A public hearing is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday at Ferrysburg City Hall to discuss changing the 80-acre park's name to Coast Guard Memorial Park.
The idea is the brainchild of City Councilman Tim O'Donnell, who wants a way to pay tribute to local Coast Guard personnel “who have crossed the bar.” As O'Donnell discussed his idea with others, he decided to open the tribute to all local members of the armed services who have died, including first responders.
City Manager Craig Bessinger said the National Park Service has “no issues” with the proposed name change.
Besides the name change, which would have to be approved by City Council, O'Donnell said he would like to engrave the names of service members on bricks and have them surround the lighthouse that currently stands near the park entrance off North Shore Road. That lighthouse contains the original light that shone from the north pier head until it was removed in 1973.
O'Donnell estimates that it would take $6,000 to get the bricks, plaques and lights in place around the lighthouse monument. Funds would come from private donations, he said. To make a donation, send a check to the City of Ferrysburg and designate “Coast Guard Memorial Park” in the memo line.
O'Donnell's father was in the Coast Guard and told his son that the park served as the original Coast Guard rifle range.
“He served back in the 1950s when the Coast Guard station was on the north side of the river,” said the city councilman, who is a long-time member of the Coast Guard Auxiliary. “They used to run down the beach up over the dunes to the rifle range.”
Besides the memorial and renaming the park, O’Donnell said there are many other ideas he's mulling over.
“By making the entire park a memorial park, there are other things we can do,” he said. “We could name the baseball field 'Heroes Field.' We could name the walking trails after ships that have served here, like the Woodbine, Mackinaw and Escanaba trails. We could name the dog park after a K-9 officer who was killed in the line of duty.”