Pocket Park in new hands, to be spruced up

Many who work in Downtown Marquette still expect to see Phil Niemisto hard at work, cleaning windows or toiling with flowers and other plants in the lovely little park downtown. His passing earlier this year still hasn’t registered for some.

But Phil’s memory and work live on, especially in the Phil Niemisto Pocket Park along West Washington Street downtown. The park is receiving a cleanup, the detritus of the Upper Peninsula winter being swept up and removed.

“There was a lot of damage because of the winter we had. I’m sure people are seeing the same thing in their yards,” said Mona Lang, executive director of the Marquette Downtown Development Authority who advised people not to panic if they see the park is not in its normal, well-tended shape.

“People are going to see stuff being pulled out that’s overgrown,” Lang said.

And some new vegetation will be added.

Volunteers are putting in plants, with 300 geraniums and 150 petunias ordered. As is the cycle of nature, the park’s tulips were pulled up Tuesday night, but the bulbs will be regenerated and replanted for the 2019 growing season

In a Thursday Mining Journal story by Staff Writer Christie Bleck, Lang said Erica and Andy Smith are taking over the maintenance of the park, which had been tended by Niemisto until his death in February. The Gathered Earth, a shop across from the park, belongs to the Smiths.

This couple seems the perfect pair to step up: one of Gathered Earth’s specialties is home and garden decor and Andy Smith is grounds supervisor at Northern Michigan University.

In Thursday’s story, Erica Smith said they’re trying to be sensitive about the pocket park.

“We don’t want people to think that since Phil is no longer here, things will be changed,” she said.

But some alterations have been necessary.

“Because of that, it’s going to change the look of that space,” she said. New plants are being brought in and Andy Smith’s background in landscape design will be an asset for the park.

There is a list of volunteers who have stepped forward to help maintain this pocket park.

“People are very eager to help,” said Erica Smith, who noted the new plants still need to be watered regularly.

We thank those who are helping to carry on with Phil’s work in his beloved park, where a memorial statue and plaque honoring him can be found.

We believe Phil would be pleased, indeed.