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Michigamme residents mourn move of community-shared gazebo

From left, Jean Howe and Roberta Frisk are shown at the Michigamme gazebo that was recently relocated. (Photo courtesy of Whitney Saunders)

MICHIGAMME — A solemn ceremony was held last week by a group of Michigamme residents who expressed concerns about the recent move of a public gazebo from its original site.

The gazebo was moved from its original spot along Lake Michigamme — which was on a Marquette County Road Commission right-of-way parcel in the village of Michigamme — to the Michigamme Township Park, Michigamme Township Supervisor William Seppanen said.

“The gazebo was moved to the township park area and placed between the two playgrounds so families can watch their children play while sitting in the gazebo,” Seppanen said. “The gazebo was hardly used since it was moved to the property in 2016.”

The parcel that the gazebo previously sat upon borders Lake Michigamme on the corner of Max and Lake streets, and is listed on a Marquette County plat map as part of Lake Street. The gazebo was built with a Central Upper Peninsula Planning and Development Regional Commission grant in 2016.

The Michigamme Township Board approved the move on June 24 and the gazebo was hauled away July 12.

“Everything went smoothly. We had the sheriff’s deputy involved because of the protesting of the move,” Seppanen said.

The gazebo and the parcel it sat upon until July 12 have been a source of controversy since the July 2019 proposal to sell the 65-foot by 25-foot parcel of land to an adjacent landowner, which left some Michigamme residents concerned for the parcel’s fate, as well as the future of the lakefront access at the site, according to a previous Journal article.

“Many showed up at a Michigamme Township Board meeting on Monday to oppose efforts to sell the parcel to the owner of (an) adjacent property, which is currently vacant,” an Oct. 2, 2019, Journal article states.

However, the land sale was dependent on whether the Marquette County Road Commission — which had jurisdiction under state law of the parcel due to its status as a right-of-way — would accept Michigamme Township’s request to abandon the Lake Street right-of-way.

The Marquette County Road Commission in December 2019 voted unanimously to deny the request to abandon the parcel, which halted the sale.

Since then, the small parcel and gazebo have remained a source of controversy among Michigamme Township residents and officials, with Michigamme Township board members in June approving a motion to move the gazebo.

Whitney Saunders of Michigamme has been avidly opposed to moving the gazebo, she told the Journal in a previous article.

“The gazebo was put there five years ago because children have swam there and fished there since Michigamme became a town (in 1872),” she told the Journal. “My family has been swimming there for five generations. When I swam there it wasn’t well kept, with no place to put a towel and what not, so they (the township) created this space in downtown Michigamme to let people enjoy the spot more…. We are upset because it was there and working and used by many people, not just people of Michigamme but tourists … and we have the permission of (the) Marquette County Road Commission, who have jurisdiction. The prior (downtown development authority) board and previous Michigamme Township Board put this gazebo in.”

Seppanen reaffirmed that there are currently no plans for the parcel, now that the gazebo has been removed, the parcel of land is returned back to being used the way it was previous to the gazebo.

After all the commotion has settled down, both people for and against the move didn’t agree on much regarding the issue, yet both Seppanen and former chairman of the Michigamme Downtown Development Authority, Jerry Roach, agreed that residents of Michigamme Township are struggling with unity due to this situation, with both men agreeing that the issue has divided the community.

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