3/20/2023: Associate Planner Job Description
Please refer to the link to find the Associate Planner job description and directions for how to apply.
1/7/2023: Planners: Use Restraint With Road Salt
The Southwest Michigan Planning Commission is asking everyone to be mindful of how they use salt to get rid of ice and snow in the winter. Associated planner Kris Martin tells us it only takes one teaspoon of road salt to permanently pollute five gallons of water, and once in the water, there’s no way to remove the chloride. At high concentrations, chloride can harm fish and plant life.
“You might think that just throwing salt down around your driveway or home, the salt just kind of stays there, but for a lot of people who might live in town where there’s a storm drain, most of that salt after the application, if too much has been applied, it simply washes into the storm sewers,” Martin said. “Most of those sanitary sewers directly flow into our lakes and streams and they’re not treated at all.”
Therefore, Martin says less is more when it comes to applying road salt and he advises using sand when possible. He notes the sand isn’t as harmful and it has last longer than salt in terms of offering traction. Martin says you can also help by giving plows plenty of space so they can apply their road salt correctly, and avoid using salt below 15 degrees when it doesn’t work anyway. He advises everyone to check out LetsKeepItBlue.org for water protection tips.
Leader- The Southwest Michigan Planning Commission presented the 2021 Graham Woodhouse Intergovernmental Effort award at its Board meeting hosted on Dec. 21 to the Dowagiac River Restoration/Water Trail Project.
The Southwest Michigan Planning Commission recently honored Teri Sue Freehling with its 2020 Welch-Lackey Leadership Award.
Freehling has been a SWMPC member since 2016. She became vice chair in 2018, and has been SWMPC chair since February 2020.
2/25/2021: Paw Paw River Water Trail Project wins SWMPC award
The Southwest Michigan Planning Commission recently honored the Paw Paw River Water Trail Project with its 2020 Graham Woodhouse Intergovernmental Effort Award.
The award is presented annually to projects that exemplify cooperation between and among governments, nonprofits and private entities. It was established to recognize and reward the partners who execute complex, regional problem solving that optimizes limited resources.
5/16/2020: Napier Avenue road diet approved
Herald Palladium - Napier Avenue, between the bridge over the St. Joseph River and 450 feet east of Union Avenue, is expected to be reduced from four to three lanes by the end of the year.
The Berrien County Board of Commissioners approved the second leg of the Napier Avenue project Thursday.
Moody on The Market - In a day and age when “governmental cooperation” is sometimes considered an oxymoron, especially at the national level, the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission continues to search out exemplary collaboration in Michigan’s Great Southwest through their annual Graham Woodhouse Intergovernmental Effort Award.
Last month when they conducted their most recent commission meeting to wrap up the year, the commission presented the award to the Sink Road Bridge Replacement Project in Pokagon Township of Cass County.
Herald Palladium- It will take major communication and cooperation among officials from three communities to make the
Twin Cities Sustainable Harbor Project a success.
But if the long-talked about development spanning parts of Benton Harbor, St. Joseph and St. Joseph Township becomes a reality, it will bring all three municipalities in the region great benefits for years to come.
That was the message delivered Monday by a consultant on the project, and St. Joseph Township officials agreed.
“There’s not a huge spot of land (in St. Joseph Township), but if you develop the harbor, you’re going to draw other development. This is a regional project and it will be a plus for all of us,” St. Joseph Township Manager Denise Cook said at a board workshop.
10/16/2019: Will Twin Cities harbor plan float?
Herald Palladium -
There is a great opportunity for the Twin Cities to catch a wave of growth along its waterfront over the next 20 years, according to a consultant who has been studying the issue for several months.
“You have a tremendous resource right in your backyard,” commented Don Carpenter, with Drummond Carpenter, conducting the final community discussion on the harbor plans at Kinexus in Benton Harbor on Tuesday.
The Twin Cities Harbor Sustainability Initiative, encompassing Benton Harbor, St. Joseph and St. Joseph Township, has been put together over the last 15 months with public gatherings, focus groups, meetings with government officials and other efforts to collect ideas for the waterfront. It is sponsored by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy’s Office of the Great Lakes in partnership with Michigan Sea Grant, Lawrence Technological University, the Harbor Conservancy and other groups.
10/11/2019: Final harbor study meetings set for Oct. 15
The Herald Palladium -
A family packs up and heads to the beach on Lake Michigan for a long-planned vacation. When they get there they learn that the water has been closed to swimmers because of contamination by E.coli, which can cause illness if swallowed.
This is an aggravation and an inconvenience for the family, but it is also a symptom of the larger issue of water quality in the rivers and streams that flow into Lake Michigan, the source of our drinking water.
The Southwest Michigan Planning Commission, based in Benton Harbor, has posted a new website, BetterBeachesSWMI.org, that outlines the goal of improving water quality from Stevensville to the Indiana state line.
6/17/2019: 'Keep It Blue' water survey online
Herald Palladium - What do you know about water?
That’s what the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission wants to learn through its “Keep It Blue” online survey for
residents in Berrien and Cass counties, that will assess the community’s knowledge and level of concern with local water quality issues
The Leader - Cass County community members poured over large maps inside of Southwestern Michigan College’s Fred L. Mathews Library Conference Room. Working in groups of five or six, those in the library labeled the maps in different colors to indicate where pedestrian and biking paths currently exist the in the county and where community members think they are needed.
The Southwest Michigan Planning Commission visited SMC to host a non-motorized transportation summit. The summit allowed for residents to participate in a discussion about the potential for bicycling and pedestrian facilities in Cass County. Facilities can include paved shoulders on existing roads and off-road trails to be used by cyclists and pedestrians.
Herald Palladium -
The reality of a walking/biking trail between Niles and Berrien Springs is still years and millions of dollars away, but planning is underway, thanks to a grant received by the Be Healthy Berrien organization.
Be Healthy Berrien Director Heather Cole and Southwest Michigan Planning Commission Planner Marcy Hamilton attended the Berrien Township Board meeting on Tuesday to update members about plans for the proposed trail.
As currently envisioned, the trail will run north from Plym Park on the north side of Niles, to Berrien Springs along the old interurban right-of-way. Most of that right-of-way is now owned by American Electric Power and is parallel to and west of M-139, headed toward Berrien Springs.
3/30/2019: Missing piece of River Valley Trail falls into place, will connect path from Niles to Mishawaka
South Bend Tribune - NILES — A missing mile of the Indiana-Michigan River Valley Trail is scheduled to be filled in this year, giving walkers, runners and cyclists a continuous 17-mile path from Niles to Mishawaka.
Work to complete the last link of the trail in Niles Township could possibly begin this spring and finish up by fall, a township official said.
South Bend Tribune -
More than 100 people came to Andrews University on a cold February night — more than anyone expected — to talk about safe routes to walk and bike through Berrien County.
I found a group of real estate agents who said they see a positive effect of trails on property values. I found Frank Beltran, manager of the Candlewood Estates in Stevensville, who runs on trails but also sees them as a draw for his hotel customers.
They came to Berrien Springs to help update a five-year master plan for the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission, not just for Berrien but for Cass and seven counties in all. The document should be finished by the fall, a heads-up to others who work on trails and on-road routes and to state road officials — so they can see what else is in the works. Ultimately, senior planner Marcy Hamilton says, “There has to be someone locally who champions it.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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: 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.
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.
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 - “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 - 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.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
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.
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.
8/17/2017: 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.
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,
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.
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.
6/6/2017: Upton: Dredge work never a sure thing
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.
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.
The Leader - 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.
Leader- 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.
Herald Palladium - 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
10/30/2016: 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.
10/19/2016: 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.
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.”
9/19/2016: 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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: 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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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;
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.
1/13/2016: 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.
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.
Van Buren County wants to begin the restoration of the North Point Land Preserve by next fall in South Haven Township.
Commissioners have elected to apply for a Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Coastal Zone Management grant for $50,000.
"It's a one-to-one grant," said Marcy Colclough, senior planner of the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission. That means the state's share is $25,000, the county's $25,000.
The grant's intent is to pay for Phase I of the restoration of the sand dune. That involves work on and along the proposed Syndicate Park-to-beach trail as well as work on the dune on Syndicate Park's side.
All but two trails would be closed under a proposed land restoration plan for the North Point Land Preserve in South Haven Township.
Marcy Colclough, senior planner of the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission, unveiled a proposal by engineering firm Abonmarche of Benton Harbor to control the movement of the dune and restore vegetation with fences and plants.
11/5/2015: Harboring potential
ST. JOSEPH - Cecelia Cameron, a graduate student at Andrews University's School of Architecture, looks at St. Joseph and Benton Harbor and doesn't see a community where she would want to settle.
The Long Island native doesn't see a lot of safe places to walk or bike, or other amenities to attract young professionals.
Cameron and 11 other students from the university's Urban Design Studio had the opportunity to envision what the Twin Cities and its harbors could look like in the future.
10/4/2015: At the head of the trail
The Herald Palladium - BRIDGMAN - Bridgman's lakefront assets are getting high marks from the Great Lakes Trail Towns Planning Initiative team, which is evaluating several Southwest Michigan communities for water trail launch sites and trail heads.
"Bridgman just needs to step up its accessibility to add to its great infrastructure already in place," said team member Cindy Burkhour of Access Recreation Group. The remarks followed a recent tour of the Weko Beach boat launch and beach house.
10/4/2015: A concrete problem
The Herald Palladium- Keeping Lake Michigan clean starts with how you wash your vehicle.
"It's not about not letting people wash their cars," said Marcy Colclough, senior planner with the
Southwest Michigan Planning Commission. "... We're trying to educate residents and business owners
about what they can do to protect our water resources."
When people wash their cars on a concrete driveway, she said, all the soapy and contaminated water
runs into the storm water system. That water is not treated and usually runs straight into a natural
In the case of Benton Harbor, she said much of its storm water ends up in Ox Creek, which runs into
the Paw Paw River and then into the St. Joseph River before ending up in Lake Michigan.
9/14/2015: SJ, Bridgman eyed as 'Trail Towns'
St. Joseph, referred to as "The Riviera
of the Midwest" and "Michigan's Most Romantic City,"
could have a new designation of "Trail Town" under a
recreation and tourism project being launched in the
And the city may have company. Bridgman, too, is being considered in the drive. Biking and water trail enthusiasts, business leaders and citizens interested in the economic potential of trail based tourism in St. Joseph can attend a meeting at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 21, at City Hall, 700 Broad St.
8/12/2015: Advocacy Academy grads make a difference
he graduates of the Disability Network of Southwest Michigan's eight-week Advocacy Academy have learned that it takes a push to get change rolling.
This year's participants - Madeline Gallagher, of St. Joseph, Steven Jones, of Benton Harbor, Emily Kowerduck, of Stevensville, Travis Noles, of Watervliet, and Andrei Sullivan, of Niles - have convinced officials to provide online reservations for Dial-A-Ride transportation for people with disabilities.
"It's really cutting-edge for a smaller system," commented Kim Gallagher, a senior planner with the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission, at Tuesday's Advocacy Academy graduation ceremony.
7/20/2015: Mother of all garage sales
Just cleaned house and have stuff to sell?
Looking for a unique item only Grandma could love?
Then Michigan's Longest Garage Sale is for you.
The annual sale along U.S. 12 from New Buffalo to Detroit is set for Aug. 7-9.
Kris Martin, project coordinator for the U.S. 12 Heritage Trail, calls the sale "Americana at its best."
"Perhaps even more interesting than the treasures are the people you meet along the way," he said in a news release about the event.
Anyone interested in hosting a sale can register the site for free at www.us12heritagetrail.org now until Aug. 6. Sales registered online will be part of a list and map, which will be available to be viewed or printed from the new U.S. Heritage Trail website starting one week prior to the sale.
6/18/2015: North Lake Park improvement project unveiled
Herald Palladium - The five-year effort in making improvements to the North Lake Park came full circle Thursday. Stevensville community members gathered at the park to marvel at the additions made by the Lakeshore Rotary Club and other volunteers. The improvement project included building a 300-foot boardwalk, a new fishing platform and boat ramp, added signs, handicapped-accessible bathrooms and additional picnic tables and benches.
5/26/2015: Lights, camera ... vegetables!
It can be healthy if you're watching YouTube, specifically videos demonstrating recipes using freshly grown vegetables and herbs.
"The main thing is, it's healthy stuff. It's nutritious," explained Heather Rudnik, a registered dietician with Lakeland Health, producing the videos in partnership with Be Healthy Berrien. "The recipes are healthy, inexpensive, easy and quick."
Most take 30 minutes, tops, Rudnik said - less time than it takes to go through a fast food drive-through.
BERRIEN SPRINGS - There shouldn't be any "food deserts" in Berrien County this year thanks to Be Healthy Berrien's Mobile Farmers Market program, supporters say.
The mobile market van will soon be on the road, delivering fresh produce to sites in five area communities.
The organization's representatives met Tuesday at the Neighbor to Neighbor building in Berrien Springs to examine the delivery van, which has been christened "Michelle" by organizers.
They further toured the Andrews University gardens, which will provide the produce through summer and fall.
This is the second year for the mobile farmers market.
BRIDGMAN - The Cass County Michigan Master Plan Collaboration received the 2015 Graham Woodhouse Intergovernmental Effort Award from the Southwest Michigan Planning (SWMPC) Commission in a ceremony Tuesday in Bridgman.
The award recognizes outstanding cooperative efforts in problem solving by units of government.
The four-year effort in Cass County was cited for $90,000 to $120,000 in savings, which resulted from joint efforts of the county, four townships and two villages in writing or updating their individual master plans.
The units involved included Cass County Planning Commission, the villages of Edwardsburg and Vandalia and the townships of Pokagon, Silver Creek, Volinia and Wayne. Mark Eidelson of LANDPLAN Inc. also was a recognized for his work on the project.
4/2/2015: Carry that weight
The Be Healthy Berrien partnership is ready to do some heavy lifting to help residents eat nutritious foods, exercise more and lose weight.
Heather Cole, the coordinator for Be Healthy Berrien, presented a five year plan to the county Board of
Health Wednesday that promotes better choices at work, school and in the community.
4/1/2015: Blueprints for a lively, popular park
The Herald Palladium -
City officials are throwing out the dragnet to get opinions about the future of Dwight Pete Mitchell City Center Park.
Among the questions are what should the park look like in 20 years? What do residents love about the park now?
The city will host a visioning workshop at 6 p.m. April 14 at the Benton Harbor Public Library, 213 E. Wall St. Besides discussing their visions for the park, attendees will receive a light dinner. Child care will be available.
The Department of Natural Resources recently announced it has approved four Dam Management Grant Program projects totaling $350,000. These projects will help remove obsolete structures or repair functioning dams, resulting in improved fisheries, aquatic resources and public safety.
Three organization involved in the construction of a local project connecting communities in Michiana have been recognized for excellence by the Asphalt Pavement Association of Michigan.
2/17/2015: Sedimental journey
The Herald Palladium- Every year, enough sediment flows down the St. Joseph River to fill 3,500 trucks, according to U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow.
To stop that tsunami of sludge from clogging harbors and reaching Lake Michigan, Stabenow, along with Michigan Sen. Gary Peters and Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly, has secured $6.8 million to help farmers along the 210-mile watershed to keep soil and fertilizer from washing into the river.
2/16/2015: St. Joseph River conservation project
A press conference was held at Pier 33 Marina in St. Joseph on Monday to discuss the latest developments in the St. Joseph Watershed Initiative.
U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Gary Peters (D-MI), and Joe Donnelly (D-IN) highlighted the $13.6 million investment to improve the water quality in the St. Joseph Watershed. Click here to view the video!
2/9/2015: Cass Supervisor Leads Major Lobby
The Herald Palladium- Besides her years in township government, Preston has been involved with the Southwest Michigan Regional Planning Commission, Michigan Association of Regions, 4-H, Silver Creek United Methodist Church and Cass County Habitat for Humanity.
2/4/2015: BH Niles get help with parks ideas
Benton Harbor and Niles are among the seven cities chosen statewide to receive technical assistance through PlacePlans, an effort between the Michigan Municipal League and Michigan State University to help cities attract and retain residents and businesses.
1/30/2015: Berrien County Ponder the Patchwork
Berrien County commissioners want to collect more information before deciding whether to back a proposal to consolidate public transportation services.
Some commissioners said Thursday they are aware of the shortcomings of having four separate transit systems, problems that might be addressed by joining them into a single countywide authority.
But questions about how an authority would be set up, funding, and who would direct it need to be answered, officials said.
MLive- $6.8 million is being spent on conservation projects in the St. Joseph Watershed; $5 million to improve forest health across 12,000 acres of nonindustrial forest in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, Minnesota and Wisconsin; and $1 million to improve forests within the 12 million acres of private forest land across Michigan.
12/12/2014: Turning four into one
The Herald Palladium - A proposal to consolidate the four public transportation services in Berrien County under a single authority got a mixed reception Thursday from county commissioners.
The recommendation, based on a study developed by a coalition of 18 organizations over five years, identified serious shortcomings with public transit.
Cost duplication, operating loses, and gaps in a sometimes difficult-to-use system could be eliminated by consolidating the bus services under a county authority, the study concluded.
Leader Publications- Berrien County is the only county in the state with four separate public transportation systems and is the only county of its size to have four systems in the entire country, according to Smith.
In an effort to improve the system, the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission conducted a study of the
county’s public transportation in 2011. The plan to consolidate the services under one countywide authority
came out of the study. It was first published in May.
12/10/2014: Pucker Street Dam removal
Leader Publications - The city has already secured $850,000 in grants for the removal of the dam, according to Marcy Colclough, senior planner with Southwest Michigan Planning Commission. Several other grants are pending.
Colclough said while the project is doing well in terms of attracting grant money, it is important for the city to begin work on the dam’s removal in order to help secure additional grants.
11/10/2014: Mobile Farm Market puts an end to food deserts
ABC- 57 A mobile farm market is making a difference in Michigan one vegetable at a time. Andrews University said due to its success this summer they are going to expand next year.
The Herald Palladium - After a nearly three-year wait, the Berrien County Health Department has drafted an ordinance to stop a property sale unless the sewage system was shown to be functioning.
A survey conducted in 2009 among residents of the Galien River watershed found that a majority agreed that it is important to protect water quality, and that a local government agency should handle septic inspections.
The survey also found that half of respondents didn't know how often they maintained their own septic systems.
11/6/2014: It's fruitful - and multiplying
The Herald Palladium- Be Healthy Berrien's mobile farm market, operated with Andrews University, had a fruitful first season and will continue to grow, the Berrien County Board of Health heard Wednesday.
9/17/2014: Amtrak's Pere Marquette on the Upswing
John Egelhaaf is Executive Director of the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission. He is also Chair of the Westrain Collaborative Coalition which saved the service from elimination a number of years ago. He acted as emcee for the event at trackside, calling the service a great option when gas is soaring over 4-bucks a gallon.
9/15/2014: Amtrak Celebrates 30 on the Pere Marquette
Amtrak's Pere Marquette passenger rail service connecting St. Joseph to Chicago and Grand Rapids will mark its 30th Anniversary in motion this week, with a full slate of ceremonies all along the route including Holland, Bangor, and St. Joseph. The Westrain coalition which saved the train from being discontinued years ago is teaming up with Amtrak officials and the folks from the Michigan Department of Transportation for the ceremonies at each stop, and everyone's invited.
9/4/2014: Where no one is alone
Debra Panozzo, a mobility consultant with the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission, said she was able to help students figure out how to get where they need to go for jobs.
"One girl was in the process of obtaining a job in Stevensville," she said. "I told her about the Red Route (through the Twin Cities Area Transportation Authority). For her, the fair was a good thing."
South Bend Tribune- There's one less gap in what in the next few years will be the 34-mile recreation trail
between Niles and Mishawaka.
At the grand opening Saturday of the 3.3-mile Indiana Michigan River Valley Trail segment running north from the state line to the Brandywine Creek Nature Park, just north of U. S. 12 in Niles Township.
MLIVE - Sales pop up between fields of corn and soybeans. Some are big, some are small, some are typical yard
sales and others are like antiques flea markets. They're in lawns, parks, barns and parking lots all along the
8/2/2014: Preparing for a rainy day
Herald Palladium -Forecasting the weather or the economy long-term can be tricky, and the only predictable thing is the unexpected.
St. Joseph city planners are looking to buffer the community against these extreme events, from climate change to economic slumps, through Resilient Michigan, which held its public kick-off Thursday at St. Joseph High School's student center.
ABC 57- BERRIEN COUNTY, Mich. -- The four public transit bus systems in Berrien County could soon be consolidated into one system.
The Southwest Michigan Planning Commission said it is a challenge for riders to have four transit providers in one county.
They hope by next year it will be consolidated.
7/25/2014: One bus system for Berrien recommended
Herald Palladium -ST. JOSEPH - Berrien is the only Michigan county with four separate public transportation providers.
And that's not a good thing, said Kim Gallagher of the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission.
Berrien Bus, Twin Cities Area Transit Authority, and Dial-A-Ride in Buchanan and Niles are a "patchwork system" that make it difficult and expensive for residents to get around, Gallagher told Berrien County commissioners Thursday.
Gallagher and Dan Fette, the county's community development director, are asking commissioners to approve the formation of a single Berrien County Transit Authority.
Fox 28- Berrien county has four bus agencies...and that's three too many according to the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission.
"You will not find another county in Michigan or really you're hard pressed nationwide to find another county
that has four transit providers," John Egelhaaf, Executive director of SWMPC, said.
Egelhaaf says that makes things confusing and costly for bus riders. When trying to go from Buchanan to
another Berrien town, for example, "You go from a two dollar fare to a five dollar fare and ultimately you might have a seven dollar combined
cost," Egelhaaf said.
Herald Palladium - Through this project, the city will update its master plan and lay the groundwork for transportation improvements, economic development programs, and neighborhood improvement efforts.
Speakers will include Michele Lonergan from Local First of Grand Rapids; Michigan's state climatologist, Jeff Andresen; Dr. Lorraine Cameron from the Michigan Department of Community Health; Marcy Colclough from the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission; and community planners from Land Information Access Association, a nonprofit organization focused on increasing community and economic resilience.
SAWYER — Composting, rain barrels and rain gardens were three eco-friendly initiatives explored during a Sustainable Living Seminar presented by Chikaming Open Lands on Saturday, July 12.
Sharing their first-hand experiences and lots of hand-outs were Kris Martin, associate planner of Southwest Michigan Planning Commission, and Nancy Carpenter, manager of the Berrien Conservation District.
7/22/2014: New Buffalo sidewalk project a team effort
Harbor Country News - NEW BUFFALO — Walking and biking to school will be safer for New Buffalo students thanks to a $585,000 reimbursement grant awarded by the Michigan Department of Transportation’s Safe Routes to Schools program.
The grant, announced by New Buffalo Area Schools Superintendent Mark Westerburg during the Monday, July 14, Board of Education meeting, will fund approximately 3.5 miles of new sidewalks within city limits to connect local schools with nearby neighborhoods. All walks will be ADA compliant with appropriate crossings, signs and ramps.
6/17/2014: Farmers market looks to grow
Ryan Soucy, associate planner with the planning commission, said the booth will have fun activities for residents to participate in, with the goal of finding out how residents believe the community improve.
"We want to find visions of what Benton Harbor could potentially be," he said. "We want people to create great, vibrant places."
WSBT-"So they are building about 3 miles of trail in Niles Township," says Marcy Colclough of the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission.
The trail she is referring to is being laid from US-12 to the Indiana state line. It will connect the paths in Niles to the LaSalle Trail in St. Joseph County which is also still in the works.
Ultimately, the entire trail system will lead bikers and pedestrians through Niles, South Bend and Mishawaka. There are off shoots that run through Notre Dame, past the St. Joseph River and by area parks and schools.
5/24/2014: South Haven beach E coli plan calls for sniffing out faulty septic systems, other pollution sources
MLIVE SOUTH HAVEN, MI A recent report from the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission has concluded what officials like Dissette have long suspected: Bacterial contamination of waters in the region's Black River, Pine Creek and Mill Creek watersheds is a complex, watershed-wide issue, not confined to one source or one area of the watershed.
3/25/2014: End nears for interstate trail
South Bend Tribune -The dream that was once the 34-mile recreation path linking Niles to Mishawaka took another step toward reality Monday at the Niles Township Hall, where officials gathered to break ground on the Indiana-Michigan River Valley Trail’s last link in Michigan.
River Valley trail will connect Niles to Mishawaka when finished. Just weeks away from beginning construction, state and local officials gathered Monday to celebrate the groundbreaking for a portion of a 34-mile recreational trail that will one day connection Niles to Mishawaka, Ind. It will be the first interstate paved non-motorized trail in Michigan, according to Matt Wiitala, of the Michigan Department of Transportation.
The Herald Palladium-Berrien County is loaded with people who are overweight, don't get enough exercise and don't eat a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables.
It's also top-heavy with farms and markets that provide locally grown produce, along with a ton of places to walk, run and play.
"We're doing our best to take all the excuses away," said John Egelhaaf, executive director of the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission, which compiled the websites.
Be Healthy Berrien is a partnership of Berrien County Health Department, Lakeland HealthCare, Southwest Michigan Planning Commission, United Way of Southwest Michigan, Benton Harbor-St. Joseph YMCA, and Niles-Buchanan YMCA.
3/16/2014: To stop a dune
The Herald Palladium- The Van Buren County Board of Commissioners will host a public hearing Monday, March 24, on plans to establish trails and curb dune erosion at the Syndicate Park subdivision
Marcy Colclough, senior planner of the Benton Harbor-based Southwest Michigan Planning Commission, described the plan as consisting of two trails, one pedestrian and one that could accommodate off-road vehicles, to help stop erosion.
2/18/2014: A moveable feast
Herald Palladium-If the people can't get to the farm, bring the farm to the people.
That's the philosophy behind a new partnership between the Berrien County Health Department and Andrews University's student garden to operate a mobile farmers' market this year.
Garth Woodruff, an Andrews horticulture instructor who oversees the garden project, said it is unbelievable that there are people in Berrien County who can't get freshly grown produce.
2/17/2014: Buchanan stream project gets award
Herald Palladium The McCoy Creek Watershed Improvement Project is this year's winner of the The Graham Woodhouse Intergovernmental Effort Award, the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission has announced. The project improved the waterway in Buchanan.
The process required dismissal of a controversial dam and dredge strategy to maintain a functioning millrace. The process established a watershed solution that restored white water, established fish habitat and re-established a viable millrace.
1/8/2014: Van Buren County seeking engineering help to stabilize sand dune threatening Lake Michigan homes
MLIVE-With two homes flattened and more threatened, the Van Buren County Board of Commissioners has applied for an engineering grant to stabilize the sand dune in the North Point Land Preserve on Lake Michigan.
Marcy Colclough, senior planner of the Benton Harbor-based Southwest Michigan Planning Commission, told commissioners on Monday, Dec. 30, that the engineering study will follow the recommendations of a recent study by a Calvin College geologist.
MSU Extensions: An online map including descriptions of popular and productive locations to view birds among Berrien County’s diverse upland, woodland and Lake Michigan shoreline habitats is available online.
11/20/2013: Seeking a better Southwest Michigan
Fewer jobs and fewer people have spawned creation of the Great Southwest Strategic Leadership Council, a panel of business and community leaders set to explore trends, the council announced Tuesday.
Be Healthy Berrien is a county-wide partnership between several organizations working to reduce obesity and chronic illness, and increase overall health and wellness. Partners include the health department, Lakeland HealthCare, the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission, United Way of Southwest Michigan, Benton Harbor-St. Joseph YMCA, and Niles-Buchanan YMCA.
Herald Palladium - Oronoko Township Board members want more research before deciding whether to build sidewalks along Kephart Lane. The township can get a $143,000 congestion mitigation and air quality grant from the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission to pay for the sidewalks. However, the township has to come up with a $78,000 local match.
9/15/2013: GreenTown conference growing local interest
Herald Palladium - "For our region, Southwest Michigan, to continue to grow and be healthy we need to be at the table to discuss sustainability with northern Indiana and to come together as a region," Colclough said after a Tuesday GreenTown advisory committee meeting at Michigan Works in Benton Harbor.
8/28/2013: Spreading out
Herald Palladium - Egelhaaf reported on what 2010 census numbers mean for Southwest Michigan during a forum at Fernwood Botanical Garden. The League of Women Voters of Berrien and Cass Counties sponsored the event.
8/26/2013: Planning for the wamth
Herald Palladium - Local road planners and politicians need to start working out strategies now for dealing with the potentially destructive effects of climate change. That's the essence of a report presented to the Twin Cities Area Transportation Study (TwinCATS), an agency of the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission.
8/1/2013: Hickory Creek festival Saturday
7/27/2013: Long, long Garage Sale coming up in August
MLive - The Southwest Michigan Planning Commission has selected Barbara Wood Cook of Niles to honor with the 2013 Welch-Lackey Leadership Award.
3/1/2013: Heated debate over climate change
2/1/2013: A Community Conversation on Climate
2/1/2013: Recreation trail is almost there
11/1/2012: Keeping all of that water blue
11/1/2012: Get ready for the 'veggiemobile'
9/21/2012: Forum seeks input on transportation
"It's important to hold this community conversation in Southwest Michigan to ensure our voice is heard and that all types of transportation possibilities are discussed," said Kris Martin, with the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission.