Select Page

The Grand Haven South Pier’s iconic catwalk is currently threatened with demolition. The City of Grand Haven is calling on the community for donations to save the local landmark.


In 1921, the Grand Haven South Pier catwalk was converted from wood to cast iron, solidifying the pier’s place as a local landmark that would eventually define the Grand Haven image for years to come. In 1988, a community fundraiser added the familiar double row of lights, lining the catwalk and lighting up the pier. Today, 95 years after its construction, the iconic catwalk is in danger. 95 years of snow, ice, and battering waves have eaten at the structure of the catwalk, deteriorating the 59 arches or “bents” that make it up. It’s clear that the catwalk needs repairs, but unfortunately, if the city of Grand Haven wants to keep the iconic structure at all, we’re under a deadline.


The catwalk isn’t the only thing on the beach that needs repairs. The Grand Haven South pier itself has been worn down for more than 50 years, and is scheduled for a redo. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been scheduled to do a $2.1 million dollar overhaul of the pier, starting this August.

The pier itself, which has not had a major repair since the 1950s, is in pretty rough shape. Engineers fear that the subbase, hidden beneath the pier’s cement structure, is partially washed away, threatening the pier’s structural integrity. Like the catwalk, years of freezing temperatures, crashing waves, and high-speed winds have compromised the surface of the pier as well.

In order to ensure safety for the community and those who come to vacation in Grand Haven, it’s time for major repairs. The Army Corps plans to take off the top portion of the pier, to first see what they’re working with, then reinforce the base, raise portions that have sunk, secure the steel side walls, and finally replace the surface of the pier. The project is scheduled to close the pier until July 2017, but is necessary to the structural integrity of the pier, and the safety of the community.


While the Army Corps has funding to replace the pier, the catwalk is owned by the city, and therefore is not included in the pier renewal project. In other similar projects, the Army Corps has just done away with catwalks, but the Grand Haven catwalk is one that the city wishes to retain. It’s a West Michigan icon that draws tourists and represents Grand Haven’s unique charm.

If the city wants to save the catwalk, the structure will have to be raised or removed before the Army Corps starts its project. Unfortunately, the community will have to foot the bill for this part of the pier remodel, since the catwalk is owned by the Grand Haven, and not the Army Corps. While city officials have agreed unanimously that saving and repairing the catwalk is necessary, they have to come up with sufficient funds to at least lift or safely remove the catwalk by August.

After that, subsequent donations will go to refurbishing the catwalk to restore it to its original beauty. The city estimates that the initial cost of moving the catwalk, which must happen by August, is around $250,000. The total estimated cost of the project, including lifting or removing the structure, as well as replacing and refurbishing the catwalk, is around $1.5 million.


Today, the catwalk is Grand Haven’s iconic calling card. It’s seen on t-shirts, postcards and bumper stickers worldwide, and serves as a mecca for local photographers, beachgoers, and tourists from all corners of the country. If the city doesn’t assist with the pier repair job, the Army Corps will be forced to demolish this catwalk that sets Grand Haven apart from the rest as an aesthetic landmark for tourists and locals alike to relax and take in the beauty of West Michigan. The catwalk is an integral part of the Grand Haven community that we cannot afford to lose.


So far, about $45,000 to $50,000 has been raised, but the city needs at least $250,000 by August to remove or raise the catwalk from the pier while the Army Corps completes their own project. When that is accomplished, the rest of the money will go towards replacing the worn out and decrepit parts of the catwalk that have begun to rot, warp and corrode.

*Please select “Catwalk Maintenance Fund.”

We also invite you to make a donation directly by mailing a check to the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation at 1 South Harbor, Grand Haven, MI 49417. Be sure and specify the “Catwalk Maintenance Fund.”


Donations of $2,500 or more will be memorialized in the form of a 12″ x 4″ personalized bronze plaque, which will be placed on the base of a restored catwalk bent on the new remodeled Grand Haven pier. The structure can accommodate 177 plaques. Download the plaque form, fill it out and submit to The Grand Haven Area Community Foundation with your donation: