03-28-2019 County Commissioners approve grant application for Paw Paw River County Park expansion i

GOING ONCE… GOING TWICE… SOLD! Says auctioneer Mike Woodward at the 17th Annual Hartford Public Schools Foundation for Quality Education Auction Dinner Gala Saturday, March 23. The sold-out event attracted hundreds of bidders vying for unique items ranging from a Walter Payton autograph, Rusty Wallace NASCAR Experience, a private chef’s dinner at Four Winds Casino’s renowned Copper Rock Steakhouse along with a huge selection of gift baskets, sports memorabilia and handmade crafts. Thanks to the generous support of donors, corporate underwriters, sponsors and bidders, the Foundation knocked it out of the park, raising well in excess of $44,000 on the evening, making it the premier fundraising event of its kind in Southwest Michigan!

County Commissioners approve grant application for Paw Paw River County Park expansion in Watervliet

By Annette Christie The Berrien County Board of Commissioners has approved a grant application which, if awarded, could make it possible to expand Paw Paw River County Park located in the City of Watervliet. They are hoping for a grant from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Trust Fund for $80,000. The remaining, approximately $30,000, is slated to come from either the Parks Endowment Fund or the department’s general fund budget. The Enders family had approached the county earlier about the approximate 63 acres that is owned, across the river from Paw Paw River County Park. The family understands that it could take some time to get the funding in order for a purchase of the property to be completed, which would hopefully come from a grant. This acquisition, which is a priority in the Berrien County Parks five-year plan, would protect the property from future development, add public access and land along the Paw Paw River Water Trial, and provide additional recreational uses such as hiking trails, biking trails, outdoor photography, and fishing. Paw Paw River County Park opened in October 2018 and quickly became a popular attraction to the northern part of the county. The park located on the east side of M-140 in the City of Watervliet, includes approximately 3.5 acres with one mile of Paw Paw River frontage, and is directly across the river from Hays Park. Work completed during the development includes improvements to the river frontage, a pedestrian bridge connecting to the island, mature trees, a scenic walking trail on the island and other recreational opportunities. The park connects Watervliet directly to the St. Joseph River and Lake Michigan on the designated Paw Paw River Water Trail. This location is a trailhead and includes an ADA kayak launch, hard surface walkways, a parking area, security lighting, trash and recycle bins and bench seating which enhances recreational opportunities for the region. Two viewing decks are located off of the island trail. Paw Paw River County Park is scheduled to re-open for the season Friday, March 29, 2019. The opening will be dependent on the weather. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources Trust Fund was established in the mid-seventies and is funded through the proceeds from oil and gas development on state owned lands. The fund was established by statute and has a board that reviews all the applications for those funds. Every year one third of the funds raised through those proceeds are used by state and local governments for the acquisition and/or development of recreational properties. No more than twenty-five percent can be used for development so the rest is for acquisition. Berrien County has been the recipient of these funds many times in order to acquire, build, and improve their parks & recreation offerings. The Berrien County Parks Department is now hosting open houses for the purposes of obtaining public input on the 2020-2024 Berrien County Parks Five Year Plan. Visit the Berrien County website (www.berriencounty.org) for more information on dates and locations.

THE BLACKBIRD WATERHOUSE crew were the guest speakers at the Paw Paw Lake Rotary Club on March 20, 2019. The Blackbird Waterhouse is a new restaurant in Coloma located at 4896 Paw Paw Lake Rd. They plan to make their food from scratch and buy from local markets. Their menus can vary depending on the food options that are in season. Much of their menu choices will be gluten free. They will bring “Escapism” to the customers by providing a variety of dining experiences; from dining in the bar, to the intimate, to the group meeting style. A soft opening is planned for April with a grand opening in May. For more information, visit www.theblackbirdwaterhouse.com. Paw Paw Lake Rotary meets Wednesday’s at 12:15 p.m. at Lakeland Hospital Watervliet. In the photo are (from the left): Lynzee Krohne, Marketing Event Director; January Immer, Owner; & Calie Biondo, Chef.