'This is a day of celebration'

Becky Vargo • Dec 14, 2017 at 1:58 PM

A $50,000 grant from the Loutit Foundation has pushed the Save the Catwalk fundraiser over its $1 million goal.

The announcement was made during a press conference Thursday afternoon at the Chamber of Commerce offices in downtown Grand Haven.

“I’m relieved and happy,” said campaign chairwoman Erin Terrell. “This is a day of celebration.”

It was only a month ago that officials announced a $20,000 gift from the Betten Preferred Auto Dealership Fund, which is part of the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation. Terrell said more than “six figures” worth of donations have come through the local community foundation. But the money to replace the highly photographed structure on Grand Haven’s south pier has also come from children conducting can drives and selling lemonade, she said.

“This has been a true community effort,” Terrell said. “From lemonade stands to six-figure gifts, the lengths our community has gone to in order to save our iconic catwalk have been truly inspiring.” 

To date, reports indicate that the $1 million goal has been exceeded by $88,706. To help reach that amount, 236 recognition plaques were sold at $2,500 each. There are still opportunities for Leaderboard recognition, which starts at $10,000.

“In addition to surpassing the goal, we’ve been able to grow our endowed maintenance fund to over $150,000,” Grand Haven City Manager Pat McGinnis said. “We would like to continue to grow this maintenance fund that will help pay for future repairs.”

McGinnis said the goal is to get that fund up to $250,000.

“It’s been an amazing two years and we couldn’t be happier with the outcome,” Grand Haven Mayor Geri McCaleb said. “This grant from the Loutit Foundation put us over the top, but it wouldn’t have happened without everyone in the community coming together.”

McCaleb thanked everyone who has worked to make the catwalk replacement happen, including the committee, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the contractor.

The mayor said work on the pier should be completed by the end of next summer, as long as the lake level doesn’t get any higher.

The first phase of the pier renovation was completed earlier this fall. The surface was reconstructed from shore to the first light. Once weather conditions allow, the contractor will begin work on the pier from the first light to the fog house. When that is done, Terrell said, they can start replacing the catwalk, which will be done starting by the fog house and continuing back toward shore.

“The contractor is going to be starting the fabrication process in the next couple of weeks,” Terrell said.

Terrell said the work should be done in plenty of time to be ready to go when the work on the pier is completed.

The catwalk was converted from wood to cast iron in 1921. The double row of lights was added in 1988 after a community fundraiser in 1987.

Ninety-five winters of ice and wave damage have taken a toll on the structure. So, in August 2015, members of the community and local government gathered to discuss the possible restoration of the catwalk. The talks were prompted by an engineering study of the catwalk and the Army Corps of Engineers’ plans for the pier.

Despite periodic maintenance over nearly a century, the catwalk’s bents become warped, corroded and were beyond repair. Every one of the 59 arches or “bents” that form the catwalk requires restoration and/or replacement.

It was imperative that the restoration of the city-owned catwalk coincide with the corps’ current pier repairs. The catwalk was removed from the pier in August 2016, after just over $80,000 was raised for that part of the project.

To make a donation to the Save the Catwalk fund, visit www.ghacf.org/donate 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. If you want to keep up to date on the Save the Catwalk project, visit Facebook.com/savethecatwalk.

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