GREENVILLE, Mich. (WOOD) — Rebuilding the iconic catwalk that for decades framed the Grand Haven South Pier is no easy task.
At The Blacksmith Shop in Greenville, it’s the biggest project they’ve ever tackled. Fifty-three of the catwalk’s 59 bents, the metal skeleton that runs along the pier, had to be recreated.
“Thousands of hours of engineering work. And man hours to weld, we are at at least 100 hours per bent,” Roy Ferguson, CEO The Blacksmith Shop, said.
The puzzle of metal pieces has been painstakingly assembled, requiring hundreds of welds for each piece. It’s as much an artistic as an engineering feat.
“We revised the plan at least a dozen times,” Ferguson said.
When the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers decided to rebuild the pier, the catwalk wasn’t part of the project. But it’s a symbol of the Grand Haven. There was talk of repairing the old catwalk, but the years and elements had taken a toll. It needed to be replaced. So the community pulled together, raising over a million dollars to recreate the catwalk. About $500,000 will be spent on fabricating the new bents.
Installation of the catwalk started earlier this month.
While the engineering of the bents was a priority, so was the history of the pier, down to the metal buttons that held the old catwalk together.
“The one thing that took that time were trying to recreate these rivets,” Ferguson said.
The new catwalk is held together by welds, not rivets, but Ferguson and his team wanted it to look the same.
“We made 11,000 by special machine. Each one was specifically machined for this project,” he explained of the ornamental buttons in the same spots the rivets were found. “So it’s historically as close to the original pier bents as possible.”
“It’s probably one of the most rewarding projects we’ve ever done,” he continued. “We’re very proud of our team. Not only our engineers, but right down to the welders and the fabricators.”
The catwalk is expected to be completed in time for the Coast Guard Festival at the end of July.