Hiking, biking and paddling from Point A to Point B in the beauty of Berrien County got a boost with a $10,000 grant from the Berrien Community Foundation last week. The funds will support a county-wide trails and waterways plan spearheaded by the Friends of Berrien County Trails.
The grant helps fund a master plan to examine existing trails and sites for future trails that cover longer distances. Abonmarche has been tapped to do the study. It is important because it looks at the county as a whole rather than just one specific region within Berrien County. “This plan is important to grow our trail system and allow more people to enjoy the beauty of Berrien County,” said Berrien Community President Lisa Cripps-Downey. “Whether it is a short walk, a long hike or a kayak adventure, the county has much to offer and potential for even more outdoor opportunities. This grant is made possible through a life-end endowment gift made 16 years ago by Bernadette Janda McKittrick that focused, in part, on projects that benefit all of Berrien County. This plan is important to everyone in our community and definitely fits that bill.”
Friends of Berrien County Trails has nearly reached their fundraising goal of $56,000 and hopes to get 100% participation from all Berrien County cities and towns. Organizations like Whirlpool Corporation and Spectrum Health Lakeland have also donated to the cause.
The master plan will serve as a point of reference for any future trail development, Friends of Berrien County Trails President Gary Wood said.
“We need to have a vision of what a connected trail system could look like in our county and then begin to prioritize projects,” Wood said. “We’re excited about the master plan process because it will bring the communities together to develop
this county-wide vision for hiking, biking and paddling. Our goal is to build a world class trail system that will connect communities, increase safety, and attract and retain residents.”
Berrien County is a bit of an outlier, Wood said, when comparing the trail and waterway systems locally to the rest of the state; there are very few trails that cover longer distances. Berrien County is home to the Indiana Michigan River Valley Trail, John and Dede Howard Family Recreational Trail, and Harbor Shores Trails.
When municipalities seek out funding opportunities for trail development or stewardship, having a master plan and cooperation across communities can be a selling point.