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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 last 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.

To save the catwalk, the City decided to remove it last year and place it in storage. Since then, the City has contracted with King Company of Holland to replace most of the structure while retaining critical parts of the original “Carnegie” steel to retain the authenticity of the structure. 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, there remains much work to be done to raise adequate funds to do the job right.

Here is a summary of project costs:
Remove catwalk: $84,000 (complete)
Purchase American Made Steel: $250,000 (complete)
Restore Type l Bents: $60,000 (under way)
Restore Type ll Bents: $250,000
Restore Type lll Bents: $220,000
Re-install catwalk: $136,000



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. The catwalk is an integral part of the Grand Haven community that we cannot afford to lose. The catwalk cannot go back up until we raise enough money to cover the cost.


So far, about $545,000 has been raised, but the city needs another $455,000 by mid-summer to get the job done in 2017.

*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: