Sault Ste. Marie City Council has approved an application to develop an historic religious grotto dedicated to St. Mary on Prince Island in Bellevue Park.
Frank Sarlo, speaking last night on behalf of a group of local residents who've already raised $200,000 for the project, says it will cost the City nothing.
The group plans to raise all money needed to build and maintain the grotto.
Sarlo says it will bring tourists to Sault Ste. Marie and encourage those who have come for other attractions to stay longer.
Most importantly, Sarlo says, the grotto would provide a place of peace, hope and serenity for all visitors and would teach them something about the history of Sault Ste. Marie.
As it's conceptualized now, the grotto will cost about $600,000.
Sarlo hopes to have drawings in hand by late October so he and his group can get started with fundraising.
They are currently seeking charitable status.
City Council endorsed the project and asked whether it could be ready in time for the 2012 bicentennial celebrations of the city's founding in 2012 and the War of 1812.
That's what the group is hoping for.
The shovel should be in the ground by spring of 2011.
The grotto will be made from local materials and include a statue of St. Mary with areas for candles and petitions.
It may also include stained glass windows from Our Lady of Mount Carmel, the 100-year-old Roman Catholic church dedicated to Mary that's due to by this December.
So far, safely incorporating the windows into the open grotto design has proved problematic for the architects, Sarlo said.
There will also be dedication plaques, other statues and seating in the grotto.
The grotto will be enclosed by a wrought-iron fence and a gate that can be closed and locked when the venue is closed.