CALUMET - For United States Sen. Carl Levin, the effort to create a national park centered in Calumet began more than 20 years ago, and Thursday another step on that path was taken when he participated in the grand opening of the Keweenaw National Historical Park Calumet Visitor Center.
Levin, D-Detroit, and many current and past National Park Service employees, other dignitaries and hundreds of Copper Country residents were at the Union Building in Calumet for a ribbon-cutting and naturalization ceremony for nine new U.S. citizens.
Thursday was chosen for the ceremonies because Oct. 27, 1992, was the day legislation creating the park was signed by President George H.W. Bush.
Kurt Hauglie/Daily Mining Gazette
U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, second from left, and Mike Reynolds, National Park Service midwest regional director, cut the ribbon Thursday officially opening the Keweenaw National Historical Park Calumet Visitor Center in the Union Building. At far left is Paul Lehto, Calumet Township supervisor. Far right is KNHP superintendent Mike Pflaum.
Before Levin spoke on a platform outside the Union Building, Mike Pflaum, superintendent of the KNHP, made some preliminary remarks.
Pflaum introduced the others on the platform, including Calumet Village President Tony Bausano, Calumet Township Supervisor Paul Lehto, National Park Service Midwest Regional Director Mike Reynolds and Kim Hoagland, KNHP Advisory Commission chair. In the audience were former KNHP superintendents Bill Fink, Frank Fiala and Pflaum's immediate predecessor, Jim Corless.
Pflaum said although it was the 19th anniversary of the park, many people had been working to create it for years before that.
"For some of you, this is the fulfillment of a dream," he said.
Pflaum said the completion of the first-floor visitor center and second-floor exhibit hall were possible because of the efforts of the park staff, construction contractors and various NPS departments.
One of the KNHP staff members to speak was Kathleen Harter, KNHP chief of interpretation and education, who said the Union Building now is an important part of the park.
"My hope is you enjoy our visitor center and use it," she said. "This national park has a compelling story to tell."
Hoagland said the creation of the visitor center and exhibits were a long time coming.
"Some of us thought this day would never come," she said.
Reynolds said he was pleased to be a part of the ceremonies to open the building, and the recognition it gives to the people who made the Calumet area an important part of United States history.
"It is an honor to be here," he said. "This is the story of immigrant families."
Levin began his remarks by complimenting the NPS.
"This is an incredible organization of ours in America," he said. "I don't know if there's an organization that's more popular."
The efforts of the people who worked the copper mines had effects far beyond Calumet, Levin said.
"The visitor center tells the story of a place and a people that changed the world," he said.
Copper was important for the growth of the United States, and it was an important part of the Union victory in the Civil War, Levin said.
During the copper-mining era, Levin said immigrants from many parts of the world lived in Calumet, but they were able to create a community.
"This was America in miniature," he said.
Because of that, Levin said it was appropriate the Union Building was chosen for the visitor center and exhibit hall, because it was a place where people came together for many occasions.
"You are creating a union," he said. "You have come together."
When Levin finished his remarks, he and Reynolds cut a ribbon officially opening the building.
After the day's ceremonies ended, Levin said the process to create the legislation which created the park took about two years. He got involved because of the importance of Calumet and the Copper Country, and what the area meant for Michigan and the United States.
"This is a very special place," he said.
Levin said although there are still things to do in the park, he's pleased with how it turned out so far.
"It's done very well," he said. "The process has been wonderful."