Traverse City News and Events

Coast Guard Monument Takes Flight

May 10, 2017

A long-proposed Coast Guard monument in downtown Traverse City could finally take flight pending approval from city commissioners and a final fundraising push.

The Traverse City Coast Guard City Committee hopes to install a 12-foot tall, freestanding statue of a stylized helicopter silhouette in the city’s Mini Park at the intersection of Grandview Parkway and East Front Street. The monument – which would 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,” says committee chair Stan Simons.

“Traverse City was named an official Coast Guard City by the U.S. Congress in 2010,” he says. “It’s a very high honor, very prestigious. Our community has embraced the Coast Guard, and we want to make sure we acknowledge their presence.”

The monument project dates back to 2013, when the Coast Guard committee held a contest among local high school arts students to submit proposed design sketches for a commemorative sculpture. An abstract helicopter design by Traverse City West Senior High School student Mallory Heiges was selected as the winning entry. Coast Guard committee members began working their way through city approval channels in the hopes of installing the sculpture in Mini Park. But the group hit a roadblock in 2014 when Parks and Recreation commissioners expressed concern about a lack of public awareness about the project or a cohesive city policy governing the approval and placement of public art.

Those discussions eventually led to the creation of the Traverse City Arts Commission, as well as a new city process for reviewing public artwork. “It slowed (the project) down, because along the way the city developed its new process for art projects and set up the arts commission, so we had to get in line and go through that process,” says committee vice-chair Steve Perdue. “But we’ve now done that successfully.”

Coast Guard committee members recently obtained endorsements for the project from both the city’s Arts and Parks and Recreation commissions. “(Our discussion) was very positive,” says Parks and Recreation commissioner Brooke DiGiacomo. “We were happy about it. We hope we can get that park updated and have that (monument) be the focal point of the park.”

Kathleen Kasdorf, who chairs the Arts Commission’s art selection panel, says her group’s feedback was also “very positive.”

“We had more questions about the landscaping around the piece than the piece itself, actually, which was nice,” Kasdorf says. “It’s been interesting to watch this go from a student pencil design to a mock-up for a final piece.”

Simons says the Coast Guard committee worked with Arts Commission members, engineers and the original artist to significantly update the design in recent months. “It’s a much more modern design now,” he says of the coated steel sculpture, which features a splash of Coast Guard orange and is surrounded by brick paver and stone and woodwork walls. “Beginning at the base and tapering up, there’s a 90-degree rib that gives it more structural integrity, and it has a more sweeping look now."

Total project costs – including the creation and installation of the monument and surrounding landscaping improvements – are estimated at $60,000. The monument will be 100 percent funded by private donations and grants, Perdue emphasizes, with no city dollars attached – though the monument will be gifted to the city once it’s complete. The Coast Guard committee has already raised $21,000 in grant funding from the Biederman Foundation and Rotary Charities, and recently applied for another $25,000 grant from Hagerty Cares. The National Cherry Festival has committed to helping with construction costs, according to Simons, and several private contributors have also pledged their financial support.

In terms of city approvals, the project’s last hurdle is a formal city staff review and then a vote of the city commission. “The staff is very aware of the project,” says City Clerk Benjamin Marentette. “So that review should be done before we take it to the city commission. My expectation is it would be in front of the city commission on June 5. That’s the target date.”

If approved, the project would then 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 hopeful that, should the final fundraising push go as planned, the monument can be installed in spring 2018.

“It’s our mission (as a committee) to support and promote the Coast Guard,” says Perdue. “We’ve done small things along the way since we were created, like the Coast Guard signs along the highway and (appearances at) Friday Night Live. But this is our biggie. This is the anchor project…to show how much we appreciate and honor the service of these men and women."

Separately, a Coast Guard jet is still slated for display near the entrance to the Coast Guard station and the former airport terminal. 

Tax-deductible donations to the Coast Guard monument can be made through the City Clerk’s office – care of the Coast Guard City Committee – at 400 Boardman Avenue, Traverse City MI, 49684.

Photo credit: Influence Design Forum

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