Ferris and community project comes to fruition in Mitchell Creek Park

DOME-SIGNERS: Big Rapids City Manger Steve Sobers and landscape architect Marlies Manning talk about all of the work that went into designing the dome in Mitchell Creek Park as they watch students from Ferris State University installing the dome panels. (Pioneer photo/Adam Gac)

DOME-SIGNERS: Big Rapids City Manger Steve Sobers and landscape architect Marlies Manning talk about all of the work that went into designing the dome in Mitchell Creek Park as they watch students from Ferris State University installing the dome panels. (Pioneer photo/Adam Gac)

BIG RAPIDS — Years from now, area residents will visit Mitchell Creek Park to take wedding, prom and senior photos at the base of a structure that tells the story of Big Rapids.

After two years of work, the dome of the gazebo in Mitchell Creek Park was installed on Friday. Some equipment is still on-site, but the overall effect of an 8-panel story depicting the seasons of Big Rapids has been achieved. Though residents can now clearly see the dome has been assembled, there is still more work to be done, according to Ferris State University Welding and Engineering Technology program instructor Dave Murray.

“There are still some things up there I have to do,” he said.  “It’s shocking that it came together at all based on how far the pillars range in size.”

Chris Grunst, who was among the Ferris students who worked on the project in class before helping install the panels Friday, agreed with Murray on the challenges created by the differing sizes of the pillars supporting the dome.

“Working with Murray for this last assembly part was fun –. Everything up to this point was nothing but challenges,” he said. “You have so many people involved. Measurements go flying out the window and tolerances start to stack up.”

Tolerance refers to the amount of variation allowable in a given part. In this case, the panels all had to be constructed to fit in their designated spot in the dome while still preserving the overall effect of one complete 360-degree image.

The project involved a number of construction stages including MIG and TIG welding, plasma cutting, sanding and polishing, all before the panels could even be installed, according to Ahmed Alsamiri, an international Ferris student from Saudi Arabia.

“It’s great to see this project happening between the Welding Engineering Technology program and the community,” he said. “I want to take my family to see it when they come to visit before I go back to my country.”

Landscape architect Marlies Manning, of Manning Design, was responsible for designing the eight-paneled image depicting everything from people tubing on the Muskegon River to ice skaters and a snowman.

“It’s been two years in the making. To actually see it all coming together is exciting,” she said. “It’s been nerve-wracking wondering how it’s going to look from below after seeing it on my computer screen for two years. I’m hoping it really reads and tells a story like I envisioned it.”

Big Rapids City Manager Steve Sobers was a driving force behind the dome project, which was influenced by the Sunken Gardens in Lincoln, Nebraska. There were some naysayers who were suspicious about a dome that can’t keep out the rain, but the project came out very well, Sobers said.

“This is just the first of what is going to be a really neat transformation in this park,” he said. “If we get some good landscaping in, and some flowers working with the creek I’d be shocked if there wasn’t 20 to 30 weddings here a year.”

Big Rapids Department of Parks and Recreation Director Heather Bowman also was impressed with the completed gazebo. Additional improvements to the park are dependent on the success of a grant application the city has submitted to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Recreation Passport grant program, she said.

“We’ll find out in the fall this year if we’ll receive the funds we requested,” she said. “If that happens, then the plan is in 2017 to redo the walkways and the parking lot and put in a little raingarden. That would really make a drastic improvement to the park.”

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Posted by Adam Gac

Adam is the Pioneer City/County Reporter, covering government in Mecosta County. He can be reached by e-mail at agac@pioneergroup.com or by phone at (231) 592-8347.

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