporate the community input received and research of historical facts into a comprehensive publication.
Funding the Project
A grant application was submitted to the Michigan Humanities Council in March 2012 for the first phase and additional sponsors were sought. In May 2012, the Michigan Humanities Council awarded a grant to support the project and several months later financial support had been gained from
- Alcoa Howmet
- the White Lake Area Historical Society
- the Montague Museum and Historical Association
- and the Friends of the White Lake Community Library.
- To improve public understanding of the value of exploring and documenting the impact of White Lake’s environmental history on the community
- To help remove the stigma of White Lake's pollution history
- To enhance local cultural resources pertaining to environmental history
- To celebrate White Lake's environmental recovery
- To demonstrate the impact of the White Lake area community’s involvement in resource protection and
- To improve the White Lake area's ability to attract visitors, permanent residents and business
- Developing and hosting an informative website to collect and catalogue community information, written accounts, and recorded oral histories.
- Writing a monthly blog to highlight various aspects of White Lake’s environmental history and solicit and stimulate community interest and involvement.
- Sponsoring a high profile kickoff event to attract local, state, regional and national attention to the project, to highlight its significance, and to attract community interest and involvement.
- Sponsoring regular educational events, such as an environmental history speaker, oral history presentation and workshop, environmental history movie night, and conservation-themed family activities. These events will be scheduled bimonthly at the library.
- Creating a permanent traveling display as a visual stimulus and to generate excitement for the project. The display will be moved throughout the community monthly to high traffic and accessible sites, including the other area library, several banks, seven town and city halls, and the local bookstore. Comment cards will be available for public feedback on the display.
- Soliciting written accounts and resources and recording oral histories of local residents and visitors relating to White Lake’s environmental history to explore the community impact. The written accounts and oral histories will be placed on the project website. Select oral histories will be read at a public event.
The result will be a comprehensive documentation of the impact of one of the community’s most challenging and controversial eras. This is hoped to be the foundation for a positive, sustainable environmental and economic path forward.
We would like to know how we are doing. We have outlined our goals and planned activities on this page. If you have attended any events, offered any materials, or participated in any way, we would like to hear from you. Click on the Feedback button below and send us you thoughts.