Council puts history garden idea on shelf
ESCANABA — An Escanaba City Council member who sought to use city-owned land for a “history garden” struggled to gain the support of her peers last week, but the issue may be revisited.
Council Member Karen Moore, who is the founder and president of the nonprofit city beautification group Enhance Escanaba, spoke as a private citizen during Thursday’s regular council meeting while asking the council to approve her use of the land on Sand Point east of the city’s water plant for the garden.
“It’s going to be composed of mostly artifacts, representing our rich Escanaba history — trains, railroad, iron ore, ships and timber. Basically anything related to those subjects. It’s a great way to teach historical facts, pairs nicely with the historical museum,” Moore told the council while standing at a podium used for public comment.
Despite coming to the meeting with multiple letters of support from community groups, details about the proposed garden were scant. Moore told the council the garden was in the planning process and she needed council approval to use the land before she would be able to seek the artifacts and grants needed to develop the garden.
“I’m asking you to have faith in me because I have experience with doing theme gardens, and if you go tour any of the gardens that I have done, I think you would be impressed. So this, I guarantee is not going to be an eyesore, and I cannot really give you a drawing because I don’t know what exactly is going to be in it yet,” Moore told the council.
The only item Moore specifically named as a potential feature of the garden was an iron ore train car that has been put forward by a possible donor. The train car itself raised concerns from the council, who felt it could be a hazard, unattractive and require significant upkeep. Moore did not explain how the car would fit into her vision for the space.
“I mentioned the ore car because that was the… somebody just threw that at me and said, ‘There’s an ore car in Manistique, maybe we can get it here.’ That’s it. I don’t know if we can get it here. I don’t know if it’s going to happen. That was just an example,” said Moore.
Some on the council struggled with the broader concept of a “history garden.” When asked by Council Member Todd Flath if she had any pictures of other historical gardens to help the council visualize the concept, Moore stated that there were many types of historical gardens but gave no examples.
“There’s all different types of historical gardens all over the United States. There is. And they’re based on the location, the climate, wind conditions, what’s available for artifacts. They’re based on all kinds of things,” she said.
Beyond indicating that the garden would have a self-guided tour using QR codes to teach visitors about objects and that all featured items would be artifacts and not replicas, Moore was unable to give any concrete facts about what the garden would look like on the roughly 120-foot-by-200-foot area next to the water plant.
“Right now, we’re just saying, ‘we want to use the land, we don’t know how much money we need, we don’t know if we’ve got the money raised yet, not sure what’s donated yet; I don’t know what it’s supposed to envision.’ Then to me the project’s not ready to go,” said Council Member Tyler DuBord.
Moore admitted that the request was “unusual,” but reiterated that she could not seek grants without permission to use the land.
Rather the reject the request, the council opted to postpone discussion on the issue until Moore could provide some sort of detailed information about the project and its future design.