HARBERT – The majority of the Chikaming Township Park Board’s time during their Oct. 28 meeting focused on the final stages of putting together a new Five-Year Plan that will replace the current one approved in February of 2015.

Present at the meeting was Tom Hackley, a former chairman of the Planning Commission who is acting as a consultant on the project, who said he would tweak the language of the document after reviewing some of the feedback he’d received from Park Board members.

One big carryover from the previous year was the Cherry Beach Project and the second attempt to secure a Michigan Department of Natural Resources Trust Fund Grant (made possible by a recently completed local fund-raising drive to secure matching funds) that would, if successful, provide the majority of funding that would be used to purchase property adjoining the township’s popular Cherry Beach in Harbert, greatly expanding the beach area open to the public.

One of the main items noted in the new Five-Year Plan was the need to form strategic partnerships with organizations and municipalities in the area such as Chikaming Open Lands, the Harbor Country Hikers, the Prairie Club/Camp Hazelhurst, the Rotary Club of Harbor Country, New Buffalo Township and Bridgman.

Some initiatives noted for the first year of the new Five-Year Plan in addition to the Cherry Beach Project included the potential hiring of a full-time Park Board staff person, and ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant accesses to the Townline Road Beach upper seating platform and at the Berrien Street lake access.

Collaboration would be sought with New Buffalo Township and the Berrien County Road Department to help make the project at the Townline Road Beach become a reality.

Treasurer Kathy Sellers said that she would like to see the exploration of the development of a remote parking area with possibility of a shuttle service, especially if the Cherry Beach Project is successful.

Parking spaces at Cherry Beach can be in short supply, especially during the summer months when that popular destination place becomes crowded.

An announcement on whether or not the application to obtain the grant from the state was successful is due to take place on Dec. 11.

There was also discussion about converting the baseball field at Harbert Community Park into a multi-use space where concerts could be held and outdoor movies screened.

“I think this new Five-Year Plan is much more achievable and realistic than the last one, and there’s an emphasis on making your properties more usable,” Hackley commented. “I think there’s a consensus that you have beautiful parks and preserves right now, and you want to make them even better.”

The beginning of the 30-day public review of the new Five-Year Plan is scheduled for Nov. 16, and a public hearing on the new document has been scheduled for Mon., Dec. 16 at 6:30 p.m.

In other business, chairperson Deborah-Hall-Kayler said that there was an opportunity to apply for a Coastal Management Grant, and member Arthur Anderson volunteered to research and explore that possibility.

Also on the agenda, it was announced that Phase I of the improvements project at Harbert Community Park that includes the construction of an ADA compliant walkway was nearing completion.

Currently no funding source for Phase II of that project has been secured, but secretary Jill Underhill said that she would secure some construction costs for that improvement work that would include the addition of a fishing/viewing platform at the pond there

Underhill had the lead role in the purchase and installation of a fountain in the pond there earlier this year.

Finally, the meeting was the first time a dedicated question and answer period for attendees was incorporated into the agenda and took place near the conclusion of the meeting.

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