GRAND BEACH – With a 98 percent confidence level of achieving its matching fund goal, the Grand Beach Village Council accepted a $2.5 million grant to purchase 42 acres for the Grand Beach Nature Preserve during a special meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 7.
The grant from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources is contingent on the village raising 25 percent of the grant, or $800,000, in matching funds. As of the Wednesday meeting, the village needed only about $123,000, good enough for Village President Debbie Lindley to say she was 98 percent sure the goal would be reached. She thanked the “generous, generous” residents and friends who had given and the Friends of Grand Beach Preserve for their fundraising efforts and auction benefit.
As of Monday, Aug. 12, the village needed $95,591 to reach the goal, according to Village Clerk Mary Robertson. The funds raised include $312,000 representing a donation of 10 percent of the property value based on an appraisal from Grand Beach Development, owner of the land, and a $58,000 grant from The Pokagon Fund. Robertson said an anonymous individual was matching donations up to a total of $61,500. Checks can be made payable to the Village of Grand Beach and are being accepted at the Village Clerk’s Office, 48200 Perkins Blvd.
During the meeting, Mario Ortega, a planning consultant with McKenna Associates, reviewed the many steps involved in the grant application and completion, beginning with the five-year plan and submission of the grant request in April 2018. He noted that Grand Beach was among about 150 other applicants, with only about 25 grants awarded.
He said the village applied for a conservation and passive recreation grant that will protect the unique flora and fauna species. The 42 acres, which one served as the back nine for the village’s golf course and includes the existing driving range, have been accessed by villagers for many years through an agreement with Grand Beach Land Development and is the only open area left that isn’t being broken up into lots for more building sites.
Ortega noted that Chikaming Open Lands, a local nature conservation organization which holds the adjoining 11-acre Grand Beach Marsh Preserve, has an agreement with the village to provide assistance with management of the property and to collaborate on future activities in the two properties such as trail development, restoration/invasive species control and educational programs. The property shares the same natural features as the COL preserve, including several acres of coastal plain marsh. The property also includes areas of mature oak woodland/savanna and several areas of native prairie.
Ortega said that once the village accepts the terms of the grant, it becomes a partner with the state in perpetuity for in the management of the land. The partners now have until May 2012 to complete all the steps involved in acquiring the property, including determining the boundaries, fair market value through appraisals, title searches and closing.
Although the grandt application envisions several potential improvements to the property – such as a fishing and viewing platform, paved paths and boardwalks – there are no current plans for such improvements. The only requirement is erecting two signs listing the hours open to the public and the contributions of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
During discussion, it was clarified that there are no plans to add additional parking and all existing traffic and parking ordinances will remain in effect. Residents also were assured that the driving range will remain open.
Also during discussion, Lindley clarified that there will be no special assessment for the acquisition of the 42 acres. However she did not rule out a general assessment for “other pressing needs.” She said the village has not raised taxes for many years and, at 6 mills, has one of the lowest millage rates in the area. She noted recent steps the council has taken to cut operating costs such as passing on the cost of garbage pick-up and consolidating the public safety department with Michiana.
“We have to look long term and see how we can raise the funds to keep Grand Beach the way we want it to be,” Lindley said.