Effort underway to save the Grand Haven pier catwalk

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GRAND HAVEN, Mich. — The catwalk on Grand Haven's pier has been a fixture in the community ever since it was built 95 years ago. But the future of the iconic structure is in question since repairs wer scheduled for the pier's infrastructure.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is preparing to make those repairs, but the City of Grand Haven, which owns the catwalk, must raise the catwalk four inches from where it currently sits or the U.S. Corps of Engineers will remove it to make room for the repairs.

"I think this is a great thing to keep up and to take care of," said John Crowder of Grand Rapids visiting Grand Haven.

"Its part of our history," chimed in his wife, Ann Crowder. "You don't see these very often on piers and such, so it's a good thing to keep up."

Saving the catwalk comes with a hefty price. The City of Grand Haven must spend $1.5 million not only to raise the structure but to repair it. Mother Nature has taken a toll: years of wind, waves, and ice have caused corrosion. Bolts are missing, and some supports now lean toward the shore.

"It needs to be saved for the future, because it is an important aesthetic component to what Grand Haven offers to our community and to other people," said Erin Turrell of Save The Catwalk campaign.

Grand Haven's pier is also popular among many photographers year round. Jon Brignall visited the Grand Haven State Park Saturday from Plainwell for a different environment to take photographs. "It's important to preserve this so we have it, not just for the photographers and for what we do, but its just part of Michigan and we need to keep it," he said.

A fundraiser on January 30 kicked off what will be one of many to save the cherished landmark.

"People enjoy walking on the pier, walking around it (the catwalk), and getting their picture taken," said Turrell. "People get married out here because its not just a lighthouse."

You can donate money online at the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation, and you can follow Save The Catwalk on Facebook for the latest on fundraising efforts.

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4 comments

  • NO PC FOR ME

    The name “catwalk’ is offensive and dogophobic. We need Diversity. A name is required that is all inclusive to quadrupeds of all species regardless of their birth species . Perhaps #quadrupedwalk
    What about the trans-species Dogs who identify as Cats ? its just not right!
    Support #quadruped-walk

  • Christine

    I grew up in grand Haven, Michigan. All of my relatives still live there. My kids are grown and they remember grand haven for the pier.

  • Gordon Sr Buzzell

    Grand Haven pier project on hold
    ALEX DOTY • OCT 27, 2015 AT 11:25 AM
    adoty@grandhaventribune.com 616-842-6400 ext. 233
    Emergency federal funding that would have been used to pay for the $2 million project was sent to what they call a higher priority, outside of the Great Lakes region.

    “It was early last year that it was indicated to us that we’d get emergency funding for engineering work,” said Jon Imbrunone, operations project manager with the Corps of Engineers’ Detroit District. “(Later on) that funding had to go to a higher-priority project.”

    Work on the south pier was supposed to begin in November.

    “Things were essentially finalized,” Imbrunone said.

    Imbrunone noted that having plans finalized should help speed things up once the project gets the green light from Washington.

    The project has been submitted for emergency funding once again, and it would also be submitted for funding in the Corps of Engineers’ next budget cycle, for fiscal year 2017-18. But corps officials say there is no timetable for when work on the pier could occur.

    “It’s based fully on the budgeting process,” Imbrunone said.

    While work on the pier is delayed, that isn’t stopping the community’s effort to save the catwalk. Grand Haven City Manager Pat McGinnis said the catwalk rehabilitation and pier work are two separate issues.

    “That effort is going to happen regardless of what the Army Corps of Engineers is going to do,” he said.

    The city was forced into action when it was told the pier would be repaired this fall, and it would likely be required to lift the catwalk so work could take place.

    The corps’ original estimated cost for lifting the catwalk was about $100,000. The estimate doesn’t include restoration work to the structure’s bents — the cross-sections holding the catwalk in place at the same time.

    “It was very sudden and welcoming news … but it was a little frustrating,” McGinnis said of learning of the pier project. “We were in a desperation mode back in July.”

    Now, the city and a group of fundraisers have time to come up with funding and a plan to repair the catwalk.

    “Once we have an idea what it costs per section, we’ll have an idea of what our fundraising target is,” McGinnis said.

    The catwalk consists of about 60 bents, and McGinnis said they’d likely be replaced or repaired in sections of 5-10 at a time.

    “It’s going to be a tremendous effort and it is going to be long term,” he said.

    McGinnis noted that the community is already looking at fundraising opportunities, and they’ve also applied for a $200,000 grant from the National Maritime Heritage Program to help fund catwalk work.

    “We’re sure that it is going to take all of that and then some,” McGinnis said.