UP Catholic 08 11 2017 E Edition Page 10

10 August 11, 2017 THE U.P. CATHOLIC www.upcatholic.org Park honoring diocesan namesake, Father Jacques Marquette, in process of becoming accessible, more visible BY ANGELA JOHNSON THE U.P. CATHOLIC An impressive one-and-a-half ton, 20-foot tall bronze statue of Father Jacques Marquette has overlooked the heart of the city of Marquette and ad- jacent harbor for more than 100 years. But because of neglect, overgrown vegetation and mobility challenges many people dont even know this hidden gem exists. Soon though, significant improve- ments to the grounds surrounding the statue will make the park a welcoming front porch to the city, according to the dedicated members of the parks restoration committee. Our intention is to make the Father Marquette Park more visible and ac- cessible to all, said Emily Lewis, head of committee, and St. Michael Parish parishioner. Over the years, the park has experienced some decline result- ing in the historic park and iconic statue receiving little visitation. Later this summer construction will begin on a handicap-accessible path along Lakeshore Boulevard leading to the statue that will include education- al signage and benches for resting and appreciating the breathtaking views, beautiful gardens and a picnic area, Lewis said. Widespread support from the city, area foundations and individuals have propelled this enormous effort and kept the committee motivated, she said. Last year the city of Marquette secured a $140,000 Michigan Natu- ral Resources Trust Fund Grant and has raised an additional $60,000 in matching funds for the project. We have a priceless artifact in our midst, said Barb Kelly, vice-president of the Marquette Beautification and Restoration Committee, which also completed a $100,000 statue resto- ration effort in 2013. In showcasing the statue, Kelly said: Our goal is to inform people that our city, our county and even the Catholic Diocese is named after someone with such a legacy. I am astounded when I think of what Father Marquette did. A Jesuit missionary from France, Father Marquette led the first Eu- ropean expedition resulting in the navigation and study of the Mississip- pi River. Serving among the Indian missions in Canada, he was a gifted linguist learning the Huron language and was fluent in six different dia- lects. His diaries provide insight into the friendships he developed and detail the expeditions he led, leaving a legacy of historical, cultural, and geographical knowledge that was pre- viously unknown. Father Marquette is believed to have camped near Mar- quettes south harbor while mapping Lake Superior around 1670. The Father Marquette statue was created by Gaetana Tretanova of Flor- ence, Italy in 1897 at the request of Peter White. According to historic re- cord, the statue was put in a crate and shipped across the Atlantic Ocean, arriving without a scratch. It was orig- inally installed at the old Waterworks Plant on East Ridge Street. It has been at its current location on South Front Street since 1913. We want people who come to the city of Marquette to visit this park and be educated and inspired, Kelly said. The committee continues raising funds for items not included in the current plan, such as lighting of the statue and along the walkway, security cameras, and an irrigation system. To inquire about making a tax-de- ductible donation toward the comple- tion of the park restoration project contact Barb Kelly at (906) 225-5077 or Emily Lewis at (906) 226-9618. ANGELA JOHNSON THE U.P. CATHOLIC Barb Kelly, left, and Emily Lewis, members of the Father Marquette Park Restoration Committee, pose near the base of the Father Marquette statue off of South Front Street in the neglected green space that will soon become a welcoming and educational park area complete with a handicap accessible walkway and interpretive signage. Dewitt Church Goods Inc. Restore the beauty of your tabernacle. Call today! Toll Free 1-866-950-3378

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