Lawyers offer township options for future of Marquette memorial.
By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.
PERE MARQUETTE TOWNSHIP — The Pere Marquette Township Board of Trustees will consider a couple options in regards to the Father Marquette Memorial. During the board’s regular monthly meeting Monday, Feb. 13, two attorneys spoke to the board offering ways to move forward in response to recent threats of legal action by a group claiming the historical shrine violates the First Amendment because it sits on public land. A local attorney represented a group that is interested in purchasing the memorial. An attorney who specializes in constitutional law offered to represent the township through legal matters in relation to the memorial.
Ludington attorney Carlos Alvarado spoke on behalf of a group that is forming as the Pere Marquette Memorial Association, a re-incorporation of the group that was originally entrusted with the site in the 1930s by the Butters family, who settled the property.
The group Alvarado represents has offered to purchase the one parcel of land that the memorial sits on, which would make it private property. The purchase would follow the restrictions set forth in the deed by the Butters estate in 1937.
“I feel privileged to be the spokesperson for many people in Mason County and beyond as I deliver to the Board an offer to acquire the ownership and management of the site where Father Marquette’s memorial sits,” Alvarado told the Board. “The terms of the offer are very well thought out and take into consideration the property title restrictions as well as the investment the Township has in the boat launch. The community-based group I represent will assume the costs of repairs to the memorial, currently assessed at around $80,000. Similarly, this group agrees to show proof of having, at the time of closing, financial assets earmarked to bear the cost of maintenance of the site in an amount no less than $20,000. The parcel of land where the boat launch sits will remain owned and managed by the Township.
“This community-based group will ensure that the site is being maintained and/or cared for in perpetuity.”
Alvarado explained that the Community Foundation for Mason County would hold the funds raised by the Pere Marquette Memorial Association, a non-profit corporation.
“Many local organizations, businesses, churches of several denominations, and private individuals (both local and from out of the area) have pledged their financial support to a fundraising campaign, which provides assurances that the goals stated in this offer will be easily met before the date of closing.
“Through the transfer of the site to the Pere Marquette Memorial Association, the people of Mason County, and the supporters of this offer from around the state of Michigan and beyond, will be assured the site will remain part of the heritage of our region. We are fortunate to be able to model this respect for our past for future generations by honoring the wishes of the grantor of the land, the Marshall F. Butters estate, and hard work of the people and organizations who pulled together to build the memorial.”
Township Supervisor Paul Keson thanked Alvarado for the presentation and said the township will be reviewing having the land appraised.
Ed White, an attorney with American Center for Law and Justice, offered his firm’s service in representing the township in any case that questions the legality of the memorial. He said his firm is a national firm with offices throughout the country, including in Ann Arbor. The firm has won several cases similar to the situation Pere Marquette Township may be facing.
“We have offered to represent the township,” White said during the board meeting. “What that means is that we do not charge you one penny. No legal fees. No court costs. No litigation fees… We are a public interest group and we take cases in the area of constitutional law.”
White said he would work with the township’s legal counsel and develop a strategy to move forward. The township board did not take action on either issue but did consent that it would move forward with retaining the firm’s services.