City OK’s catwalk work

Alexander Sinn • Dec 1, 2018 at 10:00 AM

The iconic catwalk that has been missing from the Grand Haven south pier for two years will return in June 2019, city leaders say.

It won’t be the same catwalk as before. Of the 59 “bents” — arches that support the catwalk structure — only six of them will be the originals. The catwalk itself will also be made of new steel.

The Grand Haven City Council voted Nov. 19 to approve Type II and III bents, and to return the catwalk to the pier once the structure is built. Type I bents were approved in January.

The six original bents will be restored, according to City Manager Pat McGinnis, including some that bear the Carnegie Steel stamp from the early 1900s. There will be two of each of the three kinds of bents, which will extend from the fog house to the beginning of the pier.

McGinnis noted that the new catwalk will be identical to its predecessor in color and structure.

“We have taken great pains to ensure the accuracy of the new design,” he said.

The Type II and III bents will cost up to $612,100. Returning the original structure to the pier would have been a cheaper option, but a new build will ensure it remains there for a long time, McGinnis said.

“The additional dollars are very much worth the extended longevity that will lend to the pier itself,” he said. “It will extend the life of the catwalk.”

Erin Turrell, who leads the Save the Catwalk committee, said the decision to fabricate a new catwalk came around fall 2016. 

“They’ll last another 100 years — way past our lifetimes,” she said. “There doesn’t have to be another committee 20 years from now that’s going to have to raise money to fix them again. We have done this for future generations.” 

The initial plan was to leave the catwalk on the pier during the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ resurfacing project that began in 2017. McGinnis said leaving the catwalk up would have cost an additional half-million dollars; removing it was more cost effective.

The cost of removing the catwalk was about $80,000, he said, and it has since been stored at the Verplank’s docks in Ferrysburg.

The Save the Catwalk committee met its $1 million fundraising goal in December 2017, ensuring the catwalk would return. The funds were used to purchase the new bents.

Turrell said the latest City Council decision gives clear direction on the return of the catwalk. 

“I am very optimistic and excited about what next spring is going to hold for the installation of the catwalk,” she said. “The community has been very patient in waiting to hear what’s been going on.” 

The bents from the original catwalk will not get thrown into a dump. McGinnis said, but will serve an undetermined purpose. 

“One suggestion is to use them for support structures for the city’s new wayfinding sign program expected in 2020,” he said.

McGinnis said he expects the installation process to require about 6-8 weeks and will likely be completed by the end of June.

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