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No official plan for Bronson Park after fountain removal

The Fountain of the Pioneers in Bronson Park has been the subject of controversy for decades. (WWMT)

Changes to Bronson Park in Kalamazoo have begun and next week city officials plan to tear down the controversial Fountain of the Pioneers and replace it with a grassy area.

A Kalamazoo city commissioner is raising red flags about how the process is being carried out and Newschannel 3’s Anna Giles talked with him on Monday.

Kalamazoo City Commissioner Jack Urban wanted assurances from fellow commissioners on the record during a Monday meeting that they would follow through on a promise to educate people about its history after the landmark is taken down.

Rapid progress in Bronson Park as the city moves forward with its master plan. The statues of children are already long gone and the Fountain of the Pioneers is next, but some fear historical preservation is being lost.

Urban said, “This is an opportunity for us to reassert our leadership in the area of healing in Kalamazoo."

Urban says he's concerned that once that fountain is removed there will be minimal efforts to educate people about native American history and install some sort of physical memorial to local tribal culture.

Urban said, "It seemed like we were pretty much prepared to just wipe our hands and go on and say, ‘Well that's done, we've eliminated a source of annoyance in our community.’"

So far, the city has been unable to find a permanent home for the fountain. Kalamazoo City Manager Jim Ritsema says the city will store it after it is removed next week.

Ritsema said, "For archiving purposes the fountains and both pools were professionally photographed and the photos will be stored in the city's archives and made available."

Urban said, "Photography, I'm not sure is going to be enough to satisfy the historians they may want measurements."

Fellow commissioners reassured Urban, even taking a vote to include the local tribal council in further discussions about historical preservation.

Kalamazoo City Commissioner Don Cooney said, "Definitely strong commitment to remembering our history and to remembering the native American people that were here. I though that was understood."

Kalamazoo Mayor Bobby Hopewell said there is still no official plan for what will become of Bronson Park in the long run.

Right now the plan is the statues of the children will be replaced with grass and so will the fountain, which is supposed to be done by the end of May.

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