CHIPPEWA COUNTY, Mich. (WJMN) – A new 142-foot-long pedestrian bridge was set in place at Lower Tahquamenon Falls on September 8.
The bridge is located four miles downstream from Tahquamenon Falls State Park’s Upper Falls, the Lower Tahquamenon Falls consist of five smaller waterfalls that cascade around the island. The operation took four hours to complete and barricades at the state park allowed visitors to view portions of the work from outside a 200-foot safety zone.
“This bridge will allow for easier park staff and emergency services access to help maintain and keep the island safe,” said Tahquamenon Falls State Park manager Kevin Dennis.
The 6-foot-wide aluminum bridge is part of a bigger goal to create universal access to an island at the Lower Falls. Other parts of the project include 350 feet of boardwalk connecting the mainland to the bridge abutment location and a half-mile, barrier-free pathway around the perimeter of the island. The path around the island will include additional boardwalk sections and benches placed in various locations. The project costs $1.28 million and is being funded by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Parks and Recreation Division capital outlay funding. Capital outlay investments are typically funded with a mix of state restricted revenue, federal revenue and general fund money.
The bridge was manufactured by CMI of Sanford, Florida, it was trucked to the park in four sections with the two middle sections arriving September 2 and the end sections arriving September 3. The bridge was moved to its site by a Construction Helicopter Inc. crew from Howell, using a Sikorsky S61N helicopter. They moved the bridge sections approximately 700 yards and placed them on temporary connection abutments, which will be removed after the bridge installation project is completed. The bridge is expected to open for public use in October after the necessary occupancy inspections are completed.
The project was planned after a 2017 process to update the park’s management plan. 80% of 634 respondents to a public survey said they would be more likely to visit the island if there was a bridge. Previously a rowboat concession had operated at the falls for many years and allowed visitors to row a short distance to the island to walk a trail and get a closer view of the falls.
Olsen & Olsen Building Contractors, Inc. from Manistique is the general contractor for the project, OHM Advisors from Houghton provided design and oversight.