04-19-2018 River group ask Watervliet Township to consider regional benefits of river; Speed limits

River group ask Watervliet Township to consider regional benefits of river

By Annette Christie

Kevin Haight with the Two Rivers Coalition presented an update at the Watervliet Township Board meeting on April 16 about the efforts to clear and maintain the Paw Paw River. Haight was presenting on behalf of the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission, the fiduciary for a $100,000 grant that was provided by the State of Michigan for the purposes of clearing the Paw Paw River so that it could be used as was intended by canoes and kayakers.

55 mph on a side road? Roads such as Huntoon and Forest Beach have had their 25 mph speed limit signs removed leaving the unposted speed limit at 55 mph. (TCR photo by Lacey Krohn)

Haight said the Paw Paw River Water Trail is a 68-mile canoe/kayak trail from Paw Paw to Benton Harbor. It has 10 public access points in that 68-mile length. Haight said that their organization is one of the stakeholders in the Paw Paw River Clean-up project and they are a volunteer group.

He said that in 2018, the clean-up effort was focused on eight beginner levels of the river water trail. Of the $100,000 that was provided by the State of Michigan, approximately $46,000 was spent on five contractors, 36 work days on the river, 55 miles of water trail worked on at least once, and 21 miles done a second time. Of that, Haight said that $11,450 was spent on the 12.5 miles of the Paw Paw River that surrounds the Watervliet and Coloma area.

When spring weather arrives, the river will be checked out to determine the areas that have to be worked on this year. The stakeholders will meet to discuss the direction they should go in.

Haight said one of the major concerns about this is to figure out how to obtain the funding in the future. “We have created a great resource in this water trail but we have to keep it maintained,” Haight said. He stated that the regional water trail, the whole length of the river from Paw Paw to Benton Harbor, has more value that just focusing on the 12.5-mile section between Coloma and Watervliet, the focus of the Friends of the Paw Paw River. Rick Rasmussen with the Friends of the Paw Paw River has already been to the local municipalities asking for some financial backing for the clean-up for that section going forward. Prior to the $100,000 grant, Friends of the Paw Paw River did their own fundraising and with the support of businesses and residents, began river clean-up efforts well before the other funding became available.

A meeting of the stakeholders will be on Wednesday of this week to discuss the remainder of the $100,000 grant and how to use it. It must be used by September.

Airport equipment

Township Supervisor Dan Hutchins brought up the airport equipment being used to maintain the grounds and facilities and expressed the need to replace the aged equipment.  He explained that the tractor and mower had been purchased a long time ago and they have been piecing them together bit by bit but it is getting more costly to do so.  “We are just wasting money putting it into 30-40 year old equipment,” Hutchins said.

The equipment that Hutchins cost out is between $50,000 and $70,000.  He explained that the township has not had to put any money into the airport in many years, it has been self-sufficient, but cannot expend that kind of money.

Some members of the board questioned why the township was being forced to foot the whole bill while the city is also a partner in the airport.  Treasurer Tom Scheid said he would like someone from the township to at least ask the city about participating in this large expense.

Trustee Bob Wallace said he would like additional information and the township to look at other options.

The subject will be placed on next month’s agenda where Hutchins expects that they can make a determination.