Creators of each totem stand by their work.

Creators of each totem stand by their work.

Photo by Nick Mordowanec

Peace totems erected at McKinley Park in Fraser

Final phase of long-term project

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published July 20, 2020

 Fraser First Booster Club President Sherry Stein, left, and member Vania Apps stand July 7 in front of the recently-erected peace totems at McKinley Barrier-Free Park.

Fraser First Booster Club President Sherry Stein, left, and member Vania Apps stand July 7 in front of the recently-erected peace totems at McKinley Barrier-Free Park.

Photo by Nick Mordowanec


FRASER — The final phase of McKinley Barrier-Free Park — at least for now — is in the process of completion.

Recently, numerous Fraser First Booster Club volunteers and other Fraser residents mustered up their own artistic creativity in the form of peace totems.

The poles stand tall around a walking path at the back of the park, which is located on Grove Street. The creators of the totems and their descriptions are as follows: Sue Bertolini-Fox, flowers; Renee Paolette, “The Shape of Color”; Laura Lesich, senses; Cheryl La Casse, rainbow; Pam Pitts, flowers and music; Madison Stein, “Choose to Be Colorful”; Karen Silverthorn, “Bee Kind, Bee Grateful”; Freers family, “The Winding Road to McKinley”; and Vania Apps, “Speak Kind Words” and “The Weeping Willow.”

“We wanted them to be as tactile as possible since it’s a sensory garden,” said FFBC member Vania Apps. “And of course, they’re very pretty and really well done. They’ve been holding up well.”

Employees from the next-door Hanover Grove Cooperative helped dig holes so the totems could sit comfortably in the ground. FFBC volunteers laid mulch and a weed barrier.

The path was constructed last fall, as part of a $10,000 grant provided by DTE Energy. According to Apps and FFBC President Sherry Stein, this phase of the park project is estimated to cost about $20,000 at its completion. Money is raised by volunteers and donors.

Future additions include raised accessible garden beds so those in wheelchairs can access and utilize them. Those are hoped to be installed by this fall.

The original plan was to install the sensory garden in the front portion of the park, but city officials moved it to the back. Initially a concern to have the garden beds in that end of the park, a water line was connected a few months ago so that water access should not be a deterrent.

A musical piece is likely to accompany the sensory garden. It’s unclear how long the totems will remain. They are allowed to stay up until December, but Apps and Stein said they could likely extend their lifespan where they currently stand.

Apps said that in the past the park has experienced vandalism, but the poles have remained untouched so far.

“We are so impressed with how well received and respected (the public) has treated (the totems),” said Apps, who said the park has been used in copious amounts due to the COVID-19 pandemic and people wanting to be outdoors.

Stein mentioned the “broken window philosophy,” of how if things look damaged or blighted then vandalism and defacement could be more prevalent. But the majority of people have respected the park and all of its additions over the years.

“Whenever we want to do something, whether it comes to a fundraiser or this, we have the backing not just of Fraser but the backing of Macomb County,” Stein said. “They’ve stuck by us all the time.”

FFBC is composed of a core group of volunteers and donors who have worked tirelessly to keep adding onto the barrier-free park.

“Every time we look at the climber, we look at something we accomplished — it gives us that tenacity to move forward,” Stein said.

Apps said that when they see people at the park and enjoying the amenities, it makes all the struggles worthwhile. It’s a special kind of commitment, she said, where “nobody’s making a dime.”

“This has been a 14-year project,” Apps said. “I think what has impressed all of us in the club is, we’ve never lost donors. We keep attracting more, and they love the idea of this project. When they get to the park they love it even more.”