There's a plan to save Perry Monument

PUT-IN-BAY After nearly two years of assessments and investigations, the National Park Service has a
JACOB LAMMERS
May 24, 2010

 

PUT-IN-BAY

After nearly two years of assessments and investigations, the National Park Service has a plan to save Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial.

The 352-foot granite memorial stands as a beacon on South Bass Island, but could soon crumble unless something is done to permanently repair the structure, said Kathy Schneider, chief engineer of construction management for the National Park Service's Midwest Region.

"A lot of that concrete is crumbly," Schneider said. "Right now it's still structurally stable, but if this were allowed to continue -- say another 10-20 years -- it would no longer be structurally stable."

According to documents released to the Register, the monument has been subject to years of water penetration that weakened the concrete.

Weakened structure

The water penetration and freeze-thaw temperatures led to the expansion of the concrete, creating cracked and dislocated granite panels on the outside of the monument, the documents said.

The monument was closed in June 2006 after a chunk of granite weighing a quarter of a ton fell from the 317-foot-high observation deck. The monument was closed for two months.

Last summer, the monument's observation deck was closed with intermittent openings while construction crews assessed the damage.

A majority of the monument's deterioration occurred after granite soffit panels were installed in the 1980s, documents said.

"I believe they made the repairs that were recommended at that time," said Jerry Cantu, facility manager and acting superintendent. "During the last 20-some years that had passed, there was water infiltration.

"It was not as effective as they first thought."

During last summer's assessment, construction crews made temporary waterproofing improvements, stabilized cracked fascia and soffit panels and took 25 core samples of the concrete.

The core samples revealed the deterioration is "severe enough that the concrete structure needs to be repaired to bring it to a state in which it is considered to have reliable strength," documents said.

Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, an architectural and engineering firm, determined the long-term survival of the monument was dependent on the installation of an effective waterproofing system.

Cantu said the temporary waterproofing system has been effective, but the monument needs a permanent solution.

"It will definitely create other failures and those failures is something we're trying to prevent," Cantu said. "Obviously, we're trying to sustain this monument for the next 100 years."

Funding

The National Park Service has not overlooked the needs of Perry's monument.

"As far as the Midwest region goes, it's our highest priority," Schneider said. "As far as national priority, it's a very high priority."

The National Park Service agreed to put a $5.1 million request in its budget to repair the monument column, and President Bush incorporated the agency's recommendation in the budget he sent to Congress.

Schneider said she hopes Congress will pass the budget by Oct. 1, which will allow the park service to begin construction in 2009.

Construction will be done over three years with the hope it will be ready for the bicentennial anniversaries of the War of 1812 and the Battle of Lake Erie in 1813, Schneider said.

"It's just good stewardship," Schneider said. "This needs to be done regardless of any anniversary, but we do want it done in time for the anniversary celebrations."

Bureaucratic red tape could delay the monument's repairs, said Steve Fought, director of communications for U.S. Rep Marcy Kaptur, D-Toledo.

Congress may balk at passing a 2009 budget, preferring instead to pass a continuing resolution and wait for a new president to take office, Fought said.

"When you get to the end of the administration, the starting point is good because it's in there," Fought said. Congress "goes right up to the end, so the chances are about 50-50."

Reaction

Island residents are excited to see that the monument's observation deck will open April 25 after two years of closures.

"I think that will be a big perk to have the observation deck," said Valerie Mettler, a year-round resident. "I think that it's a big thing. It's a high point for some people's day."

Although funding is still an issue, the monument will be repaired, said Jessie Green, a year-round resident and owner of Jessie's Jewelry.

"I think that it is a priority and will get the funding," Green said. "It's a big deal, but it's going to happen."

Cantu said he realizes Perry's monument is competing with other major projects for funding, but hopes that the government will agree its funding is a necessity.

"Is our justification strong enough?... we think so," Cantu said. "We're preserving it for the people. That's why it's there."