CALUMET - Sen. Carl Levin has been involved with efforts to maintain and strengthen the Keweenaw National Historical Park, and Saturday he was part of the 20th anniversary celebration for the park in its Calumet and Quincy units.
Levin, D-Detroit, spoke at both units in large tents set up against the threat of rain. At the Quincy Mine Hoist Association property on U.S. 41 north of Hancock, Levin said the effort in Congress to create the legislation establishing the park in 1992 was difficult.
"We had a devil of a time getting it passed," he said.
Kurt Hauglie/Daily Mining Gazette
Dancers from the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community perform Saturday during the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Keweenaw National Historical Park at the Quincy Mine Hoist Association site on U.S. 41 near Hancock.
Levin said the effort to create the park began in Calumet and the surrounding area by residents who were certain there was a need to tell the story of copper.
"Something happened up here that was important to the world," he said.
Levin said the park tells the story of the hardships faced by those involved with the mining of copper, and the bravery and toughness they had. Many of those people came from many parts of the world, and they came to the Keweenaw hoping for a better life.
"That's what it's all about," he said.
Levin thanked the local people who were involved at the beginning and those who are involved with sustaining the park now. He also thanked the National Park Service for its efforts with the park.
"This treasure here is really notable," he said.
Levin said he expects the park to be telling the story of copper for a long time to come.
"It's going to be carried on," he said. "It's going to be an inspiration to men and women for years to come."
Despite the early hardships involved with creating Keweenaw National Historical Park, Levin said it was worth the effort.
"It's been a real honor to be part of this park," he said.
Also attending the ceremony at the KNHP Quincy Unit was Kim Hoagland, chair of the KNHP Advisory Commission, who said she's not surprised the park has been around 20 years.
"It is permanent," she said. "It's so rare that a park stops being a park. It's going to be here a hundred years from now."
Hoagland said KNHP is a partnership park, and that is one of the things making it unique. However, she would like to see some of the partners think of themselves as more of a part of the park.
"We need to strengthen the partners more," she said. "Visitors look for that whole experience."
One of the NPS dignitaries attending the ceremony was Patricia Trap, Midwest regional deputy director from Omaha, Neb., who said there has been considerable progress with the park in 20 years.
"I'm so amazed how far it's come," she said.
Trap said the KNHP does tell an important story.
"It's a Michigan story," she said. "It's an American story."
The uniqueness of the park as a partnership effort is important, also, Trap said. Those partnerships create a wise use of resources, time, energy and money.
"It's a model for the future," she said.
Mike Pflaum, KNHP superintendent, who has been with the park since February 2009, said although to someone looking at the park from outside, the progress may have seemed slow, but there was much going on. Pflaum said the NPS has spent $45 million in the park.
"The investment was done for all the right reasons," he said.
Although much of the NPS investment in the park has been for building stabilization, Pflaum said there are still many historic buildings in the Copper Country, which tell the story of copper mining.
"There's a lot of work left to do," he said.
Pflaum said he sees a growing interest in the United States and the rest of the world for heritage tourism, which means more people will be coming to the Keweenaw National Historical Park.
"It makes it a place people want to come to visit," he said.
One of the visitors to the celebration was Wil Shapton, owner of the Red Jacket Trolley, who along with his 6-year-old son, William, was dressed in period clothing.
Shapton said he grew up in Houghton, but left for college in 1992, the year the legislation creating the park was signed.
Shapton said he came back to Houghton to attend Michigan Technological University to get a graduate degree in industrial archeology, a program he thinks will continue to be an important part of the development of the park.
"It opened up possibilities that we're just beginning to see," he said.