02-01-2018 Berrien Co. puts in extra funding to secure future Paw Paw River County Park ; Watervlie

Berrien Co. puts in extra funding to secure future Paw Paw River County Park

By Annette Christie Berrien County Parks and Recreation Director Brian Bailey has presented an option for making the Paw Paw River County Park happen despite the overage on the bidding for the upcoming project. The bids for the future Paw Paw River County Park were opened before the Berrien County Board of Commissioners Finance Committee at their Thursday, January 18 meeting, coming in a bit higher than what was budgeted. The committee received six bids with quite a variation in the highest to the lowest. The highest bid was $886,994 vs. the lowest at $646,321, submitted by TJM Services of Allegan. The Finance Committee approved the referral of the bids to staff for review and approved the lowest bid if it meets all the specifications and requirements of the project.

DONATED COMMUNITY FUNDS helping to bring a County Park to Watervliet… Individuals with the North Berrien Community Development Organization presented a check in the amount of $25,000 to the Berrien County Board of Commissioners in January of 2017 to help show local support for the creation of the new Watervliet county park. In addition to the $25,000 donation, Berrien County was granted a $296,000 Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund Grant. Berrien County is developing Phase 1 along the Paw Paw River with a projected completion date in the summer of 2018. The park will include a parking area, a barrier free kayak launch, pedestrian bridge to the island in the Paw Paw River, hiking trails on the island, and wildlife viewing decks with fishing opportunities. Pictured (from the left): “Friends of Watervliet County Park” funds organizer Rick Rasmussen; Chana Kniebes, Community Development Coordinator for North Berrien Community Development; Jon Hinkelman, Chairman Board of Commissioners and District 2 Commissioner; Jim Polashak, Mayor of Coloma City and President of North Berrien Community Development; Mamie Yarbrough, County Commissioner appointed to the Parks & Recreation Commission; Bill Chickering, County Commissioner appointed to the Parks & Recreation Commission; Dave Vollrath County Commissioner District 1; and Brian Bailey, Parks Director.


Bailey told the Board of Commissioners at their January 25 Committee of the Whole meeting that the lowest bidder does in fact meet all the specifications and requirements according to M.C. Smith, their architect. Bailey showed some examples of their work including the Crystal Lake Boating Access Site in Benzie County, Lake Idlewind State Park in Lake County, and Waterfront Park in the City of East Grand Rapids. It is the recommendation of M.C. Smith that the bid be awarded to TJM Services. With the budget being $556,000, Bailey made some suggestions for how to cover the overage without changing the plan and eliminating some of the aspects of the future park; by using the parks endowment fund and the department’s fund balance. A resolution moving the project forward is expected to come before the Board of Commissioners in the next two weeks. The construction calendar is to begin in March and is expected to be completed by the summer of 2018. The funding for the project came about by Berrien County receiving a $296,000 grant from the State of Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund, $300,000 from Berrien County, and a generous $25,000 donation from the “Friends of Paw Paw River County Park.” Individuals with the North Berrien Community Development Organization ran a fundraising campaign led by Rick Rasmussen and presented a check in the amount of $25,000 in January 2017 to the Berrien County Board of Commissioners to be used for the creation of the new Paw Paw River County Park. Berrien County was awarded a grant award in December 2016 from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund as Berrien County started the process of establishing a county park in the northern part of the county, a first. The park development includes approximately 20 acres on the east side of M-140 with one mile of Paw Paw River frontage, directly across the river from Hays Park. The plans for the park include improvements to the river frontage, a pedestrian bridge connecting to the island, mature trees, birding, fishing, scenic walking trail on the island and other recreational opportunities. The park will connect Watervliet directly to the St. Joseph River and Lake Michigan on the designated Paw Paw River Water Trail. This location will be a trailhead for the water trail with an ADA kayak launch, hard surface walkways, a parking area, security lighting, trash and recycle bins and bench seating which will enhance recreational opportunities for the region. The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund receives its fund