Marquette moves forward with scenic overlook and boardwalk projects


By Audrey Posten


At a special meeting Aug. 1, Project Manager Tim Cutsforth, an engineer with H.R. Green out of Cedar Rapids, presented the Marquette City Council and members of the dock commission with updated plans and schedules for the city’s scenic overlook and boardwalk project.


Cutsforth said the projects, which were largely funded through a $332,800 grant from the federal Scenic Byways program of the Mississippi Parkway Commission, and will together cost about $600,000, received the go-ahead from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the Iowa Department of Transportation (IDOT) on July 11.


Wetland, mussel and topographic surveys have also been completed and are or will be submitted to their respective agencies. A hydraulic model was secured from the Corps of Engineers for a “no rise” permit.


“Whatever we do in the river, we have to show we’re not affecting the river height,” Cutsforth explained. “That’s not a problem here.”


Cutsforth also presented meeting attendees with conceptual layouts of the bluff stairs, overlook and boardwalk, along with the information needed to analyze costs and materials.


After laying out the options, Cutsforth asked the council to determine the aesthetics for the project so that the preliminary design process can begin and plans submitted to the IDOT by the end of August.


With that invitation, council member Tracy Melver asked Cutsforth, “So, if we can dream it, you can build it?”


“Within reason,” Cutsforth replied with a smile.


The first topic of discussion was the bluff stairs, which would travel up the bluff to the overlook at the foot of Emma Big Bear Trail (the old bridge approach). The stairs will come from the south and tie into a four-foot-wide walkway that will wrap around the outside of the right side of the parking area and lead to the overlook itself.


The stairs will come pre-fabricated and include non-slick tread with holes. The railings will be metal.


Because of the bluff stairs’ importance to the Cobblestone Inn and Suites, Cutsforth said they will be completed first. 


The overlook will be a roughly 20-foot by 40-foot structure with a shelter and five-foot overlook deck with ornamental railing. Cutsforth said the shape can vary but that it will be cocked a little northwest, into the hillside, in order to best utilize the space and existing abutments and piers.


While the floor will have to be designed and constructed, the shelter itself will come pre-fabricated. The council agreed to go with a metal structure with columns that have stone  partway up them.


The railing garnered more debate, as council members considered not only the safest option, but one that would not obstruct the view of those sitting in the shelter. 


In the end, Cutsforth agreed to explore a cable option with rails that curved inward, thus preventing people from climbing on the railings, but would still allow for a good view.


The boardwalk will be 24 feet wide and 150 feet long. Although the length was extended an additional 25 feet from the original estimates in order to allow visitors to see around the river bend, Cutsforth said that will not be an issue for barges.


He worried that the length could become an issue with recreational traffic, but said that lights on each side of the outer pier, as well as the area’s no-wake zone, should help. 


The boardwalk deck will be  stamped concrete, while the railing will likely consist of a Marquette hybrid—solid metal vertical  fencing on the bottom and horizontal cable around the top.


Benches will likely be arranged back-to-back down the center of the boardwalk.


The structure will not be a fishing pier.


Final plans will be submitted to the city and IDOT in early November, followed by two to three weeks of bidding. The letting of the project, awarding of the contract and a public hearing will take place at the Nov. 19 city council meeting.


Construction is set to begin in December and finish in April.

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