05-25-2017 Tri-City parks seeking grant funds; making improvements for residents

Tri-City parks seeking grant funds; making improvements for residents

By Annette Christie

Coloma Township seeks to improve Washington Park

The Coloma Township Board is taking another shot at a Parks Grant to make improvements at Coloma Township’s Washington Park. The township is seeking a grant in the amount of $400,000 and if received, they will be prepared to add the 25% match of $100,000.

The plan that was submitted to the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund Grant shows the following improvements:

Upgrade baseball fields, bleachers, dugouts, and field work; add new asphalt parking areas with gravel bicycle and walking paths that will tie into the Paw Paw Lake Trail, two new pickleball courts, new restroom and covered pavilion facility, new playground equipment, a new basketball court, and picnic tables; spruce up the landscaping; and create an environment that is ADA accessible.

The ultimate plan is that the walking and bike trail will have an extension down Becht Road to an existing trail on Paw Paw Lake Road.

Last year the township scored 220, ultimately increasing it by another 80 with the three-week intervention period. That was still not enough to receive grant funds. Township officials hope to get their points up to about 400, and if so, they stand a good chance of winning the grant.

The township board submitted the grant on April 1. Once the state receives the grant application, they do come out, look at the proposed project and allow a three-week intervention time to add to the grant application, with the ultimate goal of boosting the application score.

The final determination on the grant would be expected in the fall of 2017 with the funds being awarded in the spring of 2018.

The township was able to acquire the property from the Coloma School District after Washington School was torn down.

Coloma Township looking for partnership with FOP #147 Park

The Coloma Township Board continues to work with the leadership of FOP #147 for the operation of their grounds which houses baseball and soccer fields. In March of this year, the board gave their go ahead for Supervisor Ken Parrigin to continue working with them as the board agreed that it is necessary to help to keep those recreational activities available to the youth in the township. The township and the FOP are working on a 10-year lease.

Coloma Township Trustee Matt Moser would like to see the establishment of a more formalized park board especially with the addition of Washington School and now the FOP. Given the additional cost the township will face with these parks additions, Moser suggested that they may be able to get it organized and ask for a millage down the road. Parrigin has said previously, “This is something for kids to do, I believe in parks. These are our kids and I think we need to do this.”

Berrien County bringing Paw Paw River County Park to Watervliet

Berrien County will be starting their next park property addition in the spring of 2018 with the Paw Paw River County Park in Watervliet. Berrien County received a Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund Grant in the amount of $296,000 to help make that happen.

This phase 1 park development includes approximately 20 acres on the east side of M-140 with one mile of Paw Paw River frontage. Natural features include river frontage, a pedestrian bridge connecting to an island, mature trees, birding, fishing, 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. The 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 plays a vital role in supporting natural resource protection, recreation opportunities, tourism and the economy for the people of Michigan and Berrien County. This development funding will allow us to transform property into a wonderful regional county park. We will be able to provide hiking trails, birding and wildlife viewing and wonderful fishing access in a truly beautiful and unique area of Berrien County,” said Dick Schinkel, Berrien County Parks Commission Chairman.

The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund receives its funding from royalties from the lease and sale of state owned mineral rights. No tax dollars are used for the grants that are funded. All grant recipients are required to provide 25% in local matching funds.

Construction will likely begin in the spring of 2018 with an anticipated completion in the fall of that year.

The total project of phase 1 is estimated at $600,000. The Berrien County Board of Commissioners in March of 2016 pledged up to the remaining $300,000 needed after an estimated contribution of $50,000 coming from friends and supporters of the park.

Berrien County has been very successful in receiving these types of grants, most recently for a renovation and improvements at Rocky Gap County Park, which sits on Lake Michigan. At Rocky Gap the county added barrier free access to the beach, restroom buildings, an overlook seating area, and a shade shelter with picnic tables on the lower level. On the upper level they were able to add a lake view overlook deck, picnic pods with tables, and a parking area.

Watervliet Township property acquisition will create recreational opportunities for residents

The Watervliet Township Board has been working on acquiring land as well for recreational opportunities for its residents. Approximately two years ago the township acquired two acres neighboring township hall. In October of 2016, township officials were in discussions with a seller for an additional real estate purchase next door to township hall.

While township officials have not finalized that purchase, they continue to work on creating more recreational opportunities for residents. They have had discussions of adding such opportunities as soccer fields in the township.

In the meantime, the township has been financially supportive to the City of Watervliet endeavors for recreational opportunities such as the recently re-opened skate park.

Hagar Township seeks riverside park grant

Hagar Township submitted a grant application to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Trust Fund for a riverside park that would include a kayak and/or canoe launch, picnic area, grills, tables, restrooms and paved surfaces. The proposed park establishment would be on seven acres that the township owns off Coloma Road.

The total project cost is estimated at $464,000.

Neighboring communities provided resolutions of support to Hagar Township’s park idea.

The park in Hagar Township would be a nice complement to extensive efforts being made to clean up Paw Paw River.

The Friends of Paw Paw River raised monetary donations to help support the funding of a private company that has come in to clean up the river last fall. The company worked on opening, clearing, and removing logs and debris from various areas in the river.

Additional funding came through the State of Michigan after former representatives Al Pscholka and Aric Nesbitt secured $100,000 for the river between Paw Paw and St. Joseph. The grant funds were made available to help clear debris in the Paw Paw River water trail and provide access sites for canoes and kayaks.

The grant, which was awarded through the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, provides funding to the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission and local communities.

The project is a big win for Southwest Michigan, opening up the Paw Paw River from Benton Harbor to Paw Paw. The 62-mile water trail begins in Waverly Township in Van Buren County and flows through Berrien County converging with the St. Joseph River just above its mouth at Benton Harbor. The Paw Paw River offers a scenic view to kayakers or canoeists through heavily wooded areas. Currently there are 22 access points where paddlers can get on the river, including the Maple Lake Dam, the Paw Paw River campground, and Watervliet’s Hays Park. Access points are also available in Benton Harbor-St. Joseph near the Harbor Shores development.

Hartford City seeks Ely Park grant improvements

Hartford City officials are seeking a grant to improve and add to Ely Park. The park, located on Red Arrow Highway right in downtown Hartford offers multiple war monuments, has benches, a covered picnic pavilion, and restrooms. It hosts a summer concert series which will begin June 8.

The city is seeking $136,157 to add fitness equipment, playground equipment and recreational opportunities for its residents.

City Manager Yemi Akinwale said that the grant has been accepted and in the next couple of weeks, the state is scheduled to do a site review. They will learn in the fall whether they were awarded the grant.

Watervliet City continues to improve recreational opportunities for residents