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10-04-2018 Paw Paw River County Park is open; Grand Opening Thursday; Watervliet resident donates $3

Paw Paw River County Park is open; Grand Opening Thursday

By Annette Christie

The long-awaited Paw Paw River County Park is ready for visitors.  The park located on the east side of M-140 in the City of Watervliet will host a Grand Opening on Thursday, October 4 from 4 – 5 p.m.  Not needing a ceremonial opening, the park has been attracting visitors since the barricades came down for the first county park in the northern part of Berrien County.

Despite the cloudy afternoon on Sunday many visitors were checking out the park development which 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 construction 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 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 enhances recreational opportunities for the region.  Two viewing decks are located off of the island trail.

ADA KAYAK LAUNCH… The Paw Paw River County Park is now another access point for kayaks and canoes wanting on the river. A state of the art launch makes access a breeze. In the distance is the bridge which connects to the island where visitors will find a walking trail and two overlooks.

Berrien County Commissioner Dave Vollrath who represents a portion of Watervliet Township, Coloma, and Hagar Township stated, “We are very excited.  The connection to the Paw Paw River Water Trail will be good for businesses and overall good for the area, especially once the Hagar Park is completed as well.”

The estimated cost, $646,321, has multiple sources for the funding.  A generous $25,000 donation from the “Friends of Paw Paw River County Park” was given to exhibit the community’s support of the project. Community cheerleader Rick Rasmussen spearheaded the fund raising.  He also has been very instrumental in the clearing and improving of the Paw Paw River between Watervliet and Coloma.

Rasmussen worked with the North Berrien Community Development Organization to become the keeper of the donations which started in the summer of 2015 for the new county park.  “Over ninety-five individuals, businesses and organizations/clubs made this happen,” Rasmussen said.

Though the first attempt at a grant from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund was denied, the second attempt was successful with Berrien County receiving a grant in the amount of $296,000.  Berrien County will be funding the balance of the project through their endowment fund and general fund budgets.

PARK VISITORS… A couple enjoys one of the two lookouts over the Paw Paw River on Sunday afternoon. Just below on the bank of the river, a fisherman was hoping for his great catch of the day. There are two lookouts located on the island.

Berrien County Commissioner Jon Hinkelman who represents Watervliet City and a portion of Watervliet Township said, “I believe the park will be tremendously utilized and the Parks Department will look at making enhancements as necessary to build on an already good thing.” Future enhancements, dependent upon use and funding, could include a restroom facility, bait and tackle concession, a fish cleaning station, a water spray pad, and a playground.

The park project coming to Watervliet nicely compliments the local and state initiative to clean debris out of the Paw Paw River Water Trail.  A state of the art kayak and canoe launch at the Paw Paw River County Park makes it easy to launch watercraft from this location. The 68-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 natural areas. Currently there are 22 access points where paddlers can get on the river, including the Paw Paw River campground, and Watervliet’s Hays Park.

Paw Paw River County Park joins an expanding list of park options for visitors and residents alike in Berrien County:

Silver Beach County Park is located in St. Joseph at the mouth of the St. Joseph River and on the beach of Lake Michigan.  In addition, the park provides public access to the South Pier.  During the summer months, 1,600 feet of dedicated public swimming area is available.  The beach has a bathroom facility, concession stand, playground areas, grills and picnic areas, barrier free walkways, outdoor showers, volleyball courts, and two pavilions available for rent.

Love Creek County Park sits on 200 acres of rolling natural space outside of Berrien Springs.  There are six miles of hiking trails, cross-country skiing in the winter, mountain bike trails, and access to a variety of habitats and an amazing display of spring wildflowers.  The Trillium Room provides a perfect space for events, meetings, and gatherings.

Madeline Bertrand County Park is located just south of Niles along the St. Joseph River.  The park includes trails for hiking and biking as well as cross-country skiing in the winter.  The park also includes an 18-hole disc golf course, covered shelters, indoor lodge, picnic areas, and playgrounds.

Rocky Gap County Park overlooks Lake Michigan from the bluff in Benton Charter Township and also includes 1,100 feet of Lake Michigan shoreline.  The lower park provides sandy beaches and the ideal swim location while the upper park provides a wonderful view from the overlook.  The lower park includes a parking lot, vault restrooms, picnic shade shelter, picnic tables, benches, and a hard surface beach access ramp.  The upper park includes a parking lot, two picnic pods, and overlook deck and benches.  The overlook deck can be rented out for events or gatherings.

ENTRANCE SIGN… Paw Paw River County Park sign welcomes visitors to this new recreational opportunity in the City of Watervliet. The park grand opening is scheduled for Thursday, October 4 from 4:00 – 5:00 p.m. (TCR photos by Annette Christie)

Galien River County Park can be found in New Buffalo Township on 86 acres by the Galien River.  Highlights include the 300-foot Canopy Walkway that leads to a 60-foot high marsh overlook tower. In addition, there is a 600-foot long marsh boardwalk that leads to river viewing and platforms

Watervliet resident donates $30,000 to PARCOURSE

 Watervliet resident, Jim Camfferman, recently donated $30,000 in support of the Lakeland Hospital Watervliet PARCOURSE – an outdoor walking/running track available to the community. Jim donated the funds in honor of his late wife, Diane Camfferman, who passed away in July 2016. Diane worked at Lakeland Hospital Watervliet for 43 years in both the laboratory and as President of the Community Hospital Foundation Auxiliary.

Jim and Diane met at the hospital in 1965 while he was working as an orderly.   “[Diane] deserves it,” said Jim. “In a way I feel like I owe it to the hospital. Over the years, there were times when that paycheck kept us afloat.”

“We are filled with gratitude for this significant gift from Mr. Camfferman which takes us one step closer to our goal of providing a renovated PARCOURSE for the community, while also honoring Diane, a longtime Lakeland team member,” said Brandi Smith-Gordon, Vice President of Philanthropy and President of Lakeland Health Foundations.

Currently, the PARCOURSE is a 1.1 mile walking/running track with a gravel base. The track is free of charge and open to the public seven days a week, from dawn to dusk. It is primarily used by physical therapists and rehabilitation patients, local sports teams, physical education classes, residents from nearby apartment complexes, and community members.

The newly redesigned course will feature two quarter-mile asphalt loops that can accommodate individuals with disabilities who may need to use wheelchairs or walkers. Plans for each loop include four exercise stations or pods. Each station will include different types of professional grade exercise equipment that offer varying degrees of difficulty for all fitness levels. These stations can range from stationary equipment, such as a pull-up bar, to equipment with moveable parts like a stationary bicycle.

To date, a total of $251,162 has been raised in support of the $365,000 project which is slated for completion in 2020. For continued updates on the project, or to learn more about providing support, contact the Lakeland Health Foundations at (269) 927-5143 or visit

Lakeland Health joins Spectrum Health, hospital boards signed agreement Monday

Lakeland Health now known as Spectrum Health Lakeland; will keep own hospital board

The boards of directors of Spectrum Health and Lakeland Health have each approved resolutions to integrate Lakeland Health into Spectrum Health. Lakeland Health became a division of Spectrum Health, effective October 1, 2018. Lakeland Health will continue to be governed by a local board of directors that will oversee operations and ensure capital investment and philanthropic efforts on a local level. The new entity will be known as Spectrum Health Lakeland. The two health systems announced their intention to affiliate on July 11, 2018. After months of due diligence, both Spectrum Health and Lakeland Health are committed to an agreement allowing the organizations to collaborate on high quality care to improve the health of the communities they serve. A press conference and signing ceremony took place at Lakeland Medical Center, 1234 W. Napier Ave. in St Joseph on Monday, Oct. 1, 2018. “Lakeland Health is an exceptional organization and we are thrilled they are part of Spectrum Health,” said Tina Freese Decker, Spectrum Health President & CEO. “Lakeland’s focus on serving the community, embedding high quality care practices and emphasizing the importance of including and engaging patients in their care aligns well with Spectrum Health’s culture. I am inspired by the enormous possibilities that lie ahead for the team members and physicians at Lakeland as well as throughout our entire health system. I am also pleased to have Loren serving as chief clinical transformation officer, overseeing such important areas as care management, clinical informatics and programs for the underserved. ” “Health care is constantly changing, and even as we embrace those changes, what hasn’t changed is our commitment to take great care of our friends and neighbors,” said Loren B. Hamel, MD, President & CEO, Lakeland Health. “Being part of the Spectrum Health family is an exciting new chapter for us and will only enhance our efforts to fulfill that commitment.” Spectrum Health and Lakeland Health will continue to build on the pediatric and specialty care connections already established and expand the opportunities to share best practices across the entire Spectrum Health system. Another benefit of this partnership will be Spectrum Health MedNow, a telehealth service that allows anyone in the State of Michigan quick and convenient access to low-acuity primary care on their mobile device. Lakeland Health is a comprehensive health system serving southwestern Michigan with more than 4,000 employees, 450 providers and hospitals in St. Joseph, Watervliet and Niles. Spectrum Health is the largest employer in West Michigan with 26,000 employees. Spectrum Health offers a full continuum of care through the 12 hospitals of the Spectrum Health Hospital Group, 180 ambulatory and service sites, 3,600 physicians and advanced practice providers, and Priority Health, a health plan that served one million members in fiscal year 2018. “Over the past decade, our Board has been deliberate about looking at where health care is going and what it will take to succeed,” said Dan Hopp, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Lakeland Health. “Our many years of collaboration with Spectrum Health have set the stage for a great partnership – this integration will be an extension of that long relationship and allow us to take even better care of our community.” “From our perspective, any potential affiliation must be a good cultural, strategic, geographic and financial fit, with health services that complement one another,” said Dick DeVos, Chairman, Spectrum Health System Board of Directors. “Prior to the July announcement, Spectrum Health’s Board of Directors had spent a full year focused on its growth and partnership strategy in the context of current and anticipated trends. In today’s dynamic and ever-changing health care landscape, it is fulfilling when two organizations have a shared vision that will improve them both as well as the health outcomes of the communities they serve.”

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