Tag: Volunteer

Longtime FLOW Volunteer Eric Olson Steps Down as Communications Director

Eric Olson, FLOW, Great Lakes, public trust, policy center, water

Click here to view and download the press release as a PDF.


Contact: Liz Kirkwoood, Executive Director
231 944 1568 or liz@flowforwater.org

Longtime FLOW Volunteer Eric Olson Steps Down as Communications Director, Maintains Position as Board of Directors Vice Chair

TRAVERSE CITY, MI – Presiding selflessly as an unpaid volunteer Executive Director from 2009 to 2012 and then as Communications and Education Director from 2012 to April 2014, Eric Olson has stepped down from his staff role and now maintains his position as Vice Chair and interim Secretary of the Board of Directors.

Eric Olson has been with FLOW since its infancy, and was the first Executive Director. He joined FLOW to help realize the lifelong dream of his brother—FLOW Founder and President Jim Olson—to start a Great Lakes policy and education nonprofit.

“Jim, of course, infected me with his passion for the Great Lakes, the public trust, and water justice,” says Eric Olson.

“If it were not for my brother Eric joining forces with me to form the original FLOW coalition, FLOW would not be the thriving, cutting-edge water policy and education nonprofit organization it is today,” says Jim Olson.

Some of Eric Olson’s notable contributions to FLOW include:

  • transitioning FLOW from a coalition to a nonprofit,
  • reimagining the FLOW website,
  • launching and managing FLOW’s Facebook page,
  • growing the very beginning of the Great Lakes Society, and
  • networking to bring FLOW together with world-renowned water advocate and National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians, Maude Barlow for a series of speaking engagements and workshops across the Great Lakes Basin.

“Eric has worked tirelessly to build a movement and a coalition of organizations and individuals dedicated to protect the Great Lakes as a commons. We are so grateful to him for his volunteer work and service. Because of Eric, FLOW has become a strong policy and educational center for the Great Lakes,” remarks Executive Director Liz Kirkwood.

Eric Olson, who resides in Rochester Hills, MI with his wife Joyce, gave enormous amounts of his free time to FLOW during what he calls his “semi-retirement” from commercial real estate. He spent countless long weekends travelling hundreds of miles, dedicated to helping forge FLOW from an idea into reality.

“FLOW started because of the need to address questions and threats to the Great Lakes and waters of Michigan, and Eric understood the magnitude of this. He also shared the larger vision of the right of the public to use and enjoy the Great Lakes and our common waters, and the importance communicating this to the public in addition to our research and reports submitted to government leaders. Because of Eric, we now have a strong communications program and several partner organizations around the Great Lakes, in addition to our water policy program and projects,” says Jim Olson.

Eric Olson will remain with FLOW as Vice Chair and interim Secretary of the newly expanded Board of Directors, and his staff leadership legacy will continue to benefit FLOW for many years to come. “I’m looking forward to continue serving on the Board as Vice Chair to ensure FLOW’s leadership in educating the public and our government leaders about the threats facing our Great Lakes and the solutions FLOW is advancing to protect these majestic waters. These solutions not only protect the Great Lakes but also the public’s rights and responsible uses of these waters that have been handed down generation to generation by our forefathers through public trust doctrine,” says Eric Olson.

Serving alongside Vice Chair Eric Olson is newly-elected Board of Directors Chair and attorney Mike Dettmer. Also joining the FLOW Board of Directors this spring are former Executive Director of the Grand Traverse Land Conservancy, Lew Coulter; Senior Editor of Circle of Blue, Keith Schneider; and Food & Water Watch Water Program Director, Emily Wurth.

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FLOW is the Great Lakes Basin’s only public trust policy and education 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Our mission is to advance public trust solutions to save the Great Lakes.

FLOW Featured on UpNorth TV’s Volunteer Northwest Michigan Program in July

Click here to view and download the full press release PDF



June 27, 2013

Flow Featured on UpNorth TV’s Volunteer Northwest Michigan Program in July

Volunteer NW MITRAVERSE CITY, MI – FLOW, the Great Lakes Basin’s only public trust policy and education center, will be featured on UpNorth TV, channel 2, throughout the month of July, every Sunday and Wednesday evening from 8pm-9pm, and every Friday morning from 9am-10am. Hosted by United Way of Northwest Michigan, the Volunteer Northwest Michigan show highlights FLOW’s innovative programs to ensure the waters of the Great Lakes are protected now and for future generations. UpNorth TV’s feature on FLOW will also be available online.

Steven Wade, United Way’s Executive Director of Northwest Michigan, interviews FLOW’s Chair and President, Jim Olson, Executive Director, Liz Kirkwood, and Communications Designer, Allison Voglesong, about how locals can volunteer with FLOW and take part in protecting our beloved Great Lakes.

FLOW has several upcoming volunteer opportunities. On July 5th, FLOW will participate in DTE Energy’s Green Day during Cherry Festival. Volunteers will assist members of the FLOW staff educate the community about threats to the Great Lakes with a fun and interactive game. Additionally, volunteer positions are available for Blissfest on July 12, 13, and 14; Friday Night Live on August 9; and our Annual Celebration on August 17. Sign up here to volunteer.

Additionally, this TV segment discusses FLOW’s programs, including the public trust education program, water levels program, local government “fracking” ordinance program, and water-energy-food-climate change nexus program. Additionally, Jim Olson, environmental attorney, who has been practicing environmental and water law for more than 40 years, gives an in depth history of water law in Michigan and tells the story of how FLOW evolved from a coalition to a policy and education center.

FLOW’s approach to policy and education for preserving and protecting the Great Lakes centers on the ancient principle of the public trust. The public trust is a key principle that enables citizens and governments to protect our waters as a commons, owned and shared by the public for the use and enjoyment of all. The public trust doctrine is the legal foundation for protecting and maintaining resources such as beaches, navigable waterways and harbors, wetlands and wildlife, tributary streams, and groundwater. Additionally, it protects public uses including navigation, commerce, fishing, boating, swimming, other recreational purposes, and drinking water.

Fishers, boaters, swimmers, beach-goers, and other water-lovers of all ages should tune in to UpNorth TV in July to learn more about how they can work with FLOW to ensure that the Great Lakes are protected for our favorite activities now and for future generations.

The segment will air on Charter Cable’s analog channel, 97, and digital channels, 2 and 992, throughout Northwestern Lower Michigan from Manistee to Cheboygan.

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FLOW is the Great Lakes Basin’s only 501(c)(3) nonprofit public trust policy and education center. Our mission is to deeply educate communities and leaders about the public trust as a solution for sharing and preserving our common waters.

Why I Volunteer for FLOW

Hello Great Lakes lovers.

Here I am (at top center) helping out on the Great Lakes Society campaign along with Mattias Johnson (bottom right) Allison Voglesong (center) and Eliza Somsel (left)

Here I am (at top center) helping out on the Great Lakes Society campaign along with Mattias Johnson (bottom right) Allison Voglesong (center) and Eliza Somsel (left)

My name is Justin Sterk and I have recently begun volunteering at FLOW, in downtown Traverse City, Michigan.  As a native of Traverse City, the Great Lakes hold special importance to me and my family, and it is a great thrill for me to be able to begin contributing to the protection of our region’s greatest resource.

As for me, I graduated from Traverse City Central High School in 2007, the University of Michigan in 2012 and am currently serving a year-long AmeriCorps term in Traverse City before starting law school at Wayne State University in August.  I am very interested in legal strategies that can be used to conserve and protect our planet’s natural resources.  My plan is to make a career out of the type of work FLOW does, which is another great benefit of being around the office, learning from FLOW’s incredible staff.

I’ve been here for about a month and a half and have been working on a couple different projects.  One has been the early stages of a program that complements the work of Council of Canadians, a partner of FLOW, and their Blue Communities Program.  A Council of Canadians Blue Community is one that adopts resolutions that

  1. Recognize water as a human right,
  2. Ban bottled water in public places and at municipal events, and
  3. Promote publicly financed, owned and operated water and wastewater services.

A blue community is one that makes a commitment to sustainable water use and resists the ever increasing trend of water privatization.  It is our hope that a Blue Communities type of program can be implemented as part of a package of pragmatic water conservation best practices to assist communities in conserving water in many different areas.

The other research I have just recently begun working on relates to the connection between food production and water health.  FLOW’s goal is to provide information about water’s inextricable linkage to food production, especially as it relates to phosphorous runoff—a major cause of harmful algal blooms—which affected Lake Erie on a massive scale in 2011.  Further, we hope to promote awareness of how climate change increases the impacts on this food and water linkage.

I will try to update everyone on the work I am doing throughout the summer and to provide insight into the kind of work a FLOW volunteer can do.  Have a great day and enjoy our beautiful Great Lakes region.