Buchanan receives $33,500 grant to improve St. Joseph River public access

Published 11:43 am Monday, February 13, 2023

BUCHANAN — The City of Buchanan announced today it received a grant from the American Electric Power Foundation to help residents and visitors enjoy the city and access to the St. Joseph River. 

The $33,500 grant was approved by the AEP Foundation upon the recommendation of Indiana Michigan Power to help fund the Buchanan/St. Joseph River Public Access Strategic Plan.   

“We are so grateful for the continued support of the AEP Foundation to help the City of Buchanan leverage its precious natural resources. Buchanan is amidst an economic comeback,” said. Community Development Director Richard Murphy. “With this project, we are doubling down on our public access and enjoyment of our natural resources, the St. Joseph River and adjacent wilderness and public access areas.”

Engineers from Abonmarche Consultants will facilitate the strategic plan which will help Buchanan prioritize projects with cost estimates in order for the city to submit competitive grant applications to fund public access improvements. 

“Improved access roads, a boardwalk system, kayak and boat launches, fishing docks, parking, restrooms, as well ecological restoration efforts including native plantings and improved stormwater management are some of the ideas that have been discussed initially,” sais Buchanan Mayor Sean Denison. “This investment in quality of life and in our special relationship with nature will reap dividends for generations to come. Throughout its history, residents and visitors have experienced Buchanan though our water natural resources. We have built a culture around the water. A big part of the Buchanan comeback story is to get back to that era by building better connections to the water.” 

The City of Buchanan currently owns approximately 30 acres and more than 2,000 linear feet of shoreline as public access on the St. Joseph River called Buchanan Riverfront Park. The city will work to restore these ecosystems and create best practice public access. Other benefits will be the implementation of best practices for ecological restoration to increase the quality of our flora and fauna and fish species, as well as improvements to resolve erosion and shoreline issues, reduce runoff, and improve water quality.  

“The City of Buchanan’s initiative to revitalize its riverfront will allow residents and visitors to enjoy the natural beauty of the St. Joseph River and provide significant benefits for the community,” said I&M External Affairs Manager Mona Livingston. “I&M is thrilled the AEP Foundation supports the City’s efforts to enhance Buchanan Riverfront Park and strengthen the area’s ecosystem.” 

There is an opportunity to create a Mini-National Park type-experience on Buchanan’s riverfront which could serve as a model to other waterfront towns in the state and the region. The projects seeks to assemble and leverage acreage of land along Buchanan’s shoreline of the St. Joseph River for the purpose of public access, while employing best practices when it comes to banks erosion, a shoreline buffer, ecological restoration by planting native species, removal of invasive species, creation of rain garden and other nature base solutions. 

“The City of Buchanan seeks to create public access and recreational opportunities by creating gentle and efficient access with the construction of a boardwalk system connected to fishing areas, vista points interpretive and historical signage to educated residents and visitors about the flora, fauna indigenous an industrial history, as well as access to activities like fishing, birding, picnicking, and a handicap accessible kayak launch facility,” Murphy said. “We believe that Buchanan, just 15 minutes upstream from Lake Michigan, can become a model to many other inland Michigan river communities who will employ these best practices on a scale that will have a dramatically positive impact on their communities and Lake Michigan coastal communities down river.

“It won’t happen overnight, but this will be an essential tool for grant requests to get to the top of the stack at agencies such as the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, St. Lawrence-Great Lakes initiative, and other state and federal agencies,” Murphy continued. “And it also sends a strong message to the marketplace. Buchanan has a Vision! We are going to put Buchanan back on the river in a big way and we want to hear from Buchanan on ideas they have about what they want to see on our riverfront.” 

The project is expected to kick-off this month in Buchanan and will include a series of community engagement meetings.