Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Sunday

December 1, 2013

Native history ignored on trail

TRAVERSE CITY — A path in Clinch Park that uses brick inscriptions to narrate aspects of the park’s history begins with the property’s initial use by a white man, a frame of reference that prompted some history buffs to ask city officials to take a more culturally diverse approach.

The concrete walk that leads from the tunnel under Grandview Parkway across the park and past the new pavilion is interspersed with 12 rows of engraved bricks that feature events that have occurred in and around the park land starting in 1852. But Richard Fidler and Derek Bailey will ask city commissioners to consider turning back the clock and adding a brick line that notes Native Americans’ original settlement along the waterfront.

“For 800 years, at least, people had lived at the mouth of the Boardman River, occupied that place, and had permanent or temporary villages there,” said Fidler, a local historian and author. “It’s just a small thing to remember the Native American presence here and we can’t forget that.”

Bailey, the former chairman of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, will join Fidler to make a presentation to the city commission when it meets Monday at 7 p.m. in the Governmental Center. They’ll be part of the meeting’s public comment period, so commissioners aren’t expected to take any action and may not even discuss the matter, City Manager Jered Ottenwess said.

City staffers are researching the question and determined there is room to add another line of bricks without affecting the tunnel’s snow melt system, said Russ Soyring, city planner

Some discussions took place with the architect during the park’s planning stages about including recognition of the first people to settle the region, but that didn’t make the final cut. City staff and the architect settled on themes that included construction of the Hannah Lay Big Mill in 1852, construction of a railroad depot, cold storage warehouse and canning factory; openings of the Clinch Park Zoo, Con Foster Museum, and Marina; creation of the Open Space; and the first National Cherry Festival.

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