Log In | Register |
Search: Go

About Us Home>In the News

Return to Home PagePrintable View of This Page

Southwest Michigan Planning Commission in the News

Click below to search by date, article name, and dates!

Enter all or part of an article title (such as "Summer 2013")
Type or select an article date
Select an article type
Economic Development

11/8/2017: Commission developing strategy for economic development

In spite of the many differences between residents of Cass, Berrien and Van Buren counties, a strong, resilient economy that helps draw and retain talented professionals is a rising tide that lifts all boats in southwest Michigan.

To that end, governmental and business leaders across the three counties spent the better part of 2017 working with members of Southwest Michigan Planning Commission to develop a strategy on how to achieve that goal. Now, local residents will have a chance to share their thoughts and opinions on how to improve the region’s economic fortunes as well.

The SWMPC is seeking public comment on its recently completed Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy report, a document that details a shared economic vision and plan for the tri-county region. From now through Dec. 1, people may submit feedback on the plan, by emailing SWMPC Associate Planner Ryan Fellows at fellowsr@swmpc.org or by mailing the SWMPC office 376 W. Main St., Suite 130, Benton Harbor, MI 49022-3651.

A copy of the CEDS report can be found online at www.swmpc.org/ceds.asp 

7/18/2017: City hesitant to commit funds for post-Palisades study

The Herald Palladium- The Van Buren County Board of Commissioners, Kinexus and Southwest Michigan Planning Commission are seeking a federal grant to pay for a study to examine the impact of the plant’s expected closure in October 2018, and then come up with a plan to help the region adapt to any changes brought about by the economic loss of jobs and property tax revenue.

6/6/2017: Upton: Dredge work never a sure thing

Herald Palladium - Standing next to a large gravel pile that will someday be used for I-94, U.S. Rep. Fred Upton praised everybody who helped to secure funds to dredge the St. Joseph Harbor. Upton, R-St. Joseph, held a press conference Monday to discuss his recent work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, area dock owners, and community leaders. He was joined by state Sen. John Proos, St. Joseph Mayor Mike Garey and others involved in the effort.

10/30/2016: Living large in SW Michigan

Herald Palladium - How livable is your community?

Does it have affordable housing, grocery stores that sell fresh food, places to enjoy exercise and cultural activities? What is the quality and accessibility of health care? Does the community accommodate all age groups?

These are some of the questions Michigan’s Great Southwest Strategic Leadership Council is encouraging leaders and residents to ask as they plan for their futures.

“We’re promoting the Three As – awareness, appetite for change and action – big or little,” said Lynn Kellogg, part of the Strategic Leadership Council’s Livable Communities committee, which is launching a public awareness campaign with presentations to elected officials and other movers and shakers.

10/19/2016: One particular harbor

Peter Colovos, with Prairie Real Estate Group, says the Twin Cities’ waterways have for too long been a barrier between communities.
With the formation of a Harbor Conservancy to discuss the future of the waterfront and surrounding area, Colovos sees the opportunity to build bridges that will benefit everyone.
Last week Colovos formally presented the proposal to St. Joseph’s city commissioners, which have agreed to participate, along with Benton Harbor, St. Joseph Township and other public and private stakeholders, including the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission, Whirlpool Corp. and Harbor Shores.

9/19/2016: No limit to the possibilities

Herald Palladium - Images of the possibilities for the harbors between Benton Harbor and St. Joseph decorate the inside of the Twin Cities Harbor container gallery at the corner of Territorial Road and Fifth Street.
“We came here so we can see what’s going on,” said Cliff Kilboy, who recently moved to Benton Harbor with his wife, Cathy Kilboy, from Chicago.
“We’ve seen a lot of positive changes,” Cathy Kilboy said.
The gallery is in two shipping containers renovated into a gallery by Andrews University students and funded by Prairie Real Estate Group, said Peter Colovos, the company principal.
Last fall, the Andrews students researched and wrote the 80-page Twin Cities Harbor Study, which was released in February. The same students renovated the shipping containers this spring.

8/12/2016: Michigan's Longest Garage Sale begins this weekend

Herald Palladium - 

Michigan’s Longest Garage Sale returns to Southwest Michigan this Friday and continues through the weekend.
Every year individuals take part in the US-12 Heritage Trail Garage Sale by cleaning out attics and staking out front yards along the US-12 corridor. The garage sale covers more than 180 miles from New Buffalo to Detroit.
Everything from antiques, collectibles, furniture, produce, homemade jams and jellies, live entertainment and more can be found along the garage sale. Preparations are underway in many homes, organizations and businesses across US-12 for Michigan’s Longest Garage Sale, which will take place this Friday through Sunday.

8/11/2016: Working out at work

Herald-Palladium NILES — At Massimo’s restaurant in Niles, pizza, pepperoni and pedaling go together.
That’s thanks to a grant from Be Healthy Berrien, which helped the business’s owners buy bicycles to encourage their employees to get more exercise.
It didn’t take much to convince Massimo’s owner Cindy Cataldo to get on board with the program.

2/9/2016: What if Our Harbor Looked Like This?

Community planners are often tasked with creating a vision of what the ideal land use might be in any given municipality. When the Berrien County Planning Commission met this afternoon, they were among the first to receive a major new Twin Cities Harbor Study crafted by a steering committee that is looking at the long-term potential for the waterfront in St. Joseph and Benton Harbor. It was the perfect launch point for a brief lesson on Community Placemaking by Berrien County Community Development Director Dan Fette and his team.


11/11/2017: Ribbon cut on Syndicate Park project to preserve sand dunes, houses

Herald Palladium- The group met Thursday at the foot of the dune for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the accomplishments made so far to prevent the dune from encroaching

further into the subdivision.

11/10/2017: Valuable dunes need to be protected, experts say

Herald Palladium- The dunes along western Lake Michigan are a gold mine for recreation, tourism and quality of life for residents, and need to be preserved for future

generations, according to experts speaking at the Heritage Museum in St. Joseph Thursday.
At a presentation titled “Loving Our Dunes to Death? Balancing Enjoyment with Conservation,” panelists discussed recent research into the value that Michiganders
place on these unique geological features.
We have the largest freshwater dunes in the world, said Robert Richardson, a professor of environmental economics at Michigan State University.

9/5/2017: Clean up local beaches Sept. 16

Herald Palladium- No matter what part of Southwest Michigan you live in, there is a place to get out and volunteer on Saturday, Sept. 16.

The annual September Adopt-a-Beach event, a day dedicated to volunteering and cleaning up Great Lakes beaches and shorelines, has five different beaches in Berrien County to volunteer at.

September Adopt-a-Beach is part of the International Coastal Cleanup, so volunteers will join millions of people cleaning up shorelines all over the world.

8/17/2017: A paddling we will go

Herald Palladium - 

More than 20 state officials and water trail advocates paddled down part of the Paw Paw River on Wednesday from Watervliet to Coloma to draw
attention to the economic impact the trails have on local communities.
“Water trails, just like land-based trails, are important recreation corridors, transportation corridors,” Bob Wilson, executive director of Michigan Trails & Greenways
Coalition, said before the paddle. “But they also help to drive economic impacts within the community. This is a great model, which is one of the reasons that we’re
here today.”
The Southwest Michigan Planning Commission and Two Rivers Coalition hired contractors and trained volunteers to clear the river of blockages earlier in the summer.

7/17/2017: Well water testing night scheduled for July 31 at Chikaming Township Hall

Harbor Country News - 

A well water testing night is scheduled for 7 to 9 p.m. Monday, July 31, at Chikaming Township Hall, 13535 Red Arrow Highway,
Harbert, the Berrien County Health Department announced. The public is invited, and you do not need to be a Chikaming Township resident.
The department’s Ken Priest will give a presentation on septic systems and the importance of proper maintenance. Admission is free as is the
water testing. Light refreshments will be ordered. Attendees will be entered into a drawing to win two follow-up tests from the department.

7/7/2017: Clearing the way

The Herald Palladium- When the emerald ash borer attacked the ash trees a couple years back, it created a lot of dead trees along the Paw Paw River.
Over the years, those trees, not counting the ones that occasionally fall during storms, fell into and across the water, making large portions impassible for area paddlers.
But last week the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission and the Two Rivers Coalition (TRC), announced that work over the last couple of months to clear segments of the river is complete and ready for public use.
TRC President Kevin Haight said a lot of work went in to hiring contractors and getting trained volunteers out in the water to clear the blockages.

7/5/2017: Cover crop forum slated for July 26

Crop nutrition expert John Kempf will be featured speaker for the July 25 “Working with Cover Crops Field Day” in Niles Township, the Berrien Conservation District announced.
The event will be 4-9 p.m. at 11025 M-140 – Carl Wagner III’s farm.

Kempf, of Orwell, Ohio, is the founder of Advancing Eco Agriculture (AEA), a leading crop nutrition consulting company, the conservation district reported.
Also on tap will be Marcy Hamilton of the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission. She will present on opportunities for farm renters and owners in the Ox Creek and St. Joseph River watersheds to improve water quality with USDA cost share assistance.

7/3/2017: Rain garden offers beauty, function

A rain garden full of flowers and greenery soon will replace almost 20 parking spots at Wightman and Associates along Pipestone Road in Benton Township.
While the rain garden will be pretty, it also will filter pollutants out of rainwater runoff from the parking lot before it flows into the stormwater system and, eventually, into Ox Creek, said Ben Baker, landscape architect with the engineering, surveying and landscaping company.
The Wightman project will minimize pollution and demonstrate to other property owners what they can do on their own land, said Marcy Hamilton, senior planner with the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission in Benton Harbor.
“That way, we have something right here in the water shed, right in the mall area, that people can come and see,” she said.
The project is being paid for in part by a state grant. Hamilton said she has been working with property owners in the mall area and along the Pipestone Road corridor, which includes Celebration Cinema, Lowe’s, Home Depot, Walmart and Meijer.

7/3/2017: Tour slated for Covert Twp. dune property

Preserve the Dunes will host a guided tour Saturday of the Ross Coastal Plan Marsh Preserve in Covert Township, the organization announced. The event will be 10 a.m. to noon.
“This is your chance to experience the preserve with an expert scientist who will be able to tell you why the area is unique and show you the rare plants and wildlife found there,” Marcy Hamilton, president of Preserve the Dunes, stated in a news release.
Nate Fuller, conservation and stewardship director with the Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy, will lead tour participants on a hike through the unique property. After the hike and tour, Preserve the Dunes will give away a framed print of a dune landscape by local artist Randall Higdon.
For the tour, attendees will meet at the preserve entrance along County Road 376 (44th Avenue) across from Dune Lake Campground. Attendees must dress for the weather, wear sturdy shoes or boots and bring bug spray and drinking water. The event is rain or shine. For questions, contact Marcy Hamilton at 925-1137, Ext. 1525.

3/30/2017: Saugatuck commits to becoming part of national water trail

Saugatuck could soon become a stop on a national recreational water trail.

With a letter of support, the city committed itself to being a stop on the proposed trail. The Southwest Michigan Planning Commission is working to get municipalities on board to submit an application to the National Park Service for a National Recreation Trail designation of the Lake Michigan Water Trail.

The trail currently goes through three states, covers Chicago’s lakefront and the entire coast of Indiana to New Buffalo in Michigan. The goal is to promote coastal public access by linking regional water trails to form a statewide water trail system along every mile of the Great Lakes shoreline.

“This will grant that extension to continue the trail all the way from Chicago to Manistee,” said Kristopher Martin, an associate planner with the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission.

2/9/2017: Too much concrete

Herald Palladium - Almost 50 business owners, landlords and elected officials gathered around maps Wednesday at the Orchards Mall in Benton Township to discuss ways to reduce the amount of pollution running into Ox Creek from the mall district.
“Ox Creek is not very healthy,” said Marcy Hamilton, a senior planner with the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission.
She said the problem is that most of the wetlands, which cleaned rain water before it entered the creek, have been filled in or built over. She said that when the mall and surrounding businesses were built decades ago, the idea was to get rain water off the parking lots and into the creek as fast as possible.

10/30/2016: On the nose: Dogs No. 1 at finding No. 2

A company that has trained dogs to recognize the smell of human fecal bacteria has been sniffing out sources of water pollution nationwide, discovering broken sewer pipes, leaking septic tanks and illegal sewage discharges, to the delight of environmental groups and government agencies.

10/17/2016: Tour tracks water from toilet to tap

Water is an essential element to life, which is why Michigan’s Great Southwest Sustainable Business Forum created the Full Circle Tour.

Marcy Hamilton, a Sustainable Business Forum board member, said they wanted to make a signature event that would focus on clean water and craft beers.

“Most people don’t think about what it takes to clean the water we flush down the toilet,” Hamilton said. “We want to provide you with an opportunity to see how the water is cleaned to keep our rivers, beaches and Lake Michigan safe and healthy for us to enjoy. Then we will visit The Livery to enjoy water that has been crafted into beer while the owner and head brewer takes us on a rare behind the scenes tour of the beer making process.”

10/15/2016: Gravy for a dune

Thanks to two $50,000 grants – one a surprise – work to stabilize the dune straddling the North Point Land Preserve and Syndicate Park subdivision may begin next spring.
The Van Buren County Board of Commissioners has authorized County Administrator Douglas Cultra to sign a grant agreement with the Michigan Coastal Zone Management Program for $50,000.
“It’s going to preserve a pristine dune,” Cultra said. “It’s absolutely gorgeous.”

9/17/2016: PARK(ing) Day

Herald Palladium - The area south of Napier Avenue along Pipestone Road in Benton Township used to be fruit orchards and farm fields.
Now, it is the township’s main business district.
“There’s more pavement in this area than, really, anywhere else in Berrien, Cass or Van Buren County,” said Marcy Hamilton, senior planner with the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission in Benton Harbor.
Hamilton, along with several other businesses and nonprofit agencies, set up a space at Chemical Bank on Pipestone Road during PARK(ing) Day Friday.

9/3/2016: Contained but not restrained

Herald Palladium - Proposals to transform 600 acres in and around the harbors between St. Joseph and Benton Harbor into vibrant waterfront areas will soon be displayed in a new temporary gallery in the Benton Harbor Arts District.
Two shipping containers renovated into a gallery by Andrews University students in Oronoko Township were placed by crane Friday at the corner of Territorial Road and Fifth Street. The gallery will display the work that led to the 80-page Twin Cities Harbor Study, which was published by the university and released in February.
Peter Colovos, principal with Prairie Real Estate Group in Benton Harbor, said his company commissioned the students to redesign the containers, which were just four blank walls, into a functional gallery.

7/15/2016: The dog detectives

Herald Palladium- The search for how human waste is ending up in Lake Michigan got a little help this week from two four-legged “detectives.”

Kenna, a golden retriever, and Sable, a German shepherd mix, from Environmental Canine Services in East Lansing and Maine are sniffing out the sources of the waste in several small streams between Stevensville and the Indiana line. 

Human waste getting into Lake Michigan causes beaches to be closed due to high E. coli counts, said Marcy Hamilton, senior planner with the planning commission. She said the main sources are usually failing septic systems or broken sewer pipes.

7/1/2016: The water detectives

HP- Initial results of water testing from several creeks that drain into Lake Michigan between Stevensville and the Indiana border found that many of them contain human waste.

Such waste causes E. coli contamination, and when E. coli counts are high, beaches are closed, said Marcy Hamilton, senior planner with the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission in Benton Harbor.

This summer, the planning commission is studying 11 small streams that flow into Lake Michigan that are not part of a larger watershed plan, she said. The study is funded by a $472,185 state grant. She said they are creating the Lake Michigan Tributaries Watershed Management Plan.

6/17/2016: State grant will fund Paw Paw River water trail

Herald Palladium - A $100,000 state grant will help fund the creation of a navigable canoe and kayak water trail along the Paw Paw River.

State Rep. Al Pscholka, R-Stevensville, this week announced the grant through the state Department of Natural Resources to the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission.

Pscholka has been working with the planning commission and the local group of citizens and public officials who have been planning the effort since last year.

“This is great news for northern Berrien County and Van Buren County,” said Coloma Township Supervisor Ken Parrigin. “It will open up lots of opportunities for more visitors to discover our communities.”

Pscholka said the water trail will help spotlight Southwest Michigan’s natural beauty and resources.

“This project is a big win for Southwest Michigan,” he said. “Opening up the Paw Paw River between Benton Harbor and Paw Paw will attract outdoor enthusiasts from near and far.”

The 66-mile-long river is a natural water trail, but downed trees and other debris in the river has made it difficult to navigate at times.

“By working together – state government, local government, river advocacy groups and planners – we are going to get the job done,” Pscholka said.

The funds are expected to be available Oct. 1 and should be enough money to have the water trail planned and created, complete with signage, said Kris Martin, an associate planner with the SWMPC.

“We’re working together with all the communities along the river,” Martin said. The project will begin when the grant is available, and continue throughout 2017,” he said.

6/16/2016: Grant Enhances Recreational Access To Paw Paw River

State Reps Al Pscholka and Aric Nesbitt today announced a $100,000 grant to clear debris in the Paw Paw River water trail and provide access sites for canoes and kayaks.

Rep. Pscholka, R-Stevensville, who serves as chair of the House Committee on Appropriations, has worked with local communities and groups for over a year to develop a plan for the project.

“I want to thank Jerry Willmeng of Coloma for his constant efforts on this project, along with local historian Rick Rasmussen of Watervliet and Coloma Township Supervisor Ken Parrigin,” Pscholka said.

The grant, which will be awarded through the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, provides funding to the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission and local communities.

5/17/2016: Water Trail In The Works For Hickory Creek

An effort is underway to create a water trail along Hickory Creek in Berrien
County. Kris Martin, with the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission,
says the trail would go all the way from Baroda to St. Joseph. The planning
commission will be working with the municipalities along the way to clear
space to add some amenities.

5/12/2016: Paddling the Hickory

Herald Palladium 

The concept of a recreational water trail running on Hickory Creek has earned a resounding thumbs-up from the St. Joseph Township Board.

Passing a resolution to support the Hickory Creek Water Trail project is only the first step, but a critical one because the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission supports the idea, Township Clerk Denise Cook said.

The project has attracted support from Third Coast Surf Shop, too, she said.

“There's been a lot of discussion about kayaking and canoeing along the creek, and how they (the commission) want to make it a designated waterway, which would also allow for grants for redeveloping (the area),” she said.

The proposed project area runs along Hickory Creek from Baroda, past the Ace Hardware store along M-63 and into the St. Joseph River.

5/11/2016: Cleaner streams goal of Lake Michigan Tributaries Watershed study

Weko Beach along Lake Michigan in Bridgman is a gem frequented by locals and tourists alike.

It, along with several other Southwest Michigan beaches, are known for sandy beaches and crystal clean water.

But on the south side of Weko Beach is a small stream called Tanner Creek. This creek is one of several small tributaries that drain directly into Lake Michigan that are not part of larger watershed management plans, said Marcy Hamilton, senior planner with the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission in Benton Harbor. If the water in any of these creeks is polluted, the beaches near them are affected, she said.

4/24/2016: Little streams, big trouble

Herald Palladium- Weko Beach along Lake Michigan in Bridgman is a gem frequented by locals and tourists alike.

It, along with several other Southwest Michigan beaches, are known for sandy beaches and crystal clean water.

But on the south side of Weko Beach is a small stream called Tanner Creek. This creek is one of several small tributaries that drain directly into Lake Michigan that are not part of larger watershed management plans, said Marcy Hamilton, senior planner with the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission in Benton Harbor. If the water in any of these creeks is polluted, the beaches near them are affected, she said.

“It’s all connected,” she said Friday while walking along Tanner Creek. “Water is life. That’s what we depend on.”

4/24/2016: Septic systems gone wild

Herald Palladium- 

A big problem in tracking pollution to failing septic systems is Michigan has no state laws to regulate them.

“Michigan is the only state in the country that doesn’t have a state sanitary code,” said Marcy Hamilton, senior planner with the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission. “Really, it’s left up to each county health department to create their own.”

She said without a sanitary code, county residents can’t get grant money to help fix their failing septic systems. Nationwide, she said it is estimated that 40 percent of septic systems are failing. She said they can cost $5,000 to $15,000 to fix.

4/18/2016: Community Pint Night for Clean Water

The Paw Paw River has long been considered the environmental jewel of Michigan's Great Southwest. Unfortunately, its final tributary, Ox Creek, is often forgotten or flat out ignored. If, however, Marcy Hamilton has her way, that will change dramatically in the near future. 

Hamilton works for the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission in downtown Benton Harbor and she is heading up a coalition of environmental groups working on a grant project focused on water quality in Ox Creek. To help spur that project, Ox Creek will become the beneficiary of a Community Pint Night fundraising event at The Livery Microbrewery on Cinco de Mayo, Thursday, May 5th. That evening from 5pm until 8pm, a portion of all beer sales at The Livery, located at 190 5th Street in the Benton Harbor Arts District, will go to the Ox Creek project. 

1/28/2016: Ox Creek's erosion problem

One of the most polluted streams in Southwest Michigan received a little more attention Wednesday when conservationists talked with farmers about how to manage their land in a way to reduce erosion. Marcy Colclough, senior planner with the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission in Benton Harbor, said the pollution from Ox Creek goes through the Paw Paw River and eventually, the St. Joseph River, which empties into Lake Michigan. She spoke during the “Productive Lands, Cleaner Water” workshop Wednesday sponsored by the Berrien Conservation District.

1/26/2016: Tips For keeping winter's road salt out of our waters

When snow and ice melts, the salt goes with it, washing into our lakes, streams, wetlands, and groundwater. It takes only one teaspoon of road salt to permanently pollute five gallons of water. Once in the water, there is no way to remove the chloride, and at high concentrations, chloride can harm fish and plant life. Less is more when it comes to applying road salt.

Kristopher Martin, of the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission, offers the following tips for keeping salt use down:

• Shovel first. The more snow and ice you remove manually, the less salt you will have to use and the more effective it can be. Then, break up ice with an ice scraper and decide if application of a de-icer or sand is even necessary to maintain traction;

1/13/2016: USDA urges environmental farm measures

With funding from the Agricultural Act of 2014 starting to make its way into the hands of regional and county agencies, local United States Department of Agriculture offices are urging qualified partners to consider joining a good-for-the-environment program.

There are plenty offered under the umbrella of the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. They include the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, Habitat Incentive Program, Wetlands Reserve Easement Program, and Conservation Reserve Program.

Many focus on the ecological wellbeing of the St. Joseph River Watershed, which covers 4,685 square miles and includes eight counties in Michigan and seven others in Indiana.


8/21/2017: Southwest Planning Commission wants to cut board members

Herald Palladium- That’s the draft proposal on the table for the planning commission that serves Berrien, Cass and Van Buren counties and provides guidance in areas of transportation, economic development, environmental issues, digital mapping and master and recreational planning. The commission gets most of its funding from federal and state sources, with the remainder coming from county and local governments.

8/5/2017: Michigan's Longest Garage Sale scheduled for next weekend

Herald Palladium - People who love searching for hidden treasures will want to traverse Michigan’s Longest Garage Sale along the U.S. 12 Heritage Trail Friday, Aug. 11, through Sunday,

Aug. 13.

9/18/2016: Bridge of dreams

Crafting park plans are routine matters for local government, bureaucratic rope-jumping required for state parks and recreation grants.
Governments think small and think big when they submit such wish lists.
And Berrien Township officials are offering a very big wish: Rebuilding the bridge over Lake Chapin.


5/10/2017: Building a better bus system

Herald Palladium- 

Transportation experts have looked under the hoods of Berrien County’s four bus systems and found operations that are expensive and inefficient, with limited hours and routes that miss a large chunk of the population.

These planners think that consolidating the systems – Berrien Bus, Twin Cities Area Transportation Authority, and Niles and Buchanan Dial a Ride – would result in a service that reaches more residents for less money.

The first two of four information sessions held by Connect Berrien, to share the study and gather ideas, were held at the Niles library Tuesday. The sessions will be repeated from 5:30-7 pm. today at the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission, 376 W. Main St., Benton Harbor; and 5:30-7 p.m. Thursday at the New Buffalo Township Library, 33 N. Thompson St., New Buffalo.

4/30/2017: Public can help steer bus plan

Berrien County transportation planners want to hear from residents on a proposal to consolidate four bus systems into a single operation, which they believe can serve more people for less money.

Connect Berrien will hold four meetings: 3-4:30 p.m. and 5-6:30 p.m. May 9 at the Niles Library, 620 E. Main St.; 5:30-7 pm. May 10, at the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission, 376 W. Main St., Benton Harbor; and 5:30-7 p.m. May 11, at the New Buffalo Township Library, 33 N. Thompson St., New Buffalo.

The meetings are an opportunity for residents to hear the rationale for consolidating the four systems – Berrien Bus, Twin Cities Area Transportation Authority, and Niles and Buchanan Dial a Ride – and to offer their thoughts on the types of services they want, said Dan Fette, Berrien County community development director.

3/20/2017: Phase two planning for cross-state trail kicks off

Developers working to complete the Indiana-Michigan River Valley Trail met Friday morning at the Niles Township Hall to kick off phase two planning of the 1.2 mile trail, which will join Michigan with Indiana and Niles with Niles Township.

2/28/2017: Indiana-Michigan trail construction expected to begin in 2018

To protect the threatened northern long-eared bat, construction to the Indiana-Michigan River Valley trail will not begin until 2018 — though bats are only one factor to the delay, experts say.
Last week, the Niles Township Board of Trustees discussed the bi-state trail’s progress during a meeting. Trustee Chris Vella announced that she had heard that construction would be impeded due to bats.

During a follow up with Marcy Hamilton, the senior planner for the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission, who wrote the grant for the trail, Hamilton said that bat activity was only one part of the reason that construction will not begin this year.

2/14/2017: Community leaders push for better public transportation

Improving the education and health of people in Berrien County will only happen if residents have reliable transportation so they can get to the services they need.
That was a recurring theme as 13 community leaders talked Monday about work being done by Michigan’s Great Southwest Strategic Leadership Council (MGSSLC).

“Mobility is one of the key enablers to the American dream,” said Pat Brandstatter, a member of the Quality of Life Group and president of Kruger Plastic Products in Bridgman.

1/3/2017: Gearing up for road repairs

Herald Palladium- People traveling in Michigan will be paying more at the pump in 2017, but highway experts are pleased that the additional revenue will begin to fund long-delayed road repairs.
According to their surveys, they really need it.
As of Jan. 1, the state gasoline tax increased by 7.3 cents and the diesel tax went up 11.3 cents, putting both to 26.3 cents per gallon. This gives Michigan the fifth-highest gas taxes in the nation.

12/15/2016: Niles Trailhead, trail extension recommended for state funding

Thanks to a grant recommendation announced by the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund board Friday, the Indiana Michigan River Valley Trail could be the first bi-state trail to connect Michigan and Indiana communities.
Trail goers could also soon enjoy a brand new Niles trailhead located along the St. Joseph River in downtown Niles.

12/13/2016: State funding infuses River Valley Trail projects

South Bend Tribune - It looks like two Niles area trail projects connected with the Indiana-Michigan River Valley Trail will be getting state funding after an announcement Friday from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

The Niles city trailhead project and the River Valley Trail extension project in Niles Township are both expected to be funded through the DNR’s Natural Resources Trust Fund grant program next year. The trust fund board’s recommendations are expected to be accepted and funded by the Legislature early next year.

That board is recommending more than $47.6 million worth of projects in 2017, including $19.9 million in development projects like the two in the Niles area and $27.7 million in land acquisition projects.

Southwest Michigan Planning Commission Senior Planner Marcy Hamilton worked with both the city of Niles and Niles Township on their grant applications. She reported that the two projects received the top numerical scores of all development project applications around the state.

12/2/2016: Commissioners back county-wide bus proposal

The Berrien County Board of Commissioners on Thursday endorsed creation of a county-wide public transportation system, but the day the buses roll is still a long way down the road.

The endorsement is the latest move to consolidate existing transportation systems, including Berrien County’s Berrien Bus, into a more efficient operation that will reach more residents.

Community Development Director Dan Fette reported earlier this year that Berrien Bus could be out of money in two to three years. He said that the program, along with transportation systems in Benton Harbor, Niles and Buchanan, leave out large sections of the county. A 2014 report recommended consolidation of existing systems.

8/12/2016: "Michigan's Longest Garage Sale" opens today and continues through Sunday.

Sturgis Journal - “Michigan’s Longest Garage Sale” opens today and continues through Sunday, stretching for 180 miles along U.S. 12.

Some local residents got their sales underway before the official start day.

East of Bronson, U.S. 12 is closed because a bridge is being replaced, and a detour onto Central Road has worked in favor of Cheryl Ludwick, who lives on that route.

“Usually I have to drag just a portion of my stuff (into Bronson),” Ludwick said. “With the highway rerouted, I have the ultimate place for a garage sale.”

6/17/2016: Plans for countywide bus system in high gear

Herald Palladium-Progress is being made toward creating a county-wide public transportation system, Berrien County Community Development Director Dan Fette told the Board of Commissioners Thursday.
Fette said the county has informal agreements with the Niles and Buchanan Dial-A-Ride systems on the proposed governing structure of a new transportation authority, and officials will be meeting with representatives of the Twin Cities Area Transportation Authority, serving Benton Harbor, in the next two weeks.

4/13/2016: Berrien Health Board Asks For Safer, Healthier Napier Avenue

The Berrien County Board of Health wants to see a safer and healthier Napier Avenue. Last week, it sent a letter to the Twin Cities Area Transportation Study Policy Committee asking for the road to be made into a “Complete Street,” with sidewalks, crosswalks, and other amenities when it’s repaved in 2019 and 2020. Health Department spokesperson Gillian Conrad says such features are needed for those who don’t drive.

4/7/2016: Board of Health calls for a safer Napier Avenue

Herald Palladium - The Berrien County Board of Health and health department staff members say that making Napier Avenue safer for people on foot or on bikes could be a matter or life or death.

The board on Wednesday endorsed a letter to the Twin Cities Area Transportation Study Policy Committee asking that safety features for walkers and cyclists be added to plans for resurfacing Napier Avenue from the St. Joseph River to M-139.

“We cannot put another generation in danger because of the bad infrastructure design of Napier Avenue,” a report from Be Healthy Berrien, which includes the health department, states. “People who rely on walking and biking to live, work, worship, attend school and travel along Napier Avenue suffer an undue burden of an increased risk of accidents and injuries. Between 2000 and 2009, 11 pedestrians and bicycle crashes occurred on Napier Avenue, resulting in eight injuries and two fatalities.”

The TwinCATS committee has included resurfacing Napier Avenue in its list of 11 projects to be submitted to the Federal Highway Administration and the Michigan Department of Transportation. Work is slated for 2019 and 2020 for road improvements on the avenue that runs through St. Joseph and Benton townships.

3/18/2016: Talks about countywide busing system ready to roll

The Herald Palladium - The discussion about creating one public transportation system across Berrien County, which has gone on for years, appears to be moving out of neutral and into first gear.

Berrien County Community Development Director Dan Fette on Thursday received permission from the Board of Commissioners to begin talks with the Niles and Buchanan Dial-a-Ride systems and with townships and municipalities about forming a countywide transportation authority.

2/23/2016: New fishing platform, gathering space part of proposal to expand Niles trail

A new multi-use trail, fishing platform and outdoor gathering space are included among the items in a proposal to expand the Indiana Michigan River Valley Trail to the west side of the St. Joseph River in Niles. 

2/21/2016: Regional transpo board lays out vision for upcoming projects

HP- Twin Cities Area Transportation Study (TwinCATS) members will finalize the list of projects at 9 a.m. Monday at St. Joseph City Hall in the second-floor City Commission chambers. The public is invited to attend.
Projects that make it onto the final shortlist will go into a three-year construction cycle running from 2017 through 2020, said Gautam Mani, an associate planner with the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission – which provides technical assistance to TwinCATS.
“The TwinCATS area gets an annual allocation of federal funds to spend on transportation projects. These are surface transportation projects dealing with road reconstruction and resurfacing,” Mani said. “This is the largest block of funding that this group gets to program.”

2/9/2016: Niles Township approves prep work for River Valley Trail

An effort to complete the final portion of the Indiana Michigan River Valley Trail in Niles Township took a small step forward Monday.

During a special meeting, the township’s board of trustees approved a contract with Wightman & Associates to stake out the final 1.5 miles of the trail for $4,500. The board also hired Great Lakes Research to perform an archaeological study of the land on which the trail will run for another $4,500.

1/14/2016: Phase 2 trail work in Niles Twp. dependent on grants

Construction on the second phase of the Indiana-Michigan River Valley Trail in Niles Township will not begin until the spring of 2017 at the earliest, according to township officials.

The township is dependent upon two state grants to pay for the majority of the estimated $700,000 project, which would connect the township’s portion of the trail to the City of Niles’ portion of the trail.

Marcy Colclough, of the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission, said the township has not received either of the two grants.

The first — a trust fund grant from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources — was denied. She said the township has not received official word on the other grant, which is from the Michigan Department of Transportation.

1/1/2016: Finding safer routes to school

BENTON TOWNSHIP - Several agencies are looking for funding to help create safer routes for children to get to school.

Cynthia LaGrow, consent agreement consultant for Benton Harbor Area Schools, said she is working with the Michigan Fitness Foundation and the Michigan Department of Transportation in order to secure a grant from the Safe Routes to School program.

Safe Routes to School is an international movement to make it safe for children to bicycle and walk to school. The program has handed out several grants to schools each year through MDOT, starting in 2008.

This page last updated on 9/26/2014.
Southwest Michigan Planning Commission  
376 West Main Street  Suite 130  Benton Harbor, MI 49022-3651
Phone: 269.925.1137  Fax: 269.925.0288  

Picture Library

Document Library