Major grant funding Benton Harbor park revitalization

Published: Apr. 22, 2023 at 10:28 PM EDT
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BENTON HARBOR, Mich. (WNDU) - Earth Day was an appropriate backdrop for Benton Harbor officials to announce significant improvements to Hall Park.

On Saturday, Michigan DNR representatives presented city leaders with a $958,000 check for park revitalization.

“We’ll be able to restore the baseball field, which was destroyed by the flooding, and even some of the contamination from the creek into the soil. So, it’s a huge project, and once we complete it, it’s going to be a beauty and something to behold,” says Benton Harbor Mayor Marcus Muhammad.

The Spark Grant funds will finance Phase 1 of the restoration, including improvements to athletic spaces, picnic areas, and hiking trails.

The Spark grant is funded through the American Rescue Plan, marking the first time State or Federal funds have been allocated to improve Hall Park.

Benton Harbor was one of 21 communities to receive the Spark grant funding in the first round it was available.

“The first phase will improve the basketball courts, put in another basketball court, fix up some of the walkways, put some lighting out there, and just clean it up. Ultimately, we want to create a trail all along Ox Creek that will connect downtown Benton Harbor out to I-94 and the Pipestone area out there where all the retail and commercial area is, so that’s even part of a bigger vision,” explained Marcy Hamilton, Deputy Executive Director of Southwest Michigan Planning Commission.

Along with the check presentation ceremony, volunteers helped clean up the park and adjacent Ox Creek and could check out educational tables on how to be more environmentally friendly.

As the oldest and largest park in Benton Harbor, volunteers and city leaders say they are trying to make 19-acre Hall Park a hallmark of the community.

“The city has been very supportive; they want to see this park improved, and so, all the partners are stepping in to help them see that vision,” Hamilton said. “We have the University of Michigan here today, helping to create what this park could look like in the future and what kind of amenities people want to see here. And the biggest thing right now is getting it restored and bringing it back to its original glory. This is the oldest and most historic park in the city, so we’re really excited to all be a part of making it better.”

As part of the activities at Hall Park, Cook Nuclear Plant also donated $5,000 to the Berrien County Conservation District for park cleanup.

“Everybody needs to do their part to make it better, and if we all work together like we are today, it’s going to have a big impact,” Hamilton said. “And so, everybody does a small thing to make a bigger thing and make it all better. And we just want to keep working together and improving our community, and for folks to come out in this crazy weather, you can tell they really want to be a part of this, so it’s wonderful.”

Mayor Muhammad wanted to thank Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan DNR for working with Benton Harbor on this project.

Officials anticipate the project to take three years to be completed.

The event is made possible by the City of Benton Harbor and the following: Berrien County Conservation District, Sarett Nature Center, Be Healthy Berrien, Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Southwest Michigan, Interfaith Action, Let Us REST, Present Pillars, Zoy Adventures, Benton Harbor Community Development Corporation, Southwest Michigan Planning Commission, Sweenie Weenies, Abonmarche, and The Livery.