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Grand Valley's 'open-air cover' on campus bridge addresses student concerns

Often referred to as the “heart of campus,” the Little Mac Bridge has existed nearly as long as the school itself — more than 60 years.
GVSU'S Little Mac Bridge's New Enclosure
GVSU Bridge New Enclosure
Posted at 6:13 AM, Jan 30, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-30 06:24:30-05

ALLENDALE, Mich. — If you’ve ever been to Grand Valley’s Allendale campus, chances are you crossed over the “Little Mac Bridge.”

Often referred to as the “heart of campus,” the Little Mac Bridge has existed nearly as long as the school itself — more than 60 years.

Little Mac Bridge Before Enclosure
The Little Mac Bridge before the enclosure.

Now, that “heart” of Grand Valley’s campus boasts a brand-new look addressing yearslong student concerns.

“If you didn’t take the bridge, you would have to go around and it’s probably an extra 10 to 15 minutes to get there,” Grand Valley freshman Giselle Torres explains.

The bridge connecting students from one end of the campus to the other, unfortunately, has a sad past.

According to data compiled from past news coverage and Grand Valley’s Student Senate in 2022, between 1977 and 2021, four people used the bridge to end their own lives. The most recent loss prompted reactions and changes that the students couldn’t contain to themselves.

22-03 GV Senate Legislation by WXMI on Scribd

“There was a lot of different, like, flowers and other memorial-type decorations on the bridge after things happened,” GVSU Student Senate President Quinten Proctor explains. "And there was a lot of push for change."

That change took the shape of a petition asking the school to install some type of netting under the bridge. Nearly 35,000 signatures later, the Student Senate set its eyes to bringing that change.

Grand Valley State Bridge Petition

“Not long after I joined Student Senate, we took action and wrote legislation that was urging the university administration to look into that same barrier or netting,” explains Proctor.

With legislation filed and a viral petition making rounds, university officials started to look at what could be done to the Little Mac Bridge.

“There were some community concerns,” said Student Affairs President Jenny Hall-Jones. “And coupled with the fact that the bridge is 60 years old, it needed an update anyway,” Hall-Jones added.

Ultimately, in the summer of 2023, construction began on what is referred to as an “open-air cover” on the bridge. Adorned with lights, the cover acts as a higher barrier than the original railings, while also keeping that iconic blue to Grand Valley.

GVSU's Little Mac Bridge Open-Air Cover

While the cover adds peace of mind to many students, both Hall-Jones and Proctor agree this change is part of a bigger conversation: one about mental health.

“There's a lot of struggles, and everybody goes through their own things. And it's part of being a teenager and part of growing up. But it's something that the university should take into account,” said Proctor.

No matter the situation, help is always available.

“The most important steps in kind of mental health and any kind of prevention, suicide prevention, is getting the word out,” Hall-Jones explains.

If you or someone you know is struggling, call or text 988 to talk with a trained crisis counselor for free confidential support. Help is always there.

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