DETROIT (FOX 2) - The Gateway to Freedom International Memorial is a monument featuring escaping slaves and an Underground Railroad Conductor pointing toward Canada.
"It represents freedom in a bi-national sense with the Tower of Freedom in Canada," said Barbara Smith, PHD Michigan Underground Railroad Exploratory Collective.
Erected 20 years ago in 2001, members of the original committee that helped to get this monument in place decided it was time to celebrate its anniversary.
"It came time to do a site survey and all of the sudden we started seeing cracks and holes in the monument and these holes in the monument," said Sharon Elizabeth Sexton, Michigan Underground Railroad Exploratory Collective.
Members of the nonprofit group were devastated.
"I was just short of tears when I saw that," said Smith.
The nonprofit sent pictures of the monument to the sculptor for further review of the damage.
"He said oh my gosh there's vandalism there," said Sexton.
The sculptor also detected some of the damage appeared to be intentional.
"It was a deliberate and intentional use of a crowbar to separate granite," said Smith.
These organizers believe the damage is so bad right now they have postponed plans for the anniversary celebration until repairs could be made.
The activists say they have started a petition to increase awareness about the need to get this monument the TLC it deserves.
"Actually we have been looking for the trust that was set up 20 years ago for repairs, we can't find anyone who knows anything about it," Sexton said.
The Fox 2 Problem Solvers reached out to the city of Detroit for answers and they tell us that the city's historian is currently researching the ownership of the Gateway to Freedom monument.
The statement also reads in part:
"Because this is such an important monument in our City, the Downtown Development Authority has stepped in to clean and polish the statue and have an assessment done of its overall condition. Once the DDA reviews this assessment, it will work with its partners to ensure that the necessary repairs are made."
These community activists just hope the repair work takes place sooner than later so their monument doesn't fall through the cracks.
"The entire wall is the foundation so we are concerned about further damage," said Smith.
The complete statement from the city of Detroit is below:
"There are numerous monuments across the city, each of which came to be in a unique way with its own backers. The agreements/understandings in place at the time the monuments were dedicated are not always easily retrieved many years later.
"The City's historian is currently researching the ownership of the Gateway to Freedom monument, which was installed by the Detroit 300 Conservancy and the International Underground Railroad Monument Collaborative 20 years ago.
"Because this is such an important monument in our City, the Downtown Development Authority has stepped in to clean and polish the statue and have an assessment done of its overall condition. Once the DDA reviews this assessment, it will work with its partners to ensure that the necessary repairs are made.
"The Detroit Building Authority visited the monument yesterday and has determined that any damage to the monument is not the result of construction work at Hart Plaza or vandalism. A cursory review of the monument indicates the bronze statue itself is in good condition, however, the granite pedestal is in some state of disrepair, apparently as a result of time and the elements."
Director of Media Relations
City of Detroit, Mayor's Office