by Richard Lamb–Advance Editor
Nearly a year of planning, fundraising and construction will be capped off by a dedication Saturday at 2 p.m. The Third and Erie beautification project is set for unveiling at the main intersection in Rogers City.
“This has been truly a community project. The community support has been great. Whether it was the smallest task or the largest donation, its been the community that has put this together,” said Beth Budnik, who along with her husband John have spearheaded the project.
She said the project started because of the need to get fresh dirt so better flowers could be planted. The fundraising program through the state, Patronicity, matched local donations up to $50,000.
The campaign needed to reach its crowd-funding goal of $50,000 by Feb. 1 to qualify to win a matching grant with funds made possible by Michigan State Housing Development Authority and Michigan Economic Development Corporation Spaces Community Places program.
“It is awesome seeing it now. It started as a need to get fresh dirt and it kind of skyrocketed after that,” she said. “We found out about Patronicity and decided to give it a try and it has been a total success.”
The project removed the old Mariners’ Mall sign and the area surrounding it. Replacing that is new landscaping with stamped concrete walkways with a compass rose, seating, drinking fountain, impressive examples of limestone and interesting displays. Work began in the spring with the finishing touches completed this week. Some 47 decorative plants and 12 shrubs were planted along with mulch to complement the look of the area.
The centerpiece of the area is a historic Fresnel lens donated by Carmeuse Lime & Stone.
The lens most likely predates the Calcite Plant, even though it was used at the breakwall for many years. Calcite officials donated the lens for use by the city and it seemed ideal for inclusion in this project. The lens will be lit and is enclosed in a safe protective encasement that will allow year-round viewing. Local craftsmen Emil Zielaskowski and Leonard Lohman did the restoration work on the lens.
Birds were using it for nesting when it was removed from a Port of Calcite breakwall.
“It was filled with everything you could imagine,” said Zielaskowski about the condition when they started working on it.
“There were broken panes,” said Carmeuse area operations manager John Abbitt.
A second showpiece is an emergency steering ship’s wheel, a hands-on display donated by the Stone family of Rogers City, that was placed last week on a pedestal to the north of the Fresnel lens.
Zielaskowski and Lohman also prepared the wheel for display in the area.
A sign 30-by-42-inch sign will be placed near the light telling its story. Text on the sign, authored by city manager Joe Hefele with assistance from Mark Thompson, Beach Hall, Dick Adair, Toby Kuznicki, Dick Peacock and John Budnik will read:
“For many decades the Calcite Light greeted ships entering the harbor at Rogers City’s Port of Calcite, the world’s largest limestone quarry. Although the early history of this light is unknown, when it was manufactured in the early 1900s it was powered by acetylene and a sun valve turned it on at night and off during the day. Sometime after Calcite’s breakwater was finished in 1929, the light was converted to electricity and relocated to the tower at the end of the breakwater. It remained there until it was removed from service in 2015 and donated to the city by quarry owner Carmeuse Lime & Stone. The light was restored by local volunteers and placed here for all to see. This artifact is an important part of Rogers City’s unique nautical history.
Those who donated $500 have their names etched in the retaining wall curving around the enclosed light.
“This is what you can do together. When you hear that saying ‘together you can make a difference’ this is the poster child or together you can make a difference,” Beth Budnik said.
The organizing group is planning a dedication ceremony that will include speakers who will comment on the history of the lens, the efforts to raise money for the project and the construction of site.