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Origins walk will give Manistee historical sites ‘a home’

Origins walk will give Manistee historical sites 'a home'

MANISTEE — The origins walk and origins arc, a proposed sculpture project and a small trail proposed by the Manistee County Visitors Bureau will give “a home” to the Manistee Historic Sites tour,

The walk itself will be no more than 250 feet, with the origins arc encompassing the area, according to Brandon Jensen of Rightside Design Group, who was contracted by the visitors bureau to build out the site. He noted the project will be more of a sculptural site than a long walk, with the strength of the project being repetition and uniformity. 

Jensen said the proposed origins walk will focus on people as well as some of the older buildings and historic sites in Manistee.


The project is both the completion of the existing Manistee Historic Sites tour from the Manistee County Visitors Bureau and something completely new. 

The Manistee Historic Sites tour is an initiative by the Manistee County Visitors Bureau to promote tourism by highlighting some of the old buildings with an informational guidebook. Some of the sites historic sites include the Ramsdell Theater, the Iron Works building and the North Pier Lighthouse

Jensen noted that for the project, he and other people from the Manistee County Visitors Bureau consulted with the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians and their historic preservation office, which had not been done before. 

Twenty individuals or actual sculptures of the founders of Manistee will be cut out of corten steel and will be a silhouette in design. The Origins walk itself will be self-contained in an area that only spans around 250 feet. 

Courtesy photo/Manistee County Visitors Bureau

Jensen said that Manistee has been a hotbed for quite a few years. There has been a version of the historic tour or walking sites since Jensen can remember; he was born and raised in Manistee.

“The demand (for cultural tourism) was pretty high right out of the gate,” Jensen said after the visitors bureau launched the historic sites tour in 2013. 

Jensen noted that the Manistee County Visitors Bureau applied for a United States Department of Agriculture grant in 2015. The grant would expand the sites and the signage, and the plan was to have the “origin” component.

“There was no home or a physical location that had historical markers … and we wanted to feature more of the people. We wanted to also do a tribal origin story,” Jensen said. 

He noted that the proposed origins walk will be located at the west end of the Riverwalk near the entrance to the First Street Boat Launch. It will be right off the entry at First Street Beach, with historical site markers. 

A map shows the precise location of the Origins Walk at the west end of the Riverwalk where it curves. 

A map shows the precise location of the Origins Walk at the west end of the Riverwalk where it curves. 

Courtesy photo/Manistee County Visitors Bureau

These plaques will talk about some of the city founders like TJ Ramsdell and others, but they will also have tribal components, including tribal water carriers. 

Jensen noted at a presentation he gave to the Manistee City Council on March 15, that of the 20 placards, three would be from the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians.

He noted that, unlike the other placards, they wouldn’t feature individuals.

Jensen said the culture of the Little River Band historically wanted to focus more on groups like the water carriers, the tribal elders and the traders in the area.

Those three groups had historic importance to the tribal culture before the lumber industry and white people came to Manistee. 

Jensen told the city council that, “a really large component of the tribal historic piece is actually in the elements components.”

Jensen explained that the elements component looks at the early formation of the Great Lakes from glacial formations and understanding the geological significance. He notes the five elements are water, life, settlement, industry and sustainability. They will be represented in the following ways:

• The water refers to its importance to the region;

• Life would focus on the importance of the sturgeon in particular;

• The settlement element comes back to the sturgeon and its importance as one of the reasons that the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians settled in the region.

• Industry — the lumber industry. the settlement by white people in the area;

• The sustainability element “is the importance of water and what it represents today,” said Jensen.

These elements, along with the other parts of the origins walk and origins arc would be supplemented by a 144-page guidebook. 

There will be 20 sculptures of some of the founders of Manistee that will be a silhouette cutout and will use corten steel because that type of steel is more weather resistant and more resistant to vandalism, according to Jensen. 

The plan is to have a groundbreaking sometime in July.

Despite not having an exact plan for an opening date, Jensen said that he and the visitors bureau are pretty far along in installing the project on-site.

He said that native dune grass has already been planted and that the visitors bureau is working with the Manistee Department of Public Works for the project.  

Jensen noted this was the culmination of a lot of work between him, the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians and the Manistee County Visitors Bureau.

“The project is a continuation but (it is also) a unique enhancement that we never thought was possible when we first started,” he said.