Silver Beach County park receives $850,000 Spark grant for new playground equipment

Published 2:44 pm Friday, February 10, 2023

ST. JOSEPH — Thursday’s Berrien County Board of Commissioners meeting began with good news about a state grant for the Silver Beach County Park.  

Berrien County Parks Director Jill Adams told commissioners that the state had just announced that Silver Beach County Park will be getting an $850,000 Spark grant for new playground equipment. The state has set aside Covid-related American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to pay for outdoor recreation projects. 

Adams reminded commissioners that they had applied for two Spark grants in December, one for Silver Beach and one to aid in the construction and development of the Lakeview Trail project along Lake Michigan. “The state received 480 applications and 21 were chosen for funding and we had one chosen,” she said. 

She noted that the current playground equipment at Silver Beach is 30 years and past its life span. 

“It’s held up fantastically and we’ve continued to put funding into it every year,” she said. “Now we can put together ideas of what we want to see along with the overall park plan.” 

Adams said the new playground equipment will feature safety and hard surface accessibility, ramping and shade elements. 

“We will use new features not available 30 years ago,” she said. 

“728,000 people came to the park in 2021 and many were children who enjoy the playground area,” she added. “We’re excited to replace the equipment and get equipment with new features … We’re excited to jump into this project.” 

She noted that the overall price for the project is believed to be around $1 million and that the rest of the costs will be matched by the county.  

Getting new playground equipment is the first project from the Silver Beach master plan to be addressed. Other projects listed in the master plan include making improvements to the concession stand and the main entrance areas. A new plaza space would be installed at the main entrance and more lanes to reduce traffic congestion for those coming into the park. 

The Spark grants announced Thursday totaled $14,178,900 and also included grants for the city of Benton Harbor to restore Hall Park and the village of Cassopolis to make Stone Lake waterfront improvements. Benton Harbor will get $958,000 and Cassopolis will get $1 million. 

The Michigan Spark Grant program is administered by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and offers the DNR a chance to reach people in communities whose economic opportunities and public health were most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“This reimagined approach activates historic support for projects that provide safe, accessible public recreation facilities and spaces to improve people’s health, introduce new recreation experiences, build on existing park infrastructure and make it easier for people to enjoy the outdoors,” a state press release reported. 

Thursday’s meeting also featured committee reports and the approval of a short consent calendar. The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department is applying for a marine safety division operations grant from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment. If successful, the state will pay $200,352 and the county $66,784. 

In committee reports, Commissioner Mamie Yarbrough reported that County Treasurer Shelley Weich is working with people to avoid foreclosure. She will be meeting with people at the Niles District Library Feb 18 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. to help them enter into a payment plan and better understand what they owe. 

Commissioner Teri Freehling again reminded people about a “listening tour” stop next week at the Mendel Center at Lake Michigan College. State officials are touring the state to hear people’s stories about their lack of broadband access. That meeting will be from 2-4 p.m.  

The county is continuing to look for ways to fund broadband projects and still has $4.5 million in set aside ARPA funds to do just that. Freehling said the county will continue to work with area townships and others to find ways to expand broadband and find additional funding.