Berrien Community Foundation Announces $50,000 Challenge Grant for Silver Beach Playground Replacement Project

Mockup image of the proposed playground at Silver Beach.Berrien Community Foundation will provide a $50,000 grant toward the replacement of the aging Silver Beach Playground equipment when the community matches that amount in donations. This community challenge is designed to help Berrien County secure the local funds needed to claim an $850,000 Michigan Department of Natural Resources Spark Grant to help replace the existing play structure with a new and inclusive playground at Silver Beach County Park.

“The playground at Silver Beach County Park is such a popular destination for residents from all over Berrien County,” said Berrien Community Foundation President Lisa Cripps-Downey. “Berrien Community Foundation is so thrilled to offer this challenge grant so the entire community can get behind this project and build a playground that is more accessible for all kids and can last another 30 years.”

The Berrien Community Foundation challenge will match, dollar-for-dollar, up to $50,000 for the playground effort. BCF is working with Berrien County Parks to hold the fund for the project. Donations can be made through the Community Foundation at or to Berrien County directly.

The current playground structure at Silver Beach was built in 1991 and is surrounded by sand. It is also getting increasingly more expensive to repair and upkeep, according to Berrien County officials. The new playground will be able to be used by children of all abilities and will have seamless and barrier-free access; innovative elements to encourage movement, spinning and climbing; tactile, visual and auditory experiences; structures with graduated levels of physical play; cozy spots for sensory relief; and shade canopies.

“The project goal is to bring the best playground to the beaches of Lake Michigan that is designed to welcome all visitors to play without barriers or limitations,” said Berrien County Parks Director Jill Adams. “We are thrilled that the Berrien Community Foundation is so supportive of this important project. We are up for the challenge!”

The grant from Berrien Community Foundation was made to help meet the local match required for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Spark Grant, which helps communities create, renovate and redevelop public recreation opportunities for residents and visitors.

“The $850,000 Spark Grant from the State of Michigan is phenomenal,” said Berrien Community Foundation Board Chair Philip Maki. “We wanted to help reach the necessary match to secure those dollars for our community to get the playground completed.”

The full playground is projected to cost $1.25 million. To secure the full $850,000 Spark Grant, Berrien County must raise $259,100.

“Thanks to over 60 individuals, businesses, and civic organizations partnering with Berrien County Parks and showing their support, the County currently has $60,000 toward that goal,” Adams said.  “The Challenge Grant is an amazing boost to the ongoing fundraising efforts.”

Berrien County Commissioners approved the challenge grant agreement with BCF at their March 7 meeting.

St. Joseph City Commissioners put the playground project on hold at their March 4 while traffic and parking issues of beachgoers are addressed.

“With such a beautiful asset such as Silver Beach in our community, parking and traffic will be an issue as people come to enjoy the waterfront,” Maki said. “We are confident the city and county can come to solutions so that we can secure the state funds and the playground project can come to fruition.”

BCF’s challenge is currently in effect and goes through February 21, 2025. When the county receives $50,000 in donations during this time, BCF will match that with another $50,000. This grant is possible through an endowment established in 2005 at BCF by Bernadette Janda McKittrick to help fund projects to benefit the entire community.

To learn more about the project, visit To donate, visit