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More than $100K raised for tipple

Alex Doty • Oct 26, 2015 at 9:01 PM

“At the end of the day, we met our goal and exceeded our goal because of a surprise gift from a railway up in Canada,” fundraiser organizer Ken Formsma said.

A $15,000 gift from the Canadian National Railway System was secured to help with the preservation and get the fundraising effort over the top.

Spring Lake resident Ed Harris, who used to work for Canadian National, got in touch with the company leaders and approached them about the cause.

“I saw the brochures and thought it would be something my former employer could participate in,” he said. “I am glad Canadian National Railway could assist.”

Harris said it is important to note the history of the railroad in North America and how the railroad helped build the country.

“I’d like to see it preserved, and I think the refurbishment of the coal tipple is important,” he said. “I do know it costs a lot more to tear it down than to preserve it.”

Holly Johnson, president of the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation, said she is pleased with the results of the summer-long fundraiser.

”It certainly doesn’t surprise me,“ she said. ”When there’s something in the community that needs enhancement and needs extra care, the community steps up.“

In 1925, during the period when steam engines were the primary power sources for trains, the 350-ton concrete tipple was built to store coal that was loaded into the coal bins of the trains that came through Grand Haven. Only the most prosperous railroads in Michigan — the Grand Trunk, Michigan Central and its successors — could afford to build them.

The State Historic Preservation Office has confirmed that the tipple is the only one in the state that the public can observe up close.

Fundraising for tipple preservation began with a gift from the Matilda & Harold Crane Donor Advised Fund in 2012.

In January 2014, portions of the tipple’s interior were cleaned, and openings were screened to prevent animals from nesting and depositing waste inside. More recently, the local Fraternal Order of Eagles sponsored the first community fundraiser, which brought in more than $18,000, including matched funds.

On June 1, an official fundraising effort was launched with a goal of bringing in $90,000 in 90 days for the 90-year-old tipple.

“We’re very grateful for Ken Formsma and the wonderful ... effort he’s done to breathe new life into our waterfront,” Johnson said.

Johnson said additional money raised for the coal tipple above the $90,000 would stay at the community foundation and continue to grow in order to be used for future preservation work.

”There are other coal tipples around, but there are none in a central business district of a community for people to walk up to and touch and feel,“ Johnson said, noting the tipple’s significance.

Coinciding with all of the tipple fundraising, private donations allowed for improvements to be made at the park next to the coal tipple this past summer, complete with new picnic tables and benches, a new pathway and interpretive signs.

“Enhancing the Chinook Pier park area around the tipple makes the tipple more complete and part of a new awareness of the iconic symbol of Grand Haven’s past,” Formsma said.

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