Crumbling concrete prompts closure, repair of Muskegon pier

Muskegon County

MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — As construction on one West Michigan pier has just completed, another will soon be repaired. 

The south breakwater pier at Muskegon’s Pere Marquette Park has needed repairs for years. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers just recently secured the funds to start.

“A few years back, in 2015-2016, we started seeing waves damaging the south breakwater in Muskegon,” civil engineer Chris Schropp said. “At that time, we were able to get some funds together to do some temporary repairs.”

Those temporary repairs helped keep the aged concrete structurally sound for a time, but the repairs merely prolonged the inevitable.

“It’s gotten to a point where now we’re not really sure how stable it is or where the next piece is going to fall and if someone were to walk out there and have it collapse underneath them it could get harmed,” Schropp explained. “We felt it was in the best interest of the public to close the structure off unfortunately, just so no one gets hurt.”

The closure went into effect Monday morning, a sign hanging on the gate which now blocks the walkway reads “DANGER DO NOT ENTER.”

Craters have reopened just steps away from the barricade. Craters so deep, an unaware passerby could fall into the piers sub structure and the water below. 

“Keep in mind that, you know, its closed because its unstable. It’s not a stable walking surface. At any point it could collapse underneath you. We just don’t know where or when that’s going to happen,” Schropp warns. “Remember too our structures are not designed for public access. They’re navigation structures to assist in federal navigation and recreation navigation.”

With that said, the Corp neither encourages nor disallows people from walking on the pier. Even in the time of its temporary closure, the Corp has no way to enforce their fence. They hope the public respects the gesture.

“You would not be breaking a law by going around or over the gate,” Schropp said. “It’s simply not safe for you to do that because it is so brittle at this point.”

The pier was built in the 1950’s. Schropp says periods of record low water levels, paired with near record highs this year and the constant battering of wind and waves have exacerbated the piers age and made a complete overhaul a necessity.

“We will begin work in November. The $1.6 million we have been granted will certainly make sure this pier lives on into the future,” Schropp said. “We got our money’s worth out of it for the 70 years or whatever it is its been out there.”

In the coming weeks six- to eight-ton limestone boulders will be placed on both the lake and basin sides of the existing pier to help reduce the impact of waves in the future.

After the ice thaws next spring, the pier as it stands now will be demolished, its substructure repaired and top walking surface completely remade.

“It will look and feel like the pier that was completed in Grand Haven, minus the catwalk of course,” Schropp said. “It’ll have a nice, nice flat walking surface, minus any cracks and holes and tripping hazards.”

The Corp hopes to reopen the pier next June but adds the construction completion date is entirely weather dependent.

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