In a major victory for Grand Haven Whale Watching’s efforts to expand, Michigan Governor Whitmer said is was time to tear down Smith’s Bridge in Ferrysburg, Michigan.
Whitmer made the bold proclamation after walking the bridge on Wednesday with the city’s mayor and manager. In an effort to echo the sentiment of her favorite president who in 1987 told Mikhail Gorbachev, to Tear down this wall! in reference to the Berlin Wall, Whitmer also said the time for Smith’s Bridge has long passed. (The complete context of her comments are at the bottom of this page.)
Whitmer praised the efforts of local residents who are raising funds to tear down the bridge. She said there is no reason to get a second opinion.
Whitmer, who does not have the authority to tear down the bridge on her own said she would put together a blue-ribbon panel consisting of members who have previously been in charge of the Flint water system and Grand Haven draw bridge maintenance to make sure the demolish happens soon. In a prepared statement she said “In Lansing we have a whole bunch of people who know how to wreck things. Let’s put them to work on this project.”
While initially concerned that it would impact the ability of people on the south side of the bridge to reach the Reef Party Store, the governor’s chief of staff said she feels comfortable that proposed plans to launch a ferry service will help keep everyone’s favorite party store alive and will also satisfying residents north of the bridge that need an easy way to get their cones from Miss Lisa’s (A La Mode – as it is known to newcomers).
Earlier in the day, the governor was met by protesters during a stop at the Spring Lake Country club when she suggested also tearing town the damn Petty’s Bayou bring on Fruitport Road and Llyod’s Bayou bridge on Leonard Road. Some suggested the governor’s aggressive stance on tearing down bridges in the Tri-Cities area is meant to gain leverage so state representative Lilly will support her proposed 75 cent a gallon gas tax for infrastructure improvements. This position seemed to be confirmed when the governor was heard saying “If the damn Republicans will not give me money to fix the damn roads and bridges, then I guess we will just make less damn roads and bridges.” So far the governor has advocated the closure and demolition of 32 bridges across the state including 17 in the Republican strong hold of Ottawa County.
Ferrysburg’s mayor distanced herself from the governor’s advocacy for tearing down the Smith’s Bayou bridge by saying it is a distraction from major issues like selecting a color for the new fire barn playground and prosecuting the kids who chased the squirrel into a Board of Light and Power transformer in May causing more than 1,000 people in the Ferrysburg area to lose power. “Those are the types of issues I need to concentrate on as mayor,” she said.
Efforts to finally tear down the death-trap of a bridge is good news for Grand Haven Whale Watching. The organization is looking to plant two whales in the bayou. According to the company’s founder Mary VanDoosenburg, the removal of the bridge is a great step in restoring the natural shoreline and allowing access to their fleet of whale watching vessels. Without the ability to access Smith’s Bayou, the planting of whales in the area has not been feasible. Now the dream of seeing humpbacks in Ferrysburg is closer to becoming a reality.
VanDoosenburg went on to explain if Ferrysburg residents still want a bridge, it is critical that it be a drawbridge or a high-height suspension bridge so her company can properly access the bayou.
The complete context of the governor’s remarks:
We welcome change and openness; for we believe that freedom and security go together, that the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of Ferrysburg’s peace. There is one sign the Ferrysburgians can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of safety and smooth travel in the Tri-Cities. Mayor Rebecca Hopp, if you seek safety, if you seek smooth travel for those trying to reach Miss Lisa’s and The Reef Party Store and Fruitport, if you seek more open bayous, come here to this bridge. Mayor Hopp, close this bridge. Mayor Hopp… Mayor Hopp, tear down this damn bridge. – Governor Whitmer