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City adds yardarm to Dewey Hill flag pole

Alex Doty • Apr 26, 2016 at 10:00 AM

Grand Haven will soon have a new tribute to its maritime heritage atop Dewey Hill.

City Council voted 3-2 Monday night to add a yardarm to the flag pole atop the dune.

Councilmen Bob Monetza and Mike Fritz voted against the resolution.

Common in waterfront communities, the yardarm flagpole has a horizontal bar situated in the top one-third to one-quarter of the mast.

"Councilman (Josh) Brugger asked if we've ever thought about having a yardarm on the flag pole," City Manager Pat McGinnis said. "I asked the (Department of Public Works) to look into it and discovered there was a yardarm in the shed building (atop the hill)."

According to McGinnis, since the arm was stored in the utility shed at the top of Dewey Hill, he believes it was at one time attached to the pole. McGinnis noted, however, that he found no vintage photographs of the arm on the flag pole and found no reports from anyone who remembers seeing the feature installed on the pole.

The yardarm will display additional flags, such as those flown at the U.S. Coast Guard facilities in Grand Haven and at the Escanaba Park memorial. The only time these flags may be flown from the yardarm would be Flag Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day and during the Coast Guard Festival.

Brugger said the yardarm allows a way to recognize the Coast Guard and the area's maritime heritage.

"Just having it up there and being able to fly signal flags solidifies (the city’s) ties to the Coast Guard,“ he said.

Brugger also thought that by having the yardarm flags flown at certain times of the year would minimize the impact any foot traffic might have on Dewey Hill.

But the initiative wasn't without opposition from some council members. In addition to voting against the yardarm, Fritz and Monetza also voted unsuccessfully to remove the proposal from Monday night’s agenda.

Monetza said the plan isn’t for the best, long-term benefit of the city.

“It’s a thinly veiled effort to add a city-owned cross on city-owned property,” he said.

In 2015, City Council voted not to allow a cross on Dewey Hill. The cross used to be raised for Worship on the Waterfront services. 

However, Monetza said the yardarm would likely survive any legal challenges since it is a flag pole.

Additionally, Monetza said he thought the additional flag elements would add more destructive human activity to the hill, since more people would walk up and down the dune at various times to raise and lower flags.

”Dewey Hill is our most-significant landmark,“ he said. ”More features means more activity on the hill.“

Fritz was also critical of the plan — and, like Monetza, he also had concerns over the health of the dune and what adding more foot traffic would do to the environment.

“It’s totally ridiculous,” Fritz said. “We want to be good stewards of that dune (and) we don’t need to be sending more and more people up there.”

Both Fritz and Monetza said the city should be looking for ways to preserve the health of the dune.

This past summer, a large anchor was placed atop Dewey Hill, commemorating the U.S. Coast Guard’s 225th anniversary. 

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