City OKs plan for lighthouse property

This file photo shows a winter scene of Marquette Harbor Lighthouse. The historic lighthouse, which was first built in 1866, is perched on a hill and overlooks Lake Superior shoreline. The more than five-acre parcel that includes the lighthouse will eventually be developed into a public park. (Journal photo by Camilla Mingay)

MARQUETTE — The lighthouse property overlooking McCarty’s Cove and the Lake Superior shoreline in Marquette will ultimately be turned into a public park for all to enjoy, city officials say.

The final plan, which was prepared by local consultants Sanders and Czapski Associates, was unanimously approved Monday evening by the Marquette City Commission.

The park project is estimated to cost between $1.6 million and $2.3 million.

The entire park site will be open to public access during daylight hours, similar to Presque Isle Park, according to the final report. The city will remove the chain link fence; extend Arch Street to Coast Guard Road to reduce vehicle traffic; improve the west parking lot; install a gate at the west end of the gravel driveway, which will be the entry to the lighthouse; install signage to identify historic resources and control circulation; rehabilitate the captain’s residence for a short-term rental unit; relocate the multiuse path partially onto the historical site and more.

Commissioner Peter Frazier suggested a historical monument plaque or marker be included as part of the development.

City Manager Mike Angeli said the city’s plans to turn the captain’s residence into a “short-term rental” could generate revenue that would go back into the park.

“It’s not detailed in this report, but what we plan on doing is creating an enterprise fund,” he said. “We’re trying to develop something in motion and that takes care of itself over time.”

Several meetings and public forums were held in 2017 prior to completion of the final report, which is meant to be a “road map” toward renovating the property as time and funds allow, meeting notes state.

“This is a plan that’s going to take a lot of time by itself,” Commissioner Mike Plourde said. “It’s going to cost a lot of money. We’re not going to jump into it with both feet right now and spend a whole lot of money that we don’t have. I think the … commission, as a whole, really wants to develop this property well.”

Plourde said the city will take its time developing the park to ensure construction is done right the first time.

The more than 5-acre waterfront parcel that was previously occupied by the U.S. Coast Guard was deeded to the city in July 2016. The parcel contains four structures, including the historic lighthouse, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, a captain’s residence, a Coast Guard Station and storage garage. Most of the structures were built in the late 1800s with the lighthouse being the oldest, dating back to 1866.

The site was formerly a training ground for a large number of Coast Guard personnel after the start of World War II. The last modifications to the lighthouse were made in the early 1960s when the “schoolhouse style” two-story structure was painted red.

In 2002, the Marquette Maritime Museum obtained a 30-year lease from the Coast Guard to begin preservation efforts and to conduct public tours, according to commission meeting documents.

After the city became owners of the property, it retained Sanders and Czapski Associates of Marquette, an architectural and landscape firm, in September 2016 to prepare a land use plan for a fee that was not-to-exceed $14,700.

Before Monday’s vote, Mayor Pro Tem Frederick Stonehouse asked City Attorney Ronald Keefe if his vote would be a conflict of interest since he’s on the Marquette Maritime Museum Board of Directors. Stonehouse was advised it would not be an issue.

Stonehouse said former City Manager Bill Vajda really pushed for the city to attain ownership of the property and that his motivation and passion should not go unnoticed. He also said said the lighthouse park could, in his own opinion, be “better than Presque Isle.”

Ken Czapski, of Sanders and Czapski Associates, thanked the commission and staff for giving the firm the opportunity to have worked on the lighthouse property land use plan.

“I have to say it was a fun project to work on these past few months,” Czapski said. “We look forward to all the things that will happen there in the future, and as a citizen I really look forward to the ‘park closed’ signs coming down this spring.”

The final land use plan can be viewed on the city’s website, www.marquettemi. gov/.

Jaymie Depew can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206. Her email address is jdepew@miningjournal.net.