Pier walkers return to Grand Haven

Ottawa County

GRAND HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) — For the first time in two years, the pier walkers returned to the south pier that juts into Lake Michigan.

But the re-opening on Friday, after $2.6 million in repairs, came with a safety warning from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Higher lake water levels can send more waves crashing over the pier.

“The safety of all that use the Grand Haven pier is always a concern, especially because the structure has not had pedestrian traffic for a couple of years,” said Tom O’Bryan, Lake Michigan Area Office area engineer. “I just want to remind all that it can be slippery when wet. Do not go out during high seas but enjoy from a distance.”

On Friday, though, the lake was smooth for the return of the pier walkers.

“It’s worth waiting,” said pier walker Marsha Aerts. “You have to get it done. It takes time.”

“This is Grand Haven,” she said, pointing to the pier and its lighthouse. “This is it.”

The old pier was more like a bad Michigan road.

“There were so many cracks and you couldn’t really negotiate it without looking down,” said frequent pier walker Judy Lacks.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers started rebuilding the pier in 2016, at first hoping to reopen it the following year.

But there were delays — more structural problems than expected and high lake levels that slowed them down.

Now, the pier is as smooth as a rebuilt highway.

On Friday, the only danger was slipping on the algae growing at the very end of the pier, which was not rebuilt. 

“I just slid, oh, in fact I’m bleeding,” Judy Lacks said, pointing to the blood on her knee. “It was very slippery south of the pier.”

“It’s just covered in a slimy film,” said Chris Timmer as he fished with his son and daughter at the end of the pier. “You’ve got to be very careful or you could end up in the drink.”

The next step is replacing the catwalk. The city of Grand Haven raised $1 million to save it and plans to re-install it next spring.

“It’s not the same until the catwalk’s back,” Aerts said.

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