Chikaming Township’s effort to acquire a pristine Lake Michigan property adjacent to Cherry Beach is now entering its final and decisive phase.
More than 700 individuals and organizations have made new pledges, re-pledged after showing support in 2018, or have increased their 2018 pledges, all in an effort to enhance prospects for award of a large grant from the State of Michigan Department of Natural Resources Trust Fund (MNRTF). With the State’s September 30 deadline looming, supporters must raise another $105,000 in the next few weeks.
Over $1.54 million has been pledged so far in 2019; but $105,000 is still needed by Sept. 30.
The State grant would cover 60 percent of the purchase price of the Cherry Beach acquisition/expansion, and the current drive is Chikaming Township’s second attempt to qualify. Last year, the community raised $1.2 million (the minimum 25 percent match needed to qualify for the grant), but the State had considerably less money to award than in previous years. However, the MNRTF encouraged the Township to try again in 2019; the Township and Cherry Beach volunteers in turn decided to better their odds of winning by fundraising a larger match. Hence the race against time.
“This year, we’re attempting to raise more of a match so we can ask the State for less,” said Township Supervisor David Bunte. He added, “Because of the annual nature of grant cycles, all 2018 pledges have expired and everyone needs to re-pledge in 2019 to make it count. We are thrilled that some supporters have not only re-pledged but have increased their pledges from last year.”
A grassroots group of area residents and home owners called the Cherry Beach Committee has led fundraising efforts. The Committee has been energized this year by the continued support of two important Michigan organizations: The Carls Foundation — which in May re-issued a $250,000 challenge grant in partnership with the Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy — and The Upton Foundation, which awarded the Project a $50,000 challenge grant in June. Both challenge goals have now been met. Several other foundations have contributed a combined $44,000, including the Kenneth and Harle Montgomery Foundation and The Berrien Community Foundation.
If the grant is awarded, the Township intends to keep the parcel in its natural state in perpetuity. There are 7 miles of lakefront in Chikaming Township, and only 2 percent is public. Acquiring the adjacent land would nearly triple the Park’s beachfront from 253 feet to 657 feet. It would also protect 3 acres of hardwood trees that have not been harvested since just after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.
The Berrien Community Foundation (BCF), a charitable 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization, is acting as repository for pledges made through cherrybeachproject.com. BCF will to continue to accept pledges until the State grant status is known in December.
About the Cherry Beach Project: The Cherry Beach Project is a public-private initiative led by the Cherry Beach Committee in partnership with Chikaming Township. The project has garnered substantial support from the foundations mentioned above, plus The Southwest Michigan Planning Commission, The Conservation Fund, The Berrien Community Foundation and The Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy. Other valued supporters include The Deer Creek Open Space Association, Harbor Country Hikers and Chikaming Open Lands. A complete list of supporters and more information are available at cherrybeachproject.com.
— The Cherry Beach Committee