“We’ve raised over $780,000 and we just keep going,” campaign chairwoman Erin Turrell said. “There’s still really good, positive momentum.”
Fundraising efforts are helping to pay for the cost of removing the catwalk from Grand Haven’s south pier, fabricating replacement catwalk parts and eventually replacing the catwalk on the pier.
Turrell said the fundraising has been a grassroots effort — from children selling lemonade and ice cream on the sides of streets to local businesses selling shirts and collecting donations.
Brad DeMinck of Lakeshore Tae Kwan Do is one of those local businesspeople who’ve helped support the catwalk via T-shirt sales. He said it is important for the community to support this and similar projects.
“Without the local businesses being involved, without the local support, how do we get anything done?” he said.
DeMinck noted that the pier and catwalk define Grand Haven from the water. He said the pier doesn’t look right without the catwalk sitting on top of it.
“If we’re not taking care of things that define us, we’ll lose our identity,” he said.
And with recent news that the Grand Haven pier repair project won’t be completed until next summer, officials say that this means the catwalk won’t be going back up for some time.
“I don’t see the catwalk being put up until late next summer, at the earliest,” Turrell said.
On the bright side, organizers say that this will provide them with extra time to shore up additional money to meet their goal, and to fund ongoing maintenance. And, Turrell noted, the latest developments are just a part of the fluctuating project.
“During the last two years, this project has evolved,” she said. “It has not been a constant ‘here’s our plan, here is what we are going to do.’”
Officials from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers say work on the south pier reconstruction project has been challenged by a number of elements, from high water on Lake Michigan to winds and waves.
“They’ve got a lot of things to deal with out there,” said Tom O’Bryan, Grand Haven-area engineer for the corps. “It’s not like we’re building a road and we can have access to it all of the time.”
These various elements have caused the final project completion date to be delayed until June 2018. O’Bryan said he hopes work on the pier can be finished up to the inner lighthouse, and that the pier could be open to that point this fall.
"Most people do understand the situation," he said. “You can’t just snap your fingers and get it done.”
O’Bryan also noted that boaters should help minimize the effects of boat wake on the workers and equipment when traveling in the channel.
“Keep the speeds down. That is effecting our guys’ work performance and production,” O’Bryan said. “People can get hurt, and that is what we’re trying to avoid completely.”