Traverse City Record-Eagle

February 13, 2014

Editorial: Coast Guard group's proposal must fly through city's hoops

Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — It may be that Traverse City residents will fall in love with the idea of erecting a 20-toot-tall brushed stainless steel sculpture of a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter at Front Street and Grandview Parkway as a way to celebrate that this is an official Coast Guard City.

Maybe they won’t.

But unlike the shenanigans that surrounded an effort to install a 30-foot I-beam sculpture at the Open Space years ago, there is now a city policy in place that calls for a Parks and Recreation Commission review and a chance for public input.

That’s as it should be. Unfortunately for the Coast Guard Committee, that news came late in the game.

Coast Guard committee members spent a year on the project and worked through the city manager, a member of the committee. But they just learned they were supposed to follow a policy that includes specific criteria.

About a year ago the committee suggested a sculpture of a helicopter be placed at the intersection to commemorate the city’s designation as a Coast Guard City.

The committee held a contest for high school art classes to come up with a design. Fifteen drawings from Traverse City West Senior High school students were submitted and the committee chose a design by student Mallory Heiges of a helicopter hovering over a pool of water with a climbing ladder descending into the water.

When the committee took its proposal to the city’s parks and recreation commission last week, however, parks committee members expressed concern that too few people are aware the statue would occupy one of the city’s most prominent intersections.

And there may be competing plans. Parks commissioners said there are several redesign proposals for the intersection and most call for a monument of some kind.

While that site made sense to the Coast Guard committee, it must be said a lot of people aren’t even aware of the city’s Coast Guard links. Its presence is an air station at Cherry Capital Airport well out of the public eye.

This is all too reminiscent of the Time Myth fiasco of 2007 and 2008. Then, the public art committee of the Downtown Traverse City Association, an arm of the Downtown Development Authority, got behind a plan to move a huge steel sculpture titled “Time Myth” to the Open Space.

The process had gotten by the DDA and the DTCA before the public knew anything about it, and it caused a ruckus. The public art policy came from that experience.

But having good public policy won’t do any good if it’s not applied. The Coast Guard Committee should have taken their plan to the Parks and Recreation Committee and the public a year ago; but there’s still time for public input and for their helicopter to fly. Or not.