BY SCOTT SULLIVAN EDITOR
A proposed temporary construction road through Cook Park won a cool reception from Saugatuck City Council at its Feb. 9 workshop. Members at their regular meeting five days later OK’d a shorter access largely through Butler Restaurant Butler Street parking spaces through business-owned property.
The Grand Rapids-based RedWater Collection, which last summer bought The Butler south of downtown Cook Park, is building a 2-story, 312-seat open-air design building northwest of the existing restaurant for seasonal usage there.
Redwater, which owns nine other West Michigan restaurants plus golf courses such as The Ravines nearby, has not let Michigan’s winter stop it.
“As you may have noticed,” Pinnacle Construction Group project manager Aaron Byler told council Feb. 9, “we have been onsite at The Butler throughout the week working on some due diligence for the project.
“Through our test holes,” he continued, “we have discovered that the water table is higher than expected. Because of this, we will need to install a longer trench for dewatering, and unfortunately it cuts off our access to the site dramatically. Our problem with site access will get even worse when we begin installing the watermain.
“We have access,” Byler went on, “to a product called DuraBase that can be placed on top of the ground to create a temp road. These mats are8 feet long times 14 feet wide times 4‐1/4 inches thick.
“Each mat weighs approximately 990 pounds and can support compressive loads up to 600 pounds per square inch. This leaves the ground beneath the mats undisturbed,” Byler said.
Redwater hopes to open the new bar/restaurant there by May 15 in time for downtown’s busy summer season.
A key to that timetable, Byler said, is being able to install a water main, which he estimated to require 4 to 6 weeks, to serve the building.
“The proposed access would let us do it,” he said. Should the builder be allowed just access from Redwater’s private property lines, as it has been, its current dewatering trench there and unexpected water table findings would require completing building construction first, then installing the water main afterwards, separately.
That might push back opening from mid-May to mid or late June, Byler said.
Citizens Phil Rothermich and Janet Schmidt wrote the city expressing concern about heavy equipment traversing the proposed access road’s possible harm to the gnarled and iconic willow tree in the park.
“It would be a real shame,” Rothermich emailed Feb. 8, “for the Butler’s project to end up killing that tree, which is a large part of what makes that park a space special. It is the subject of many tourist pictures during the season.”
“Can you tell me how close the road/mat and fencing come to the willow tree? Will this mat in any way affect the tree?” asked Schmidt. “How long is it anticipated it will be up?
“I realize construction is construction but this certainly does not add to the beauty of the park,” Schmidt said.
“I’d be inclined to say no,” said city manager Ryan Heise told Byler at the workshop. “I’m concerned also about damage to the grass there.”
“I don’t like it,” said Mayor Garnet Lewis. “I’m concerned about soil- compression and the impact of heavy equipment.
“The city has no precedent for allowing a private road across city park land,” Lewis said.
Byler said he understood those concerns. Heise said he would work with Byler and the developer towards a best possible option to get the work done.
An accord had been reached by Monday night’s council meeting whereby ingress/egress would come via the restaurant’s Butler Street parking and remain its private land except for a small slice of Jones Park near there.
Byler and Heise agreed it was a solution all sides could live with. Whether the targeted opening date can be met remains to be seen.