5 18 Cherry Beach Road

A springtime view of Cherry Beach Road from the beach oarking lot.

HARBERT — The Chikaming Township Board began exploring the possible ways Cherry Beach Road could be resurfaced or otherwise improved during its May 11 regular meeting.

Township Supervisor David Bunte said the potential of having the road go from gravel to chip and seal has been discussed for a number of years based on complaints received regarding dust, traffic and safety issues.

He said the township’s Road Advisory Committee recommended that Cherry Beach Road be included in this year’s road budget, adding that paving the road with asphalt would entail extensive widening and the removal of a lot of foliage.

Berrien County Road Department Engineer Kevin Stack said the current surface on Cherry Beach Road is “sandy gravel” and credited its good drainage to the fact that most of it is on top of a sand dune.

He said the Road Department is working on improving connectivity along the ongoing Red Arrow Highway project, including connecting side streets such as Cherry Beach Road to the new non-motorized path with connects Harbert Community Park to Lakeshore Drive.

While taking a road from gravel to asphalt pavement (the most expensive option) improves safety while taking dust and pothole issues away, in the case of Cherry Beach Road Stack said it also requires the roadway to be widened so two cars can pass by each other side-by-side along with a clear zone of at least seven feet along the side of the road.

And then there are issues involving the “tree canopy” along the route.

“Asphalt may sound good, but I’m pretty sure you’re not going to want to remove three dozen trees,” he said.

Another option mentioned by Stack included the “prime and double seal” which involves applying dust stop, then a thicker layer of oil, a half inch of stone, another layer of oil and a quarter-inch of stone (lower areas would require more stone to make a consistent grade).

He said that option’s reduced clear zone would reduce the number of trees to be removed significantly (to about a dozen). He added that those 12 trees are “the biggest ones out there,” but later noted “We could probably work around some of the trees.”

The road also could be improved by adding more gravel (about three-quarters of an inch with a sandy mixture) to hold cars and large trucks “a lot better” that the current surface while eliminating potholes and allowing the Road Department to grade it more effectively.

He also discussed chloride treatment which can help reduce dust but is temporary (with the duration depending on road surface conditions).

Stack said the Road Department’s number-one priority is safety, noting that the biggest concern in the case of Cherry Beach Road appears to be dirt being tracked out on the non-motorized path and Red Arrow Highway. There’s also some areas along the road with “high shoulders” where the road is below adjacent lawns causing drainage issues.

No decisions were made during the May 11 meeting, and Stack said the project (currently budgeted for up to $90,000) is not time sensitive.

“Please don’t think that we’re here to make a decision and say “This is what we’re doing, too bad,’” Stack said. “That not what we’re doing. We’re trying to find that happy medium, what’s going to best suit us, what’s going to suit the township, and what’s going to suit the people?”

Board member Rich Sullivan said he feels it’s important to have a public meeting on Cherry Beach Road before decisions on a project there.

Bunte said once all of the information is in such a meeting would help lead to an educated decision.

The subject of Cherry Beach Road came up several times during public comment on May 11.

“Please don’t pave paradise,” said Janet Schrader, adding that “there’s something magical” about the roadway that runs from Red Arrow Highway to Cherry Beach.

Schrader said she’s concerned that the gravel road (which presents more like a dirt road for those who walk it barefoot).

“It’s absolutely beautiful the way it is,” she said, noting that the road’s potholes can be seen as speed bumps.

“If you widen it, there’s huge oak trees.”

Kevin Montgomery (who said he was speaking on behalf of his father) spoke against widening Cherry Beach Road.

“We like it the way it is and we don’t understand how it would benefit the residents in any way. There are currently speeding issues event with the ‘speed bumps’ … and if you widen that road people are going to feel more comfortable to race down to the beach.”

He also said they oppose cutting down trees that have been there for more than 100 years.

Dave Hughes raised concerns about how the roadway would stand up to snowplows in the winter.

Recently hired Parks Director Joe Martin gave a report on the township’s parks during the meeting that included the following:

A May 20 clean-up of the Township’s road-end beaches is set to being at Townline Beach at 10 a.m. “Every hour on the hour we’re going to hit all seven beaches,” he said. “We’re providing pails and gloves, and it’s going to be a fun day.”

Port-a-johns have been installed at Cherry Beach while permanent pit-toilets at Harbert Community Park and at Chikaming Park and Preserve have been cleaned out for spring. Lawn care also is underway at all parks and beaches.

The department’s Facebook page (on the Parks section of the township page) was scheduled to launch May 11 with photos, videos, community bulletin reports and more.

The volleyball courts at Harbert Community Park and are set up and ready for use (he said the fountain in the pond at that park also is operating).

He said a screening by the Coastline Children’s Film Festival at Harbert Community Park is scheduled for July 19 and the first concert in the park is being planned for late July.

Driveway grading at Harbert Community Park and at Chikaming Park and Preserve have been completed.

Trash and recycling contract agreements have been reached with Lakeshore for the parks and Reliable for the beaches.

A successful Mountain Bike Trail volunteer clean-up recently took place at Chikaming Park and Preserve.

Also on May 11, the Township Board agreed to re-apply for a State DNR Spark Grant for proposed additions and improvements to Harbert Community Park in the amount of $980,000 with a 10-percent local match.

Bunte said the initial application from last December scored 77 out of 100 thanks to categories such as connectivity, usefulness and ADA facilities (putting the township “on the boundary of potentially securing this grant” in the second round, and the new submission will include some modifications.

He said the project includes expanding walkways, putting in new restrooms, and adding pickleball facilities next to the dog park to the township’s most utilized community park.

The deadline to resubmit is June 26.

In December the Township Board agreed to apply for the following State Spark Grants: $976,375 for Harbert Community Park; $670,000 for the “Sawyer Square” park; and $422,600 for Lakeside Veteran’s Park (each with a 10 percent match from the township if awarded).

During public comment, Karen Doughty said she is worried about the number of cement trucks “that are barreling down Townline Road” and asked if there was a way such vehicles could be redirected to Exit 4. It was later suggested that she check with the Berrien County Weighmaster on the issue.

Janis Kanter commented on a New Buffalo-to-Bridgman transmission line project she said will involve rebuilding 21 miles of power lines with 85-foot tall steel structures replacing the traditional wood poles (which are approximately 30 feet shorter) and right-of-ways increasing from 30 to 60 feet “and tree material underneath will be removed.”

Kanter said information on the project is available on AEP’s website and noted that citizens can lodge complaints on the Michigan Public Service Commission website.

In another May 11 matter a committee was approved to help plan the future of a honor board bearing the names of local veterans located on Lakeside Park. During his report on the parks, Martin said the area around the Honor Board will be cleaned up before Memorial Day.

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