ALPENA - Mike Kendziorski, his family and other local volunteers have taken steps to improve Sportsmen's Island in Alpena. They took it upon themselves, with permission from the city, to construct wooden steps, railings, trails, and fishing and viewing platforms throughout the island. Now Kendziorski wants to build something that will be a jewel at the Duck Park and island for years to come.
During Monday's Alpena Municipal Council meeting the council voted to allow Kendziorski and other community volunteers to build a covered wooden bridge that will provide passage to and from the island, as well as serve as a landmark in the city.
Kendziorski said the bridge will be made by hand and will take about two years to complete. He said the work and investment he has contributed in the past is done because of how well his family has been supported through the years.
"My community has been so good to me in the past and given my family so much that I simply want to give back," Kendziorski said. "I simply want a chance to build a hand-hewed bridge for the community and I don't want the community to feel like the city will have to take the cost burden for this. It is something I want to do, but I want to make it a community project."
Kendziorski said he believes it is important the entire community is involved in the project. He said even though he will spearhead the construction phase, there are other ways the public can become involved.
"If someone comes forward and says they want to help or wants to donate concrete or something I want that. I want it to be about community," Kendziorski said.
Kendziorski said the timber for the project already has been chosen and he has been working closely with city staff to have a design made. City staff visited another bridge Kendziorski built and were impressed with it. The bridge is just one part of the project.
Kendziorski said he also wants to build an old-fashioned water tower that holds 1,200 gallons of water that local garden groups can use to water the park's flowers and plants. The council voted 5-0 to allow Kendziorski to move forward with the construction, which the city will document with photos and video from start to finish.
Councilman Shawn Sexton said a new bridge has been in the city's capital improvement plan for some time, but the city hasn't been able to afford building one. He said Kendziorski's acts should be a model for others.
"We don't live in a culture where many people volunteer selflessly much anymore and that is one of the reasons we are proud of this community, because we do have people that step up," Sexton said. "I'm so impressed that Mr. Kendziorski wants to step up on his retirement time to help move this community forward. It was something we were going to have to address anyway. I don't want to throw a dollar figure out there, but obviously Mr. Kendziorski is going to give us a jewel, but also saving our budget a great deal."
Mayor Matt Waligora said he has known Kendziorski for years and he respects Kendziorski's commitment and love for the community.
"This is really the epitome of Mike," Waligora said. "A lot of people may go to the island now and see the improvements done already and not even know he had done them. That is how he likes to operate. He is very humble and what he does is good for our community. It would be fantastic if we all had that same mentality."
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5689.