BRIDGMAN — Following a brief public hearing, the Bridgman City Council approved its five-year Parks and Recreation Plan during the Monday, Jan. 20, regular meeting. 

The plan incorporates input from a community-wide survey and several focus meetings, a detailed inventory of existing facilities and a five-year action plan. 

The only speaker during the public hearing was an 11-year neighbor of Toth Park. Among her concerns were noise levels, the possible placement of a splash pad, and possible problems that could arise from offering a gathering spot for teens.

Parks and Recreation Director Milo Root presented the plan which is available on the city’s website. He said survey results showed overwhelming support for the area’s recreational assets, with the most common request asking for improvement of the restrooms.

The city’s existing facilities include: the 42-acre Weko Beach complex, with a 900-foot wide Lake Michigan beach, beach house, boat launch and campground; the seven-acre Toth Park with play areas, restrooms and pavilion, and a fenced-in dog area; and the half-acre, largely undeveloped Legion Park.

Bridgman’s Parks Department operates with a budget of approximately $480,500 supported largely by the revenue generated from the park’s operations such as camping fees, park passes and concession sales. The majority of the departmental expenditures include the salaries and wages of the part time and full-time staff combined with maintenance expenditures, utilities and contractual services.

In addition to collaborating with other regional and local recreational programs, including Bridgman Area Schools, the city hopes to be part of Berrien County’s proposed walkable/bikeable trails system.  Another goal is continued improvement of wildlife preservation areas.

Listed in the five-year plan are Weko Beach improvements including repairs to the boardwalk, new welcome sign and upgrades to the restrooms and showers, parking and roadways and a new band stage.

Plans for Toth Park include replacing aged playscapes, improving restrooms and the pavilion, adding shaded areas and a possible splash pad. Legion Park improvements would be a new play structure and a gathering area for school-aged kids.

At the end of the presentation, Council Member Rick Fuller asked for a basic business plan including proposed seasonal and daily rates for the campgrounds. Root said now that the five-year plan had been approved he will be asking the council for direction on a new camping fee structure.

Mayor Vince Rose noted value of the five-year plan and the vision and direction for the for the future it presents. He said the plan is particularly notable since Root and Assistant Parks Director Sara Ball assumed their newly created positions only last August.

In other Jan. 20 business, the City Council learned that the 2019 audit was given a “clean” opinion, the highest possible according to Paul Matz, auditor from Rehman Robson. 

He told the council that the general fund, although showing a “relatively minor” decrease of $53,000, is still in good shape with a balance of $1.4 million, equal to 73 percent or about nine months of expenses.  

Matz noted that the change in fund balance for the year was within $312 of the budget, “a testament to the budgeting process and taking it very seriously.”  

City Manager Juan Ganum reported that the holiday lighting will be phased out through March, with the banners and garland being removed first, the snowflakes second and finally, the lighting to be replace with new banners created by Reed Middle School students.

During council discussion, Fuller reviewed plans for this summer’s Family Friday Fests. He said the committee is looking at moving the event to different locations around the city during the summer. He said the events are funded mostly by volunteers, with small contributions from city, businesses and sponsors.

From the audience, Bridgman Library Director Dennis Kreps reported there will be a lecture/book signing by Detroit-based author Edward Sarkis on his biography of singer/songwriter Bob Seger entitled “Turn the Page.” Also, there will be a blood drive on Friday, Feb. 14, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. in response to the Red Cross of Michigan report of a shortage of blood.

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