Traverse City News and Events

City Commissioners Approve Coast Guard Monument, Restroom Resolution

June 20, 2017

A long-discussed Coast Guard monument is set to be installed in downtown Traverse City after commissioners unanimously approved the project Monday. Commissioners also unanimously passed a resolution of support for providing gender-neutral bathrooms within city buildings and encouraging other city businesses and organizations to offer at least one gender-neutral restroom in their facilities.

Coast Guard Monument
A planned Coast Guard monument first proposed in 2013 received a long-sought green light Monday from city commissioners, who thanked Traverse City Coast Guard City Committee members for their patience and persistence in pursing the project.

Committee members plan to install a 12-foot tall, freestanding statue of a stylized helicopter silhouette (pictured) in the city’s Mini Park at the intersection of Grandview Parkway and East Front Street. The monument – which will include signage, lighting and surrounding landscaping – will act as “an acknowledgment of the men and women of the Coast Guard and recognition of our status as an official Coast Guard City,” according to committee chair Stan Simons.

The $60,000 project – which will be funded entirely by private donations and grants – has faced multiple obstacles the last several years, as city officials paused its approval while creating a new Traverse City Arts Commission and city process for reviewing public artwork. The Coast Guard monument has since obtained endorsements from the Arts Commission and Parks and Recreation Commission, with the city commission being the final step in the approval process.

“I understand there were some frustrations along the way,” Commissioner Gary Howe told Simons shortly before voting to approve the project. “But in the end, I think the public process has prevailed in terms of a better project that hopefully is going to be really significant.”

“I wanted to say the same thing and just thank you for your persistence,” said Commissioner Brian Haas. “I think we’ll get a really good park out of it.” Commissioner Amy Shamroe called the statute “a fitting tribute to such an important part of our community,” while Commissioner Tim Werner expressed his hope the monument would revitalize the underutilized Mini Park.

“Unless they’re stopping by to visit the Vietnam memorial, I don’t know of anybody that goes there, stops there or spends any time in this park,” Werner said. “So kudos to you for putting in the effort to help us make this a great place.”

The project will now be bid out through the city’s request-for-proposals (RFP) process to solicit artist bids and finalize cost estimates. The Coast Guard committee is targeting a spring 2018 installation.

Gender-Neutral Restroom Resolution
Commissioners unanimously adopted a resolution Monday stating Traverse City will make an effort to provide gender-neutral bathrooms within city buildings and encourage other community businesses or organizations to provide at least one gender-neutral restroom in their place of business.

While the resolution drew sharp criticism from several commentators at a previous commission meeting, only two residents spoke during the agenda item Monday, both in favor of the motion. “Even though everyone may not identify themselves in the same way as I do, why would we want to make our community anything other than a safe and accepting place?” said Debra Lewis. “Bathrooms are a much more dangerous place for a transgendered person than for me and many of you, and transgendered children and adults often suffer health problems because they don’t have access to bathrooms that they can safely use in public or at school.”

Mayor Jim Carruthers noted the resolution was referring to “single-stall occupancy, lockable bathrooms,” which could accommodate a wide range of users, including single parents with opposite-sex children and individuals with disabilities. “We’re not talking about talking a public restroom that has multiple stalls and just all of the sudden letting mixed genders go into that,” Carruthers said. Werner confirmed, however, with City Attorney Lauren Trible-Laucht that the resolution allows individuals to use public restrooms based on their personal gender identity or expression, which Trible-Laucht affirmed.

City Manager Marty Colburn said the resolution was “not law” and “would not be an ordinance” but would instead be the “preferred policy” of the city. A separate resolution of support encouraging Traverse City Area Public Schools (TCAPS) to implement gender-neutral bathrooms was pulled from a commission vote; that motion was deemed more appropriate to go directly to the TCAPS board.

Traverse City commissioners Monday also:
> Approved a memorandum of understanding with Garfield Township, Grand Traverse County, and TART Trails outlining responsibilities for each partner in completing the Boardman Lake Trail loop;
> Adopted a resolution opposing state legislation that would eliminate the ability for local units of government to regulate short-term rentals;
> Heard an update from Dr. Glen Daigger of the University of Michigan on outbreaks of gram-positive bacteria at the city’s wastewater treatment plant and efforts to combat the bacteria;
> And approved accepting $330,000 in federal funding through the Michigan Department of Transportation for the reconstruction of West Front Street between Division Street and Elmwood Avenue.

Photo credit: Influence Design Forum

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