New river shelter discussed for Madeline Bertrand County Park

Published 6:30 pm Friday, March 24, 2023

ST. JOSEPH — A new river shelter could be coming to Madeline Bertrand County Park south of Niles. 

Berrien County Parks Director Jill Adams reported on the county’s grant application to build a new shelter at Thursday’s Berrien County Board of Commissioners meetings. 

Adams talked about the project at the board’s Committee of the Whole meeting earlier Thursday before the board voted to apply for a Michigan Department of Natural Resources Recreation Passport grant at their meeting later Thursday morning. That program is funded by the annual recreation passports people buy. 

Adams said the Recreation Passport grant program is similar to the DNR’s Trust Fund grant program but targets smaller park projects and requires a 25 percent local match. In this instance, the county is applying for a $150,000 grant and will match it with $50,000 from the parks budget. 

“The river shelter is 38 years old and in disrepair,” she said. “It needs to be demolished and replaced. We will also do work on the fencing along the bluff above the river as well as replace the sidewalk which is in disrepair and add landscaping.” 

She reported that the river shelter is one of three rental pavilions at the park and has been popular with park visitors for outdoor gatherings. She noted that it’s become even more popular since the pandemic with people wanting to be outdoors. Replacing it is also part of the county’s parks master plan. 

“It’s a hidden gem that’s a little off the beaten path,” she said. “It’s a rest area for day hikers and offers a great lookout point over the river. It’s great for family gatherings and serves as a warming center in the winter for cross country skiers.” 

Adams and County Administrator Brian Dissette said the county won’t know if the grant will be awarded until late fall with funding approved in early 2024. They noted that the state will do an initial review of the application this summer and allow the county to update it to increase the chances for acceptance at that point. 

As for what the new river shelter could look like, Adams said that she and other parks department staff have been looking at options to see what can be built there. She added that the hope is to salvage the outdoor fireplace that is there, although the rest of the current structure will be replaced. 

Relative to Madeline Bertrand, mention was also made of the recent property purchase that will expand the size of the park northward as well as the recent vandalism at the park. County Commissioner Jon Hinkelman told Adams he was sorry to hear about the loss of the park’s Madeline Bertrand statue. The Tuck Langland sculpture was stolen recently. 

In another park related move, the county board heard an update about the Lakeview Trail project where the county is applying for a Natural Resources Trust Fund grant. Community Development Director Dan Fette said the county is applying for a $300,000 trust fund grant to help fund the development of the trail. 

The new trail will run along M-63 near the Whirlpool Headquarters in the Twin Cities area. Additional funding will come from a $400,000 Whirlpool Foundation grant and a $1.6 million Michigan Transportation Asset Program grant which is also being applied for. Whirlpool and other entities have already pledged funds for trail maintenance. 

In other action Thursday, the county board approved the county’s participation in the state’s opioid lawsuit settlement. The state is receiving $800 million and Berrien County’s share is around $4 million. The funds will be paid out over 18 years with the proceeds primarily going for education, prevention and treatment. 

Also Thursday, the board approved the renewal of the county’s agreement with WMed for autopsy services, the Double Up Food Bucks program, the Berrien Bus agreement with the Avenue Family Network and applying for a state grant for the self-help legal resource center.