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Catwalk sections unloaded upriver

Becky Vargo • Sep 1, 2016 at 8:00 AM

All was quiet on the Grand Haven pier on Wednesday.

Strollers walked freely to the end, most of their view no longer obstructed by the landmark catwalk, which workers have been removing for the past two days.

On Wednesday, the crews worked upstream, off-loading the catwalk pieces to their temporary storage location.

“It’s kind of a shock to go out there,” said Grand Haven Mayor Geri McCaleb. “It’s bare looking.”

McCaleb said she’s been making a point to walk on the pier as much as she can, but it’s a strange experience.

“It really doesn’t look like our pier,” she said. “There’s nothing there but the stubs or bases from the catwalk. 

The catwalk, which is owned by the City of Grand Haven, is being removed so that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers can repair the pier — a $2.6 million federally funded project.

McCaleb said the repair budget did not allow for replacing the catwalk.

City Council said they absolutely wanted it back, but there was nothing in the budget for something like this.

“We talked about getting a citizen’s group going and Erin (Turrell) stepped up,” McCaleb said 

The Save the Catwalk committee was formed and fundraising started. A few weeks ago, City Manager Pat McGinnis said $150,000 had been raised.

That was enough to go ahead with the $84,000 catwalk removal project, which is being handled by The King Co. of Holland 

Replacement costs are estimated at $115,000. But the biggest chunk that needs to be raised is about $1.2 million for catwalk rehabilitation.

Turrell said a number of fundraising projects are planned. All of that information can be found on the Save the Catwalk Facebook page, including links to a crowd funding site.

In the meantime, workers Monday and Tuesday removed 15 75-foot sections of catwalk from the pier and placed them on large barges that were floated upriver to the Verplank dock in Ferrysburg.

Dave Herweyer, King Co. project manager, said nine sections of catwalk were offloaded on Wednesday. Six more sections would be moved today.

The crane onboard the barged was used to lift a section onto a semi-trailer. The catwalk section was trucked to a different part of the property where another crane was used to place it on the ground.

Turrell said rehab work on the catwalk would be done throughout the year — either on site or at a different location where work could be done indoors 

Herweyer said he didn’t expect the barges to be back at the pier today because of the work that needed to be finished upriver, and because the weather forecast called for 3-to-6-foot waves.

The project manager said they need under 2-foot waves and the right wind direction to keep the barges next to the pier 

He hopes crews can return to the pier Friday to remove the last six sections of catwalk, plus the stairs.

Herweyer said they might have to cut smaller sections to make everything work out right, and he noted that the stairs alone could be a half-day’s worth of work, so they might not finish in a day.

In the meantime, the pier will remain open to walkers. It will be temporarily closed when workers remove the last few sections, but will be open again for a couple of weeks until repair work begins on the pier itself.

Herweyer said there’s a couple of week’s worth of meetings, planning and scheduling to finish before they start on that project.

If the weather cooperates, they will start at the west end of the pier and complete 100-to-200-foot sections at a time.

Work on the pier should be completed in about a year, and Herweyer said it could be another six weeks beyond that for the catwalk to be reinstalled.

“It’s really important that we continue raising funds to get it (the catwalk) fixed and get it back,” McCaleb said.

Donations may be dropped off at City Hall, the Chamber of Commerce and the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation.

Checks may be sent to the Community Foundation, 1 S. Harbor Drive, Grand Haven, MI 49417. Specify that the donation is for the Catwalk Maintenance Fund.

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