By VANESSA McCRAY
TRAVERSE CITY —
A blue-and-white striped utility pole painted to look like a lighthouse will be removed next year.
Traverse City Light & Power plans to take down the towering waterfront landmark as it completes a project to bury utility lines along Bay Street. The roughly 70-foot tall steel pole was installed about 10 years ago and dressed up with a nautical paint scheme to fit its highly visible location near the bayfront and Grandview Parkway.
The pole became a distinctive landmark in the city's skyline but will be taken down by July 1, said Ed Rice, executive director of the city utility. The utility launched a project in mid-August to put in underground conduit along the area and underneath Division Street. The conduit work was completed last month.
The lighthouse and other utility poles will remain in place through the winter. In the spring, a contractor will install cables and remove the poles before the National Cherry Festival begins, Rice said. The project will cost about $1.5 million.
Rice said removing utility poles and burying lines also makes sense with the city's ongoing plans to improve bayfront parks.
"Even though people were kind of used to the pole down there, I think it's going to significantly improve the view of the bay," Rice said. "I think it's going to make a significant aesthetic improvement of the area."
The utility doesn't need the pole for another site but will save it "for a couple of years" just in case, Rice said.
City parks and recreation Superintendent Lauren Vaughn said even though the pole isn't on park land, the parks board passed a motion months ago to recommend its removal.