Council reverses sign decision

After weeks of public outcry, city officials had a change of heart for the "Coast Guard City USA" sign on Dewey Hill.
Alex Doty
Jul 2, 2013


Grand Haven City Council voted 3-2 to allow the sign to be placed on the hill for this year's Coast Guard Festival.

"The opinion (by the Coast Guard) was that they felt welcomed by those words on the hill," Coast Guard Festival Executive Director Mike Smith said. "The letters on the hill are meant as a moment in time to say who we say we are."

The decision is a 180-degree turn from the one made several weeks ago to not allow letters on the hill due to concerns about dune degradation and about promoting things on the prominent hillside.

"I think the sign is a statement on the hill of who we are," Mayor Geri McCaleb said. "I supported the sign the first time around. It is not advertising."

McCaleb noted that the sign is also a backdrop for all of the events that take place at Waterfront Stadium during the week of the festival.

This year's festival is July 26 to Aug. 4.

As a part of City Council's decision to allow the sign this year, the city's Environment and Natural Resource Committee will look into a preservation plan for Dewey Hill. Costs associated with action items that could come from the plan would be funded by those who use the hill.

"If something develops, there could be a cost involved," Councilman John Hierholzer said.

To read more of this story, see today’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.






Mayor McCaled "I think the sign is a statement on the hill of who we are,"{this is advertising} Mayor Geri McCaleb said. "I supported the sign the first time around. It is not advertising." You never make any sense. I wish someone with half a brain wanted to be mayor so that we could vote you out of office. You are far out of reach.

No One Special

Hey genius, your comments are non sense. Geri is the only one who makes any sense on the board.


What's the big deal! Grand Haven IS Coast Guard City USA and so we celebrate it once a year for a week. The sign on Dewey Hill just lets everyone know what a great town we are. I don't get it, people!!

Grand Haven Happy

A Thank You to the 3 council members for doing the right thing. If the other two are so against something like a "billboard" etc being erected on Dewey Hill etc, then do your job and propose an ordinance against it! The Christmas Display is temporary as is the Coast Guard City USA signage and are removed afterward or laid down from view after the event. Weather and snow depth does play a factor. On the otherhand, A billboard would be a permanent type structure.

The wording in the ordinance can easily differentiate types of signage, time length of visual display and quick permanent removal if the ordinance is violated and the penalty for not being removed within the agreed upon date in writing. Yes, a written and signed/notorized agreement between the city and owner/director of the desired signage placement within the ordinance limits should be required and enforced.

Heck, in the city there's written permits issued and even fees included to be married on city property and/or do so many other activities. Why is Dewey Hill etc that much different? Why would it be so hard to adopt regulations concerning Dewey Hill use or other type venues for NON-commercial/NON-profit temporary usage/signage? Usage must be in the general interest of the citizens and taxpayers of the city. This is simply part of what a city council does in regards to it's serving and duties!

The people have spoken and the wrong has been righted now!


I disagree with the strange compulsion to have this particular sign, but I agree that setting up an ordinance would probably help avoid such an emotionally-based debate in the future! Hear hear.


You can't see the sign from the beach. I propose to add one along the south edge of the south pier! You won't be able to see either one from the Pier Peddler area. Better get one at North Shore Marina. It is important to make sure people don't forget why they made vacation plans and lodging arrangements in Grand Haven.


LOL! Funny Citizen, but probably too subtle for the rabid, pro-sign contingent. Obviously anything done more than once by these wackadoodles becomes a tradition that even God dare not tear asunder.
I would hazard a guess that most visitors to G.H. already know it's a nice place to visit and as long as they don't run into too many negative natives they'll probably leave thinking the same thing. A tacky sign stuck helter skelter in the sand isn't going to do much to change their opinion one way or another.
I almost feel sorry for the council though. Somebody should probably explain to them the story about Pandora's box....once you open the lid it's darn hard to get it closed again.


I hope you choke


Oh Noes - the dune will be ruined now, according to the rationale for voting against the sign in the first place. If my fellow environmentalists don't do something to re-establish the original decision, it will prove they favor crass commercialism (the tourist industry) over the protection of our cherished natural resources. Greed over Gaia - the inhumanity!


If there is a valid concern over dune destruction then no sign, visage, or usage of the dune should take place.

Problem is they are cherry picking what they want, and using the preservation of the dune as a means to enforce it.

If it is an issue, then shut it all down, remove everything from the dune, and just let the dune be a dune.

If it's not a real issue, then we are just talking about people’s opinions on taste and what "should" be allowed on the dune, in which case you’re not going to make everyone happy.

Having said theat, they set the damn thing on fire almost every year and I've not heard anything yet about canceling the fireworks, or maybe the drama with the Jaycees this year was a conspiracy to preserve the dune and rid Grand Haven of the unwanted destruction of the dune.

And now I have to go take my meds...


I really appreciate the council members who changed their vote. They listened to the people for a change instead of refusing to consider that they may have made the wrong decision to begin with. God bless you, if only the federal government could what is best for us without regard to who is financing their election.

Grand Haven Township - Bill Cargo - are you watching?


12 other Cities in the USA have been designated Coast Guard City USA. Clearwater is the only current city in Florida to have the designation. It is given based on support to local Coast Guard stations and its members. There are only 12 cities in the country that have earned the naming.

“We had a strong oppurtunity because we have had a strong, healthy relationship with the Coast Guard,” Mayor Frank Hibbard said. “We already had a body of work to present and to look at to present to the Coast Guard, but we had some additional work to do.”

The application includes letters from city officials describing community efforts to support Coast Guard members. The application also includes examples of community events aimed at reaching out to Coast Guard members and their family.

There are four stations in Young's district. And Clearwater is home to two posts including the , the busiest in the nation and .

“I’ve never seen such a well documented package,” Papp said during the call from outside the Pentagon. “I saw that letter from Bill Young... you had me at Bill Young. I suspect we’ll move (the application) right along.”

Typically after a city is named, there is a Congressional and Senate review that takes about 90 days. But officials are going to try to speed up the process.

An official presentation is planned for the end of October, around the same time many members of the Coast Guard are in town for the Innovation Expo Oct. 25 to 27 at the Tampa Convention Center, Papp said.

There are 12 other Coast Guard Cities, including Sitka, Alaska, Mobile, Ala. and Grand Haven, Mich. The designation is not forever, every five years the city must recertify the naming.

“Although you didn't have a name we knew Clearwater's always been a Coast Guard City,” Papp said. “Thanks for taking care of my people down there.”


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