City parks the focus

Commission takes action on projects

A private property sign was recently taken down at the Marquette Harbor Lighthouse property as the park is now open to the public. The only thing off limits, according to City Manager Mike Angeli, is the lighthouse and anything attached to it. All tours of the lighthouse are currently handled by the Marquette Maritime Museum. (Journal photos by Jaymie Depew)

MARQUETTE — The Shiras Park parking lot, which was in shambles for months after a record-breaking October storm, has been cleared of rubble and decorated with several picnic tables that overlook Picnic Rocks in Marquette.

Margaret Brumm, a candidate for a seat on the Marquette City Commission who has expressed dismay over the “destroyed” park for months, thanked officials at the city commission’s meeting Monday night for their “time and effort” in redeeming accessibility to the lot.

“Even though I want Picnic Rocks park to go back to the way it was, I notice that the way it’s been put together now is being adopted nicely by the people who come there,” Brumm said. “Half of the parking lot is still a parking lot and the other half has been sectioned off (by) using the existing wooden pilings and a bunch of picnic tables have been put there.”

In October, winds as high as 77 mph along Lake Superior and 49 mph at the National Weather Service office in Negaunee Township whipped the area as a record rainfall of 2.27 inches and hulking waves flooded parts of the city.

Piles of asphalt, wood and an entrance barrier were the only signs of repairs to the Shiras Park parking lot for months after the damage. After repairs were made, Brumm said it’s difficult for her to imagine the newly cleared lot once so tattered.

Cones section off a part of the Shiras Park parking lot where benches were placed, overlooking Picnic Rocks in Marquette. The parking lot was destroyed after a record-breaking storm in October as crashing Lake Superior waves ripped up the asphalt, leaving big piles of dirt and rubble. (Journal photos by Jaymie Depew)

“If you didn’t know … that (Shiras Park) had been destroyed by a horrible storm, you might have thought that this was actually the plan to begin with,” she said.

City Manager Mike Angeli said city officials recently met with an engineer who proposed an idea in regards to handling the parking lot in the near future.

“Interestingly enough, we met with an engineer last week who has come up with a unique idea for potentially funding some projects there or a project there that could actually help us with our preservation of the shoreline,” Angeli said at Monday’s meeting. “It’s a situation where the engineer was willing to seek and apply for grants, all at the same time, using that money and helping us actually change the water flow around the island so that we wouldn’t have any future erosion.”

In an email this morning, Angeli said the goal would be to change the way waves hit the shoreline, thus preventing the shoreline from being washed away as it is now. However, the idea is preliminary, he said.

“For this summer, our goal was to configure the parking lot to the area that was left after the storm last fall. Our long-term goal would be either return the parking lot to it’s original size or leave it as is, but in both cases stabilizing the shoreline. We are seeking grants to help us with design in either case,” Angeli explained. “The expensive part here is the stabilization of the shoreline which we estimate to be over $1 (million) and could be as much as $3 (million).”

The work that has been done so far has been completed by city parks and public works crews.

“I don’t have an exact cost, but would estimate it at ($25,000) to ($30,000),” Angeli said. “Depending on the route we take, the final costs would likely be in the millions of dollars.”

While the Shiras Park project is considered a significant priority, another park just south of it was added to the list of upcoming projects after the city was deeded the lighthouse property adjacent to McCarty’s Cove from the U.S. Coast Guard 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.

As part of the city’s fiscal year 2018-2020 strategic plan, which was unanimously passed Monday with Commissioner Mike Plourde absent from the meeting, the city aims to build a bike path, add proper signage and remove the chain link fence this summer.

The Marquette Harbor Lighthouse Park is currently open to the public.

“The only thing that’s off limits to the public, per se, is the lighthouse and anything attached to the lighthouse,” Angeli said. “The access to that facility is through the (Marquette) Maritime Museum.”

Aside from removing the fence this summer, the city also hopes to take care of some undergrowth that would make the park easier to walk around, and more.

“Later this summer or early fall we plan on re-locating the bike bath to the area between the station house and the captain’s house. Currently the bike path in that area is also a vehicle access route and we’d like to separate the bikers/walkers from the vehicles,” Angeli said. “The new path will start in the area of the Maritime Museum and attach to the current bike path at McCarty’s Cove.”

Lastly, Angeli said, there will be some infrastructure work to get the water and sewer to the buildings working again.

“If we’re lucky, we’d like to get the captain’s house up and running as a short-term rental, but that might not happen this summer,” he said. “For next summer we plan on improving the entrance to the park via Arch Street and making improvements to parking that would benefit both the park and the museum.”

According to the project’s final plan, which was prepared by local consultants Sanders and Czapski Associates, the overall project will cost between $1.6 to $2.3 million.