MARQUETTE - For the first time in nearly a decade, the basin at Tourist Park has been filled and officials are hoping that will mean a spike in the interest in the north Marquette park.
In 2003, a flood washed away the nearby dam on the Dead River and drained the basin. The refilling - which took place over about two weeks earlier this month - marks the conclusion of a $4.8 million construction project that started in the spring of 2011 and was aimed at repairing the dam and resurrecting a community swimming beach and fishing spot adjacent to the park.
Cindy Noble, the city's parks and recreation coordinator, said she is glad to see the project wrap up.
The basin at Marquette’s Tourist Park was completely filled with water this month for the first time since a flood washed away the nearby dam on the Dead River in 2003. The fill marks the conclusion of a $4.8 million construction project that started in the spring of 2011 and was aimed at resurrecting a community fishing beach and swimming area adjacent to the park. (Journal photo by Matt Keiser)
"It means good things for us," she said. "The completion of the dam means a lot for the campground. There are a lot of families that used to enjoy coming and staying and going to the beach. We'll start to gain that population back."
Though the park is close to Lake Superior, the recently resurrected Tourist Park beach is still a draw, according to Noble.
"People go to hotels with pools for a reason," she said.
Erik Booth, project manager with the Marquette Board of Light and Power, said the basin was raised about 6 inches per day until it reached normal pool level.
Prior to the holidays, Booth estimated that the nearby BLP power station would be up and running at full capacity by Christmas.
Noble has been in her current position with the city for four years and didn't have any oversight of the Tourist Park when the dam was in place. After reviewing past data, though, she said the numbers are promising.
The expected increase from the refilling of the basin and the completion of the beach should be a bonus, Noble said. The number of total nights spent camping in the park has been climbing steadily in recent years and this year was higher than it was before the dam broke in 2003.
"The city of Marquette has something really good going there," she said. "They have a campground in the city and that's not always easy to find."
In addition to the swimming, canoeing and kayaking possibilities, park-goers will be able to fish the basin next year.
In May, thousands of smallmouth bass were placed in the nearby river system in an attempt to begin building a fishery through a six-year stocking program developed cooperatively with the BLP and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Yellow perch and bluegill will be stocked in subsequent years.
The city is also going through a public review process of a $1.73-million proposal that would renovate and repurpose the park and campgrounds with trails, new buildings and landscaping.
If everything comes together, Tourist Park could be a major draw in the future, Noble said.
"It's going to be a desirable place," she said.
Kyle Whitney can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250.