$300K MI Natural Resources Trust Fund Grant Spurs New South Haven Park

The dream of a major new park in the South Haven area gained another major step today thanks to support from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund.

Thanks to a $300,000 grant from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund, the South Haven Area Recreation Authority has purchased a 39.5-acre property along 14th Avenue to host a long-planned regional recreational park for residents and visitors. The planned park would increase recreational opportunity, promote physical fitness for residents and visitors, and act as a destination for events and tournaments. The city contends that when developed, the facility will draw people to the area from a large region who will support area businesses and spur the local economy.

Community growth and program participation has increased demand to a point that the extensive use of the current facilities located on Aylworth Avenue is causing wear and tear beyond the ability to sustain itself. In addition, the high number of teams, practices and games necessary to accommodate a season has increased so substantially that scheduling additional activities or introducing new teams is highly challenging or nearly impossible. The wear and tear placed on the public schools’ fields translates into not having enough fields for the community and the burden of care and maintenance cost falls to community schools which already have budgets stretched to their limits.

The acquisition of the 14th Avenue parcel will allow for the development of a regional recreational park to support a wide range of youth and adult sports. Initial concepts for these user groups were focused on a 96-acre property on 103rd Avenue in Casco Township. But after analyzing the area’s demographics, existing infrastructure at the site, and costs to develop the parcel, the recreation authority determined the Casco site would be more than they needed. The SHARA Board sought a new parcel to develop and a total of five sites were assessed for potential use.

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The 14th Avenue parcel in South Haven Charter Township was identified as the best option from the perspective of available land and parcel layout, and a cost and layout efficiency standpoint. Its placement on the south side of the road, east of Blue Star Highway, about 2 miles south of the city easily supports several regional groups. A preliminary site investigation and design were completed and determined the site has good development potential. It has the utility infrastructure to support recreation development –telephone, electricity, natural gas, municipal water and municipal sanitary sewer lines. It is easily accessed by Blue Star Hwy, I-196, and the Van Buren Trail and users can arrive by car, bicycle or on foot.

The estimated $4.1-million park would include two baseball fields, three softball fields, one little league field, and one high school-sized soccer field. Additional site amenities include a centralized concession/restroom building, accessible sidewalks connecting the fields, perimeter parking, and detention ponds to accommodate storm water runoff. There would be two motor vehicle entrances at the northeast and northwest corners as well as a trail connection on the westerly limits for non-motorized accessibility from the Van Buren Trail.

Consolidating several fields into one facility adds convenience and lowers cost and travel times for families who have multiple recreation participants. No fees would be charged for use of the site, but there may be fees associated with youth sports (such as registration fees) and possible tournament fees. Maintenance is expected to include collaborative partnerships with SHJYL, AYSO, South Haven Public Schools and SHARA. Construction of fields and support facilities is expected to take approximately one year and begin sometime between 2019 and 2021 depending on the availability of project funding.

The Casco Township parcel was sold for $420,000 and the proceeds will be used for acquisition and development of the 14th Avenue property. The MNRTF grant award was in the amount of $300k with a $100k SHARA match.