Buchanan moves forward with park improvement projects

Published 4:38 pm Tuesday, March 26, 2024

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BUCHANAN — Buchanan City Commissioners gave the go ahead Monday for the city to apply for state grants to fund improvements to the city’s Riverfront Park and Victory Park on the north side of the city.

Buchanan will be applying for a Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grant to pay for more improvements at Riverfront Park as well as a Michigan Recreational Passport grant to pay for playground equipment at Victory Park. The deadline to apply for both grants is April 1.

With the trust fund grant, the city is asking for a $244,200 grant from the state and matching it with $85,800 in local funds. The proposed project includes improvements to the boat launch at the park, a portion of the paved parking area, the bioswale for runoff pre-treatment, the extension of concrete sidewalks and replacement of the launch ramp surface.

The Victory Park grant application is a repeat of an unsuccessful grant application from last year with a few revisions. The city is asking for a $140,365 grant from the state and will match it with $49,318 in local funds. The proposed project includes new ADA accessible playground equipment to complement the improvements already made to the park.

Community Development Director Richard Murphy said both grants are in keeping with “A Vision for Buchanan” plan developed a few years ago. That plan had three goals: improvements to the downtown, improvements to the Northside neighborhood and reconnecting the city to the St. Joseph River.

Murphy said a riverfront master plan has been completed and will be presented soon to the Buchanan Planning Commission. The plan included the results of a public survey where 80 percent or more of respondents said they felt it was important for the city to have a better connection with the river.

The city has already received one Natural Resources Trust Fund grant for Riverfront Park, getting approval late last year for an ADA-Accessible kayak launch at the park. The city will be getting $229,400 with that grant and matching it with $80,600 in local funds.

City Manager Tim Lynch said the city will continue to pursue more grants to fund access road and parking lot improvements in the park which are in disrepair. He said he personally had not had any conversations with state officials about the condition of the access road and parking lot but acknowledged they will need to be addressed at some point.

The grant applications received mainly positive comments from residents although one resident expressed concern that Riverfront Park improvements will result in more trash going into the river. Michael Rowland of the Michigan Gateway Community Foundation said the Riverfront Park grant will help strengthen the city’s connection to the river.

City Commissioners approved both grant applications although Commission Dan Vigansky expressed concern about where the local match funds will come from. He asked that Murphy be tasked with raising most of the local match from non-government funds but did not get support from the rest of the commission.

Vigansky also expressed concern that the city would not be able to live up to its commitment to Riverfront Park. “The city of Buchanan doesn’t do a good job in keeping its word,” he said in reference to the city’s lack of maintenance of the parking lot, access road and other amenities in connection with past grants the city has gotten for the park.

Monday’s meeting also featured a re-election announcement from Berrien County Commissioner McKinley Elliott and a resolution in support of a redevelopment liquor license for the Sweet Shop Café Italiano on Front Street. Elliott said he is running for another term, which is now for four years and not two, on the county board.

The commission also approved the 16th annual Chili Walk for April 11, the Memorial Day Parade on May 27 and the Earth Day and Community Clean-up for Saturday, April 27.