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'Positive momentum' for catwalk

Alex Doty • Mar 2, 2017 at 11:00 AM

The drive to raise $1 million to save the city’s landmark catwalk has hit the halfway mark.

The city and the Save the Catwalk committee announced the $550,000 milestone Wednesday morning at Grand Haven’s Central Park, where they unveiled a banner to keep track of fundraising progress.

To date, more than 500 individual contributions have been donated to the fund, which has also benefitted from several community events.

“I am continually impressed and inspired by the generosity of the community, and not just the big (donors),” City Manager Pat McGinnis said. “People throughout the community have been so generous, and those that don’t have a lot are doing what they can.”

Recent contributions helped push the fundraising effort past the midway point, including the announcement of a $100,000 Grand Haven Area Community Foundation grant.

"We are so pleased to be able to provide this grant to this community effort," foundation President Holly Johnson said. "There is a lot of positive momentum.”

Randy and Carol King, owners of The King Co. — the company the city has contracted to complete catwalk repair work — contributed $50,000 to the campaign. 

The Jan. 28 set of fundraisers coordinated by the Grand Haven Eagles, Winterfest and Rotary Club of Grand Haven raised more than $50,000 for Save the Catwalk.

City Councilman Josh Brugger — a participant in the Winterfest Dumpster Dive — was enthusiastic about Wednesday’s news, and praised both the time and energy that’s gone on behind the scenes between city staff and Save the Catwalk volunteers, as well as donors.

“We’ve got a very generous community and they recognize there are some iconic features in the city, and the catwalk is one of them — if not the one — that’s on the top of the list,” he said.

Brugger said he hopes the news of reaching the halfway point in the campaign will bring with it the momentum to finish off the remainder of the fundraising. He also noted that he was surprised how fast the committee raised that much.

“I thought it would take longer,” Brugger said. “I think that there are a lot of very worthy causes in the city of Grand Haven, and for folks to come out and see the catwalk as one of the valuable causes, it’s just inspiring for me as a resident to be a part of it.”

The catwalk was converted from wood to cast iron in 1921, and the double row of lights was added in 1988 after a 1987 community fundraiser. Harsh winters over the past 95 years have taken a toll on the catwalk, and each of its 59 arches (or bents) that form the catwalk require restoration and/or replacement.

The city removed the catwalk at the end of last summer in advance of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ south pier repair project.

Current estimates to replace the necessary portions of the catwalk total $1 million. The construction and costs have been broken down into the following five phases:

(1) Remove and store catwalk ($84,000)

(2) Restore and/or replace Type I bents ($60,000) and purchase steel ($250,000)

(3) Restore and/or replace Type II bents ($250,000)

(4) Restore and/or replace Type III bents ($220,000)

(5) Re-installation of catwalk ($115,000)

McGinnis noted that work has officially begun on the second phase of the project, having ordered the steel and beginning design work on replacement bents.

“(Contractors) have picked up two of each type of bent, and they’ve got those down at their shop,” he said. “They’re doing their shop drawings and they’re getting ready to start fabricating.

City leaders have said that their goal is to try and save six bents from the original catwalk — two of each bent type — leaving 10 percent of the original catwalk in the new structure.

How to make a donation

To make a donation, visit the local community foundation’s donation webpage and designate “Catwalk,” or send a check with "Save the Catwalk" in the memo line to the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation, 1 S. Harbor Ave., Grand Haven, MI 49417.

"We are extremely encouraged with our progress to date," said Erin Turrell, chairwoman of the Save the Catwalk committee. "To reach our goal, we need the community to continue to generously support."

Donors of $2,500 or more will be memorialized with a personalized bronze plaque that will be placed on the south pier.

To learn more about the catwalk project, visit the Save the Catwalk Facebook page or call Grand Haven City Hall at 616-847-4888.

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