River Park master plan revealed: Benton Township trustees approve $4.2M development

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A rendering of the River Park master plan that Benton Township trustees got a look at Tuesday.

By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium

BENTON TOWNSHIP — Over the last few months, residents have been coming to Benton Township Board meetings expressing concern over the condition of River Park.

It was revealed Tuesday that the township has plans in store for the park along the St. Joseph River, including a $4.2 million development.

At Tuesday’s board meeting, trustees were given a look at the River Park master plan. No action was required by the board, as the township will begin its search for funding.

Matt Levandoski, landscape architect of Prein & Newhof, presented the master plan to trustees and mapped out everything that would be added to the park.

Along the riverfront, Levandoski said the plan is to enhance the fishing opportunities by adding a north and south fishing platform, along with kayak launches.

The master plan calls for additional playgrounds, two man-made fishing ponds that are further inland from the river, walking paths, a lodge for restrooms, an 18-hole disc golf course in the wooded area, a splash pad and a few fields for sports.

Levandoski said the fishing ponds would be a safer way to fish for families, rather than along the river.

“When I first visited the site, I noticed how gorgeous it was,” Levandoski said. “It has the river right next to it. The size of the land and proximity to the neighborhood is a big plus.”

The area closest to the entryway would have two basketball courts, a tennis/pickle ball court, and new baseball and softball fields that could be used for multiple sports like soccer, football and T-ball.

To further encourage outside activity, Levandoski proposed a loop road to connect to each part of the updated park.

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A covered picnic shelter at River Park in Benton Township is pictured Wednesday. The Township Board got a look at the park’s master plan Tuesday. It would add a splash pad and basketball courts. (Don Campbell | HP Staff)

Among the reasons for making these changes was to reduce maintenance. With less grass, comes less mowing expenses, Levandoski said.

Superintendent Kelli Nelson said the township began looking into applying for park grants last March.

Due to the vast need of improvements at the park, Nelson said they spoke with Berrien County’s parks director. They were told to create the master plan and look at the park as “a clean slate.”

As part of the process, Nelson said Prein & Newhof incorporated some of the public input from the previous five-year recreational plan.

“As we come into the 2017 (Michigan Department of Natural Resources) grant cycle, we’ll have a clearer vision of where to apply for grants and where we want to start in development,” Nelson said.

Treasurer Debbie Boothby said there is no timeline on when the park’s redevelopment would be complete as it depends on the grant cycle and what’s available.

“We are going to pitch our project toward what the state is offering,” Boothby said. “I’ve been here for 12 years and we haven’t done any big projects at the park like this.”

Contact Tony Wittkowski at twittkowski@TheHP.com or (269) 932-0358. Follow him on Twitter: @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Nov. 17, 2016)

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