Park advisory commission receives $100K match donation for smelter

CALUMET – In October, the Keweenaw National Historical Park Advisory Commission signed an agreement with the Franklin Township Board of Trustees to purchase the Quincy Smelting Works site, and a recent $100,000 donation has started a fundraising effort for the $335,000 price for the property.

During his report to the Advisory Commission at its regular meeting Tuesday, Executive Director Scott See said although the $100,000 from an anonymous donor will require an equal match in further donations, it will do much to help reach the purchase price for the smelter site.

“It’s a tremendous boost,” See said of the donation.

The donation has triggered a focused capital campaign to get funds for the purchase of the site, See said.

See said a $2,000 down payment was made for the site when the agreement was signed with Franklin Township. The agreement states the full amount must be paid by Sept. 30, 2015. Included in the agreement is the forgiveness of $14,000 in loans the Advisory Commission gave to the township.

See said the National Park Service has been considering moving the Isle Royale National Park Headquarters from Houghton to the smelter site, but if that is approved, the Environmental Protection Agency will first have to remove the site from the Torch Lake Superfund list, which may happen this autumn.

Also in his report, See told commission members the National Park Service has accepted the commission offer of funding for some NPS functions at the park including a greater presence at the Calumet Visitor Center, support for the Project SISU youth program and expanded interpretive programs for the summer; All 19 existing Heritage Site partners have signed new five-year agreements, and two new sites have applied, about which a decision will be made in the autumn; During the 2013 Heritage Grants program, 28 applications were received and 18 grants were awarded for a total of $100,000; The same anonymous donor who gave $100,000 for the smelter site gave another $100,000 for non-operational needs for the 2014 fiscal year, bringing that person’s total donations to the Advisory Commission to $500,000.

“We owe this donor a lot of thanks in supporting our operation,” See said.

Also reporting to the commission members was Superintendent Mike Pflaum, who said there may be another 3.2 percent cut in funding in addition to the reductions of funds from Congress to the Interior Department caused by the sequestration, but further cuts aren’t yet a certainty.

“It could change one way or the other,” he said. “The challenges continue, but we’ll make it.”

Pflaum also told commission members: Work on a business plan being put together by two masters degree candidates is continuing; The Project SISU partnership between the park and Washington Middle School, which gets students working at park Heritage Sites, is working well; The KNHP staff recently received an award from the National Park Service for the Midwest Region.