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roadside americana, local controversy, and free art

During a recent jaunt up to the north woods, Aidan (7) finally convinced us to pull off the road between Munising and Marquette, MI on M-28 to pay a visit to Lakenenland–a one man sculpture park made noticeable only by a sign peaking through the trees on the side of the road that reads “Junk Art.” It’s the sort Aidan Finds a Friend Aidan finds a friend at Lakenenland Sculpture Park. Aidan meets a woodland friend of place you drive by many times taking only casual notice. But this time, thanks to my seven-year-old son, we took in an amazing experience with this diversion from the beaten path.

The park consists of approximately eighty scrap iron sculptures, ranging from the political to Seussical, all created by one man–Tom Lakenen. Lakenen, a local union welder and pipe-fitter apparently started making sculptures as a hobby to adorn his backyard, but before long members of the Chocolay Township (where he lives) cited him for crossing the line from backyard art to violating the sign ordinance. Tom then purchased the current 37-acre track of land off of M-28 to hold his sculpture collection, which he has opened to the public. His battle with township officials evidently continues, though, based on the hand-written sign at the front of the driveway that reads “Chocolay Board Members No Trespassing, All Others Welcome.”

As long as you don’t hold a seat on the township board, the park is free to either drive, walk, or snowmobile in winter. It’s open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. There are no tickets and nothing to buy–just really cool iron art positioned in a woodland setting. Tom even provides a rustic shelter and outdoor kitchen on the property (stocked with grill supplies and condiments) where signs welcome passersby to make use of it for picnicking, grilling, or just sitting for a spell.

Next time you’re speeding by between Marquette and Munising, take a few minutes to check out Lakenenland to see what Tom’s been up to. Err, unless you’re a Chocolay board member in which case you best keep driving.

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