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3/10/2019: Berrien gets behind Marquette trail project
Herald Palladium - Marcy Hamilton, with the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission, spoke with county commissioners to update them on the project conceived with Harbor Country Trails, and to solicit their support.
The trail starts in Chicago’s Calumet Park, running along the lakeshore and through the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, and would cover 58 miles when extended to New Buffalo.
Having non-motorized trails helps retain families, businesses and young professionals, Hamilton said, along with promoting tourism, increasing tax revenue and encouraging physical activity. Studies show that having a more walkable community increases home values.
Surveys show that people want more park areas and walking and jogging trails, Hamilton illustrated.
Herald Palladium - Those who attended the last of the three meetings this week on the Twin Cities Harbor plan got to take a leap more than 20 years into the future.
And what did they see in Twin Cities Harbor 2040?
Herald Palladium - Participants in the latest public meeting on the Twin Cities Sustainable Harbor Project had an opportunity Tuesday to mark off the types of development they would like to see along the waterfront, and consider how to connect those elements.
This was the first design “charrette,” held at the Kinexus building in Benton Harbor, to gather input from residents, and will be followed by an open house at tonight and a final meeting Thursday, both at 6 p.m.
That final proposal will result from the ideas generated at the gatherings, said Don Carpenter, one of the planners organizing the project.
The recently completed Napier Avenue Pedestrian and Bicycle Plan calls for the heavily trafficked road to be changed to three lanes and for bike lanes to be added.
A draft of the final report is now complete and contains a series of recommended improvements along auto-oriented Napier Avenue. The portion of the street in question – between the St. Joseph River and I-94 – is considered an important east-west transportation route in Berrien County due to its proximity to the highway and M-139 commercial district.
Herald Palladium - Commissioners also heard a proposal from the Twin Cities Sustainable Harbor Project to hold meetings to discuss development along the area’s waterfront.
The recommendations include a one-day open session Sept. 19, and a three-day “charrette” for community members to offer ideas for improvements, to be held Oct. 9-11, all starting at 6 p.m. All gatherings will take place at Kinexus, 499 W. Main St., Benton Harbor.
Don Carpenter, project manager, said it will be “a grassroots effort to come up with a shared vision” for the harbor.
9/9/2018: Pumping life back into Pipestone Environmental restoration tied to economic revitalization
Herald Palladium - Clean a creek, restore a commercial corridor. Those are the ultimate goals of the project to revitalize both Ox Creek and the area along Pipestone Road, being undertaken with the leadership of the Berrien County drain office and the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission.
Don Brookfield, owner of Brookfield Dodge, at 1845 Pipestone Road, is working on plans to add rain gardens and other amenities on his lot to better manage water flowing from his lot into the nearby creek.
Herald Palladium - “The idea is to facilitate long-term sustainable strategies that benefit Michigan’s Great Lakes coastal communities,” he said of the initiative, which is funded through the Michigan Sea Grant, Michigan State University and the Michigan Office of the Great Lakes.
The initiative seeks to continue the work of the Twin Cities Harbor Study, which was completed by the Andrews University Department of Architecture and Southwest Michigan Planning Commission in 2015.
Herald Palladium- Investing more in sidewalks and attracting more restaurants were the two highest requests as planners put together the Stevensville Master Plan.
On Wednesday, village trustees approved distributing the plan’s draft for public comment.
“We want everyone to look at it and public comments will be presented at a public hearing,” said Ryan Fellows, associate planner with Southwest Michigan Planning Commission, the agency hired to assemble the plan.
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 email@example.com 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
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
Matt Meersman, director of the St. Joseph River Basin Commission, and Kris Martin, an associate
planner with the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission, shared a variety of ways residents
can benefit their watershed, their property and their finances during a Flow in the St. Joseph
presentation Thursday night at the Niles District Library. The program was part of the
Smithsonian Water/Ways exhibit which runs through Feb. 16.
So what is a watershed and why does it matter? A watershed is all the land that flows to a body
of water. In Michiana, the St. Joseph Watershed is the third largest watershed that pours into
Lake Michigan. That means the efforts of Michiana residents can make a great impact on
protecting and preserving the bodies of water. Meersman and Martin shared some simple ways
that residents can invest in the watershed and benefit their property, too.
Herald Palladium - In the wake of an illegal diesel fuel dump into a storm drain in Bainbridge Township, Berrien County officials want residents to keep hazardous materials out of the sewers, and to know there is a proper way to dispose of these types of materials.
The Berrien County Drain Commissioner’s office reminds residents that storm water, or rain water, flows into the storm drains at street corners, or into roadside ditches.
9/9/2018: Clearwater revival Plans call for cleaning up Ox Creek and revitalizing Pipestone corridor
Herald Palladium- It’s the dirtiest creek in Southwest Michigan, and one of the dirtiest in Michigan, meandering through an ocean of concrete and asphalt around Pipestone Road that allows rain water and pollutants to pour into the tributary.
It’s Ox Creek, which flows through Benton Township and Benton Harbor until it reaches the Paw Paw River, which runs into the St. Joseph River and Lake Michigan.
When Ox Creek is flowing fast from storm run-off, it only takes two hours for contaminants to reach the lake and beaches, according to Christopher Quattrin, Berrien County’s drain commissioner.
8/9/2018: Ox Creek Watershed now online
The website for the Ox Creek Watershed has gone live.
Visit www.sustainoxcreek.org for information on the Ox Creek Watershed Improvement Plan and what steps are being taken to improve water quality, according to a press release from the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission.
Herald Palladium - When most of us think of water pollution, we picture big industrial operations dumping waste into rivers and lakes.
But according to the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission, more than 60 percent of water pollution now comes from residential sources, such as cars leaking oil, failing septic systems and fertilizers from lawns, gardens and farms.
5/10/2018: Guarding the Great Lakes
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
The Southwest Michigan Planning Commission and Two Rivers Coalition hired contractors and trained volunteers to clear the river of blockages earlier in the summer.
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.
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.
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.
Moody on the Market - A hearty, and extremely focused and busy team comprised of a dozen professionals earned its way onto the inaugural list of the Fifteen Under 15 Best Businesses in the region by essentially "fitting the criteria perfectly." That was the opening shot over the bow by the person nominating the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission in downtown Benton Harbor.
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.
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,
12/27/2018: Keeping the Pere Marquette on track
Herald Palladium - The Pere Marquette Amtrak train – which runs from Chicago through St. Joseph and Bangor to Holland and Grand Rapids – could run out of steam in the future, and local planners are taking steps now to make sure it keeps running.
Last week, the Twin Cities Area Transportation Study passed resolutions in support of keeping the passenger rail line operating, and also recommended a study of connecting the tracks in New Buffalo to increase service.
12/26/2018: TwinCATS to decide on road funding
Herald Palladium - Federal funding for nine area road projects will be approved at the the Twin Cities Area Transportation Study review committee meeting at 9:20 a.m. Monday on Jan. 14, 2019 at Kinexus at Main St. and Riverview Drive in Benton Harbor.
Projects have been proposed by the Berrien County Road Department, Benton Harbor, St. Joseph, Bridgman and Stevensville. Residents can comment online on the projects as they are reviewed.
Over the next four years TwinCATS will receive around $3.9 million in Federal Surface Transportation Block Grant funding to award to road or transit agencies within its boundaries. The funds must be used on federal aid eligible roads or for transit capital projects, and require local matching funds.
9/23/2018: From Benton Harbor to South Bend and back Study proposes transit system to connect more people to destinations
Herald Palladium - Imagine getting on a public bus in Watervliet and riding it to South Bend with stops in Benton Harbor, St. Joseph, Berrien Springs and Niles.
Or imagine riding a public bus from Benton Harbor to the Michigan City, Ind., South Shore Line train station, where you can catch a train into Chicago to watch a White Sox game.
That could become a reality if Berrien County’s four bus service providers merge into one entity, said Pat Brandstatter, chairman of the Transportation Steering Committee, which was put together in part by Michigan’s Great Southwest Strategic Leadership Council (MGSSLC).
Herald Palladium - The Southwest Michigan Planning Commission, having hosted a well-attended Napier Avenue Pedestrian & Bicycle Plan public open house in March, is seeking additional public feedback.
The Napier Avenue Pedestrian & Bicycle Plan is a community-driven plan to transform Napier Avenue into a more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly roadway. The planning team would like to hear from as many area residents, business owners, and users of the road as possible in order to gather a more complete picture of specific issues along the corridor. Web-based and paper surveys are available which allow residents to give their feedback.
Herald Palladium - In a packed room at the Overflow Church, more than two dozen people came together Monday to discuss a Benton Township street that’s been a problem for years.
AECOM, an engineering firm hired to gauge residential preferences regarding sidewalks along Napier Avenue, held an public open house at the Benton Township church to discuss the Napier Avenue Pedestrian and Bicycle Plan.
Jeromie Winsor, an AECOM senior planner, led a presentation about Napier and provided statistics on the troubled roadway.
3/20/2018: Napier Ave. safety under the microscope SWM Planning Commission to hold 'open house' meeting
Herald Palladium -
Adding sidewalks and bike ways to improve safety along Napier Avenue will be the topic of a public open house meeting Monday.
The meeting to discuss the Napier Avenue Pedestrian and Bicycle Plan will be held from 4-7 p.m. at Overflow Community Church at 300 E. Napier Ave. in Benton Township. Presentations will be held at 4:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.
Denise Cook, St. Joseph Township manager and Napier Steering Committee member, said the corridor lacks sidewalks and crosswalks for the majority of its length.
1/26/2018: Bailing out Berrien Bus
Herald Palladium - Berrien Bus, the county’s public transportation system, continues to sputter along, and is in need of a major overhaul, the Board of Commissioners were told Thursday.
It’s not the first time that commissioners have been informed of the dire straits faced by Berrien Bus. A 2014 report said public transportation across the county is inadequate and inefficient. The study recommended a consolidation of the county’s operation with Twin Cities Area Transportation Authority (serving Benton Harbor, St. Joseph and surrounding areas), and Niles and Buchanan Dial-a-Ride.
1/23/2018: Napier sidewalks get fresh look
Herald Palladium- The Southwest Michigan Planning Commission and several municipalities are focusing on the lack of sidewalks along the Napier corridor in Benton and St. Joseph townships.
Napier, which has four lanes and a 40-mph speed limit, is getting more attention following the death of a 21-year-old St. Joseph man who was struck and killed by a car along the busy road on Friday night. Brian Elftmann was walking westbound along Napier when he was hit by a car heading the same direction.
The Herald Palladium- The Marquette Greenway is a planned 58-mile trail from Chicago’s Calumet Park through northwestern Indiana to downtown New Buffalo. About 28 miles of the 10-foot wide path have either been built or funded.Marcy Hamilton, senior planner with the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission, said her organization has been a “convener” in the process – helping bring people together, including the many units of government along the Michigan route.
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
Herald Palladium - 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.