By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium
ST. JOSEPH — Royalton Township has hired Benton Harbor-based Abonmarche to file park grant applications on the township’s behalf.
The Township Board at a special meeting Thursday morning went over proposals from three engineering/architectural firms. Abonmarche, the lone company of the three the township has never worked with, offered the low bid: $2,700 per application.
“We viewed all three quotes from all three engineer firms,” Township Manager Steve Tilly said. “We went over everything and chose Abonmarche.”
The township wants to submit two grant applications, bringing the total bill to $5,400.
The grants will be reviewed by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Environmental Quality. Tilly said township officials would use the grants to make changes to Bicentennial Park and the Bacon School Road Nature Trail.
Tilly said the grant deadline isn’t until April, so trustees decided to start the process this year because the grant wouldn’t be approved until 2018.
This will be the first time the township is applying for a park grant.
The other two bidders were Merritt Engineering of Stevensville and Wightman & Associates of Benton Township.
Township Trustee John Olson recused himself from the meeting because he is Merritt’s president.
Wightman & Associates last year guided the township’s five-year community recreation plan, which trustees approved in December.
The plan included changes to existing parks and a potential new one near the St. Joseph River. The plan, which laid out goals for 2017 through 2021, is required by any municipality that wants state grants.
Among the parks and recreation areas maintained by Royalton are Bicentennial Park, the Tryon School Community Center and the wooded trails at the Bacon School Road Nature Trail.
“We looked at it several years ago and postponed it due to the lack of interest,” Tilly said in reference to the recreation plan. “But we’ve had more interest from people wanting places to walk. So, we decided to put together a cohesive plan and list what we have available now.”
Bicentennial Park is 6 acres and is next to the Royalton Township Fire Department. The community center is used for events and other social gatherings. The nature trail encompasses more than 30 acres of undeveloped park land with access to the St. Joseph River.
Before establishing a recreation plan, the parks committee came up with assessments for the parks, and nearly 200 residents were surveyed in July.
Residents surveyed showed an interest in improvements to existing park facilities and to expand the walking trail and bike paths. Suggestions for Bicentennial Park were upgraded playground equipment, a walking track and a dog park.
Some of the goals established included connecting the park structure, improving existing facilities and signs, while increasing waterfront access to the St. Joseph River.
“Since the plan was adopted in December, we have not received any feedback,” Tilly said. “But through the grant process, we will have two public hearings and are hoping to get residential feedback on that.”
(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Jan. 13, 2017)