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Major renovation project underway at UP’s Fayette Historic State Park

THE CASTING HOUSE will be closed until mid-November as construction is underway at Fayette Historic State Park, on the shores of Lake Michigan’s Big Bay de Noc between Snail Shell Harbor and Sand Bay in Delta County. (Photo courtesy of Fayette State Park Facebook page)

GARDEN — The Fayette Historic State Park is undergoing construction to make needed structural changes to the furnace complex.

The reconstruction is part of a $273 million project funded by the American Rescue Plan Act and approved by the state’s legislature for infrastructure in state parks.

Fayette State Park received $3.4 million to tackle multiple projects at its facilities. This funding allows the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to go through what it calls a decades-long backlog of recreation, trail system and state park infrastructure and rehabilitation needs.

Fayette State Park made the list of parks in need of repairs and replacements.

“The Casting House wall has been slowly caving in (over) the past few years. We have been watching it closely while we went through the engineer phase of the project,” Fayette Historic Site Lead Ranger Aaron Thill said.

AN AERIAL VIEW of the Fayette Historic State Park on Lake Michigan’s Garden Peninsula. (Michigan Department of Natural Resources website photo)

The construction includes adding H-piles to the back of the exterior wall for support, removing the limestone wall and installing a better drainage system before rebuilding it.

Construction began at the end of May and is projected to be complete by the middle of November.

“In order to ensure the safety of both visitors and the work crew, the furnace complex will be closed to visitors as we complete this important restoration project,” the park said in a statement.

But only the furnace complex will be closed and fenced off as equipment trucks are coming and going. Visitors will also see a large crane in the fenced-off area.

In addition to the furnace, Thill said they are planning to improve other parts of the park.

“We (are) currently in the engineer phase and close to going out on bids to redo the front approach of the visitor center,” Thill said.

The funds will also allow the park to repair the joists at that town hall as well as replace all of the drain fields in the park.

He added that the park is also working on a “universal design ramp” as well as ADA upgrades — construction is set to begin the fall of this year.

“Thanks to the public (for their) patience as we do these important but sometimes inconvenient projects,” Thill said.

The historic townsite was once a vibrant industrial community that manufactured pig iron between 1867 and 1891. Many historic buildings are still standing and are well-preserved.

However, by 1891 people found new methods for making iron and steel, leaving pig iron less sought after. Residents left after this, leaving behind a ghost town.

The state understood the importance of the site and preserved it as a premier historic townsite. The park is on the Garden Peninsula coast, overlooking the Big Bay de Noc on Lake Michigan between Snail Shell Harbor and Sand Bay, located at 4785 II Road in Garden.

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