TRAVERSE CITY — A proposal to erect a 20-foot-tall, stylized sculpture of a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter at the entrance to downtown hit a snag with the city’s parks and recreation commission.
Commission members expressed concerns this week that too few people are aware of a proposed statue that would occupy one of the city’s most prominent intersections at East Front Street and Grandview Parkway.
A Traverse City Coast Guard City Committee suggested a simple sculpture of a helicopter made from brushed stainless steel to commemorate Traverse City’s designation as a Coast Guard City. But the plan won’t fly with parks commissioners, not yet, anyway.
“I think we need to get some more outside feedback,” said city Commissioner Gary Howe, a member of the parks commission. “It is very large and it is very prominent. We need to make sure the public is aware of this.”
The sculpture would sit in the triangular-shaped city parkland that fills the wye where Grandview Parkway splits from East Front Street. Parks commissioners noted there are several redesign proposals for that intersection, ideas that range from a traffic roundabout to a strait T-shaped intersection, and most call for a monument that welcomes visitors to Traverse City.
“I don’t know if this is the best location,” said parks Commissioner Margaret Szajner. “It is for you, but I don’t know if it is for the city.”
Stan Simmons, the Coast Guard committee’s vice chair, said group members considered other alternatives but considered that location as most appropriate. The sculpture could be moved if the city eventually decides to redesign the intersection.
Brian Haas, parks and recreation chairman, said most cities have a process for public art that includes the involvement of art professionals. He recommended the Coast Guard committee seek comments from design professionals, as well as the general public.
The design grew from a contest the Coast Guard committee held a year ago for high school art classes. Only one school, Traverse City West Senior High, participated and submitted 15 drawings from students.
Committee members eventually settled on a design submitted by student Mallory Heiges that also was recommended by her art instructor, Melissa Clone, and metal artist Matt Coffey of Matt Coffey design.
Heiges’ helicopter design has a more fluid, abstract look and is supported by a climbing ladder that descends into a pool of water. Committee members liked the design, but said they would have to make some changes, including removal of the ladder because the statue could not be climbable. The pool of water has been replaced by a circular concrete pad with stone pavers. The estimated cost of the sculpture is $30,000 and would be funded by donations.
Members of both committees voiced some frustration about the review process. The parks commission, according to city policy, should have been brought into discussions from the beginning.
Coast Guard committee members spent a year on the project and worked through the city manager, who is a member of their committee. But they just learned they were supposed to follow a policy that carries with it criteria they need to meet.
“We didn’t know about the policy,” said Steve Perdue, a member of the Coast Guard committee. “But I think it’s probably a good idea to get more public input and to get design review, too. It will help build our case.”
The parks commission will take up the issue again in March and then forward a recommendation to city commissioners for their consideration.