2009-08-08 / Top News

Community Celebrates Centennial of Michilimackinac State Park

By Karen Gould

Celebrating the centennial of Michilimackinac State Park, a new state historical marker is presented by Ed Surovell (right), president of the Michigan Historical Commission, to Frank Kelley, chairman of the Mackinac Island State Park Commission. The marker, which will be placed in the open area west of Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse in Mackinaw City, was presented in a ceremony celebrating the park's centennial Thursday, July 23. Celebrating the centennial of Michilimackinac State Park, a new state historical marker is presented by Ed Surovell (right), president of the Michigan Historical Commission, to Frank Kelley, chairman of the Mackinac Island State Park Commission. The marker, which will be placed in the open area west of Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse in Mackinaw City, was presented in a ceremony celebrating the park's centennial Thursday, July 23. In a tribute to explorers, early habitants, preservationists, and the spirit of those who have visited historic Michilimackinac State Park over the last 100 years, a new historical marker was dedicated Thursday, July 23.

About 200 community members attending the event were greeted by music from the Straits Area Concert Band as they arrived at the Welcome Center that sits underneath the south entrance to the Mackinac Bridge to view the ceremony.

Michilimackinac State Park includes Colonial Michilimackinac and Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse. It is Michigan's second oldest state park is operated by the Mackinac Island State Park Commission, which also oversees Mackinac Island State Park, the state's oldest park.

Exhibit designer David Kronberg (left) and Jeff Dykehouse, curator of natural history at Mackinac State Historic Parks, are in the map area of the new Kids' Rendezvous Interactive Playground at Colonial Michilimackinac. Exhibit designer David Kronberg (left) and Jeff Dykehouse, curator of natural history at Mackinac State Historic Parks, are in the map area of the new Kids' Rendezvous Interactive Playground at Colonial Michilimackinac. Before the British moved Fort Michilimackinac to Mackinac Island in 1781 during the American Revolution, the site served as A fur trading outpost for 65 years, first by the French and later by the British, said Steve Brisson, chief curator for the parks. It was taken by Chippewa and Sac Indians during Pontiac's rebellion in 1763, and reoccupied by the British in 1764.

The historic site, Mr. Brisson said, is a monument to the people of Michigan and their leaders who had the foresight and conviction to preserve the land.

"These acres of land were kept free from private development in order to preserve the past, provide enjoyment in the present, and give inspiration for the future," he said.

After the land was established as a state park, the area was used as a picnic site and campground, but about 50 years ago, the Mackinac Island State Park Commission began an archaeological investigation of the site that continues today and led to the reconstruction of the fort palisades and many of its buildings.

Best friends Solomon Kronberg (left) and Connor McMullen of Cheboygan enjoy firing the cannon at the new Kids' Rendezvous Interactive Playground at Colonial Michilimackinac. Best friends Solomon Kronberg (left) and Connor McMullen of Cheboygan enjoy firing the cannon at the new Kids' Rendezvous Interactive Playground at Colonial Michilimackinac. Since the 1960s, the park has been visited by more than 7.5 million people.

The historical marker was presented to the Mackinac Island State Park commission by Ed Surovell, president of the Michigan Historical Commission.

"We are standing on historic ground," he noted. "Two of the three great European empires of the 18th century fought along with their Indian allies and enemies over this very site."

The new historical marker replaces an older marker that focused on the fort but not the rest of the site. The marker is more complete in addressing the site's history, Mr. Surovell said, and serves as a public reminder of the significance of a site.

Laura Ashlee (above), marker coordinator for the State Historic Preservation Office in Lansing, wrote the text for the new historic marker. Laura Ashlee (above), marker coordinator for the State Historic Preservation Office in Lansing, wrote the text for the new historic marker. The unveiling was accompanied by a drum roll by historic interpreters and accepted by Park Commission Chairman Frank Kelley.

"Over the past 100 years," Mr. Kelley said, "the look of this park perhaps changed. What has not changed is that Michilimackinac State Park is still a place to appreciate, with its rich history and the rare beauty of our state."

A resolution commemorating the centennial of the park and signed by Governor Jennifer Granholm, Senator Jason Allen, and Representatives Gary Mc- Dowell and Kevin Elsenheimer, noted, "History comes alive at this vibrant place. Artifacts continue to be discovered and provide important information that makes clear the magnitude of Michigan's history from Mackinac.

The resolution was read by Phil Porter, director of the park, in the absence of the politicians who signed it.

Following the ceremony, attendees were led by historic interpreters to view the new Kids' Rendezvous Interactive Playground inside the walls of Colonial Michilimackinac.

Marian Petersen (left), former Mackinac Island State Park Commission executive secretary and the wife of former park director Eugene Petersen, attended the centennial celebration of Michilimackinac State Park. Seated with her are Rosemary Bentgen of St. Ignace and Bill and Lornie Porter of Mackinac Island. The Porters are the parents of the current park director, Phil Porter. Marian Petersen (left), former Mackinac Island State Park Commission executive secretary and the wife of former park director Eugene Petersen, attended the centennial celebration of Michilimackinac State Park. Seated with her are Rosemary Bentgen of St. Ignace and Bill and Lornie Porter of Mackinac Island. The Porters are the parents of the current park director, Phil Porter. New Historical Marker Tells History of Fort Michilimackinac

The new Michilimackinac State Park historical marker is one of about 1,600 markers in the state, placed at historic sites in Michigan under a strict set of rules for authenticity. The cast signs limit the text to no more than 21 lines containing no more than 35 characters on each line. Laura Ashlee, marker coordinator for the State Historic Preservation Office, composed the text on the sign, following research and review of documentation, assisted by Dr. Lynn Evans, curator of archaeology at the park.

Phil Porter, director of Mackinac State Historic Parks, addresses about 200 people at the Welcome Center. Seated to his left are Steve Brisson, chief curator for Mackinac State Historic Parks, and commissioners Frank Kelley, Dennis Cawthorne, Laurie Stupak (not visible), and Barry Goodman. Phil Porter, director of Mackinac State Historic Parks, addresses about 200 people at the Welcome Center. Seated to his left are Steve Brisson, chief curator for Mackinac State Historic Parks, and commissioners Frank Kelley, Dennis Cawthorne, Laurie Stupak (not visible), and Barry Goodman. Following is the text of the marker:

"The British military abandoned and burned Fort Michilimackinac in 1781.

Set aside as part of a village park in 1857, the fort site was placed under the direction of the Mackinac Island State Park Commission in 1909.

In 1933 the fort's stockade was rebuilt after the park custodian unearthed the foundations of the palisade.

Always poplar, especially among campers, the park saw visitation boom after the Mackinac Bridge opened in 1957.

In 1959 professional archaeologists began investigating the site. Their findings prompted the dismantling of the stockade and reconstruction of the fort based on archaeological evidence.

The excavation of Fort Michilimackinac is one of the longest ongoing archaeological projects in North America."

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