New bridge at Tahquamenon Falls named after parks and rec chief of 17 years

Bridge connecting to island at Lower Falls named Ronald A. Olson Island Bridge

Ronald A. Olson Island Bridge at Tahquamenon Falls State Park. Photo courtesy of the Michigan DNR. (Tahquamenon Falls State Park)

PARADISE TOWNSHIP, Mich. – The newly opened pedestrian bridge connecting visitors to an island at the Lower Falls at Tahquamenon Falls State Park has been dedicated to the state’s longtime chief of parks and recreation.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources announced Monday a new name for the 142-foot-long bridge that recently opened at the Upper Peninsula park: the Ronald A. Olson Island Bridge. Olson has been the chief of the DNR’s parks and recreation division for the last 17 years, officials said.

“When it comes to possibilities in parks and recreation, nobody is better at building bridges and getting people to the table than Ron Olson,” said DNR Director Dan Eichinger. “Ron lives and breathes Michigan state parks, trails and waterways, and he will talk -- and listen -- to anyone, anywhere about ways to protect and improve these treasured resources so that every resident and visitor can enjoy them and be inspired to love them as much as he does.”

The somewhat controversial pedestrian bridge, which opened on Memorial Day weekend after beginning construction last September, was built to help visitors access an island at the Lower Falls. The island was previously only accessible by taking a row boat, which was not always feasible for people with disabilities.

Those against the bridge said they were worried it would detract from the row boat experience, lessen the scenic views of the island and become a threat to the surrounding landscape. But many expressed support for its construction and improved access to the island.

“The bridge itself is an apt symbol for Olson, who has built a career around bringing people together and encouraging them to aim for destinations they can’t yet see,” a DNR press release reads.

The Ronald A. Olson Island Bridge is open to the public at Tahquamenon Falls State Park in Paradise Township.

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Cassidy Johncox is a senior digital news editor covering stories across the spectrum, with a special focus on politics and community issues.