Father Marquette Park’s scenic overlook to be named after former city employee

At its Monday meeting, the Marquette City Commission approved the Marquette Beautification and Restoration Committee’s request to name the new scenic overlook at Father Marquette Park the Karl G. Zueger Scenic Overlook. (Photo courtesy of the Marquette Beautification and Restoration Committee Inc.)

MARQUETTE — To honor Marquette’s former community services director for his selfless efforts bestowed to the city’s community, parks and recreation, the Marquette City Commission unanimously approved a request from the Marquette Beautification and Restoration Committee Monday evening to name the new scenic overlook at Father Marquette Park the Karl G. Zueger Scenic Overlook.

Commissioner Peter Frazier was absent and excused from the meeting.

Zueger worked directly with the beautification committee on the Father Marquette Park improvement project, resulting in a $140,000 Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grant. The committee then raised $60,000 in local matching funds for the project. In October, the committee approached city staff asking to name the new overlook after Zueger.

During his time as community services director, Zueger was said to be passionate about public art and Father Marquette Park in particular. He was instrumental with restoring and cleaning the statue, according to the committee.

Emily Lewis, a member of the committee, said the portion of the project Zueger has been most excited about is the view of Lake Superior to the south of the park.

“The one thing I remember … walking that park, over and over again, trying to figure out how we were going to configure it, how we were going to make it handicap accessible, he always stopped at this one spot and said, ‘This is the spot. We have to have an observation deck or a bench or a picnic table because you can see the water from here and you can see the statue.’ So I think it’s quite fitting that we honor him by naming that,” Lewis said.

The Father Marquette Park project is expected to be completed by summer. Lewis said the committee will celebrate the dedication on July 15, as well as the committee’s 40th anniversary. After Peter White gifted the Father Marquette Statue to the city, the statue was also dedicated on July 15 — 121 years ago.

Weighing 1 1/2 tons, the cast bronze statue cost $6,000, and was initially situated near the original Waterworks Plant at the southeast end of East Ridge Street. It was moved in 1913 to its current location in the park along Front Street.

Jon Swenson, who stepped into the director of community services position after Zueger retired earlier this year, said Zueger was a mentor who embodied the emphasis of public service without self.

“That is something we strive to carry on now and going forward and it’s a difficult thing to do,” Swenson said.

Swenson said that even though Zueger wasn’t concerned about being recognized, he was humbled by the dedication.

“This project was one which required special attention and responsibility. At first the objective was to provide access to the Father Marquette statue regardless of one’s physical limitation. As staff delved into the project it became much more,” Swenson read from a letter written by Zueger. “It is a gateway, a place to pause in life and reflect and meditate. It is a place where aged eyes sees the past and imaginative child’s eyes sees the future. It is a portal which connects nature and the community’s soul. In fact, it is really a location where it all began. As a public servant we are committed to serve without the intention of being recognized … I served with the mantra of both nature and the community. I was not always successful, but such is life.”

Mayor Pro Tem Frederick Stonehouse said Zueger sets an example for everybody in the city by portraying selflessness and what it means to be a leader by working with people.

“Those people are so very few and far between,” Stonehouse said. “I think this is a wonderful way to recognize him as a human being and also certainly how that relationship with nature and Father Marquette and the city of Marquette.”

Commissioner Paul Schloegel said he worked alongside Zueger on the Presque Isle Park Advisory Committee.

“He has no idea but I just want to make it known how important (my) time was working with him,” Schloegel said. “It made our volunteering hours much more enjoyable because he was so passionate about what he did.”

Commissioner Sarah Reynolds echoed Stonehouse’s comments and said Zueger was one of the first city staff members who was always there and helpful with guidance when she was elected to the commission.

Mayor Dave Campana agreed with the commissioners and complimented Zueger’s vision.

“He always worked hard for the organization. He got things done,” Campana said. “This is a tribute to him and he deserves it.”

Jaymie Depew can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206.