HARBERT — The new and improved Cherry Beach stairway was officially opened on Saturday, July 25, with a ribbon-cutting and plenty of beach-goers making the trek to Lake Michigan.

Joe Sipek (Chairman of an Ad Hoc Beach Access Committee which spearheaded the stair project) said a total of 30 volunteers helped out during the two-week construction process that finished on-budget and ahead of schedule.

He noted that the project was made possible by a GoFundMe drive that raised more than $7,000.

“It’s good, it’s sturdy, and hopefully it will be here in the spring,” he said.  

Deborah Hall-Kayler of the Chikaming Township Park Board, said “What an amazing opportunity for the community” moments before the ceremonial ribbon was cut.

The parking lot was nearly full my midday Saturday, with the inviting water of Lake Michigan drawing many to the small beach at the bottom of the new stairs.

“There are abut 25 cars or so … they’re still coming,” said Josh Higgins, a construction volunteer who also mans the booth at the entrance to the Cherry Beach lot.

Most of the stairway was finished on Thursday, July 23, with the 3/8-inch steel cable system designed to hold the structure together on the steep hill that slopes down to the lakeshore being affixed to four-foot long earth anchors and tightened to address “the sliding down the hill part” which affected the previous stairway structure before it was dismantled.

Sipek said the cable system is “really for the wintertime” when storms and high waves can make the slope more unstable.

Architect Dan Menitoff designed the stairway, which was built to the latest code.

Sipek credited “excellent volunteers” for making it possible to complete an ambitious project that began on July 10 and was finished on budget and ahead of schedule.

Beth Dahl and her husband, Bernie, started helping with the project on July 17. She said they helped clean the beach at the bottom of the stairs on July 23, doing a lot of cutting and removing downed and washed up trees, branches and matted grass with chainsaws and shovels.

Beach-goers were happy to have the stairs back in new and improved form.

Joseph Desi and his daughter, Lucinda, said it was nice to be able to reach the beach again.

“The lake’s lowering, it’s lowered an inch so far. Hopefully it stays low or gets lower,” he added.

Stephanie Epperson and her sister, Maddie Freda, helped remove logs and other large debris from the beach on the morning of July 23, returning later with their children to deal with sticks and smaller objects.

Volunteers helping build the new stairway at Cherry Beach included: Sipek, Higgins, Menitoff, Bill Lucas, Mike Smith, Jason Kropp, Michelle Kropp, Sherri Curry, Doug Stephens, Allynn Gooer, Don Bridgeman, Bernie and Beth Dahl, Deborah Hall-Kayler, Ethan McGarrity, Stephanie Epperson, Lila Epperson, Elsie Epperson, Jennifer Freda, Maddie Freda, Lillian Freda and Chris Jurgens.

Among those credited with providing lunch and snacks for the volunteers were: Enrico Heirman, Sherri Curry, Deborah Hall-Kayler, the John Verhey Family, Dr. Jack and Susan McGrail, Mike from Peasants Pantry, Pam Poindexter, Roxanne Skender, Vickie Rivkin and Michelle Kropp.

Chikaming Township Supervisor David Bunte thanked the volunteers and supporters of Cherry Beach for their “hard work and dedication to this project.”

“Our community seems to find a way to take a challenging situation and find a solution by joining together with financial, personal time and individual talent support. Without all of the above, we would be challenged to maintain, manage and grow Chikaming to the Township it has been, is and will be,” he added.

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