Zeeland seeks solution for square's crumbling fountain - February 24, 2009

By Kristin Austin | kaustin3@mlive.com 


Zeeland officials must soon decide to fix, replace, or remove the more than 60-year-old fountain at Vande Luyster Square.


Dave Walter, Board of Public Works general manager, told the City Council last week the fountain in the square at Central Avenue and Church Street is in total disrepair. He said the fountain mechanism, which is stored in a BPW building over the winter, is in such poor shape and can not be brought back out in the spring.


"If we put the fountain out again this year, no one is going to be happy with it," Walters said. He said the fountain can be repaired, replaced, or removed entirely from the square, although he said for the cost he doesn't recommend fixing the existing fountain.


Walters said the fountain, which dates back to the city's centennial celebration in 1947, was restored in 1997 with the BPW donating about $30,000 for improvements in honor of longtime chairman Ford Berghorst Sr.


He suggested the city replace the existing fountain with a zero-elevation fountain, which is installed underground with water shooting up from the ground. He said that type of fountain can cost $100,000 or more. 


Council member Jim Broersma liked the idea of the zero-elevation fountain, saying, "It looks like a lot lower maintenance design than what we have today."


But Mayor Pro Tem Sally Gruppen said a zero-elevation fountain might change the character of the park. She questioned how the city would control the noise from children playing in the fountain.


Resident Dorothy Voss, a Zeeland Historical Society board member, said any fountain installed in the square should represent the history of the property, which one of the area's first settlers, Jannes Vande Luyster, gave to the city for public use. "The history of the square is long and very special to city of Zeeland," Voss said. "There is a strong tradition for that park."


Voss said if the current fountain is removed, she'd like to see a statue or other memorial erected in its place to honor the pioneers who settled the city.


Mayor Lester Hoogland said he will form a committee that will review the options for the fountain and make a recommendation to the council.