New pedestrian bridge in the Upper Peninsula receives mixed reaction

Hani Barghouthi
The Detroit News

A pedestrian bridge installed at the Lower Tahquamenon Falls on Wednesday has spurred a debate over increasing accessibility or leaving the area's scenery and a beloved tradition untouched. 

The $1.28 million bridge will allow the public to cross to the Lower Falls Island when it opens in October, according to an announcement from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

It will include 350 feet of boardwalk connecting the mainland to the bridge and a half-mile, barrier-free pathway around the perimeter of the island, which will include additional boardwalk sections and benches in various locations.

The $1.28 million bridge will allow the public to cross to the Lower Falls Island. The upgrades include 350 feet of boardwalk connecting the mainland to the bridge and a half-mile, barrier-free pathway around the perimeter of the island, the DNR said.

The trek to the island has only been possible aboard a rowboat, which over the years became a popular tourist attraction. 

“This bridge will allow for easier park staff and emergency services access to help maintain and keep the island safe,” said Kevin Dennis, Tahquamenon Falls State Park manager.

Some social media users, unhappy with the new bridge, sounded off on the falls' Facebook page, expressing frustration that the new feature would ruin the landscape at the falls and questioned whether this meant the end of the rowboat service.

"Why do you have to ruin a beautiful park?" said Laura Payne Cochran of Lawton. "We shouldn't be impeding on the habitat that God created." 

Representatives for the park did not immediately respond to a call for comment, but the announcement did not indicate that boat service would stop.

A helicopter lifts a segment of the new pedestrian bridge at the Lower Tahquamenon Falls into place.

Many social media users, however, celebrated the improved accessibility the bridge will allow for disabled visitors and older folks. 

Brent Wilson of West Branch said he would finally be able to access the island in his wheelchair. 

"People do a good job at destroying nature in much worse ways," he said on  Facebook page. "This is a way for me to finally experience what others have." 

"If you want to save nature so bad, why don't people stop buying plastic bottles of water instead of complaining about a bridge in a state park as destroying the environment?"