SOUTH HAVEN — As youngsters and adults look forward to the construction of the new splash pad near South Beach, a local group hopes some of that enthusiasm will generate funding to help pay for the structure.

The Greater South Haven Area Community Foundation this week announced a dollar-for-dollar community donation drive to raise a total of $50,000 for the splash pad.

The matching grant campaign will take place over the next five years, according to Alan Silverman, a member of the foundation.

“We’ve pledged $25,000 provided it is matched by citizen donors,” Silverman said.

Already people are donating to the Splash Pad Matching Fund. At Monday’s South Haven City Council meeting, Silverman presented the city with a check totaling $12,945.

Most of the cost for the splash pad’s construction is coming from a state grant and donations from community groups. The city obtained a matching $300,000 grant from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources earlier this year and has accumulated nearly $90,000 in local donations since then.

The city is also helping to pay for the project through several other funding sources, including beach parking fees, the Downtown Development Authority and the capital projects fund, according to City Manager Brian Dissette.

When completed the splash pad will resemble the Michigan Maritime Museum’s tall ship, Friends Good Will, and will accommodate approximately 100 people who can run under the nautical-designed fountains and other devices to cool off during hot days at the beach.

Elementary students in South Haven who were polled earlier this year overwhelmingly chose the ship design over another one that consisted mainly of decorative water fountains.

Two weeks ago city officials held a ground-breaking ceremony for construction of the splash pad. Contractors hope the project will be completed by next Memorial Day.

With the high water levels of Lake Michigan and beach erosion, splash pads along the lakeshore could prove to be even more popular with people next summer.

“I am thrilled we have another option when the lake waters may not be in swimming condition or closed due to E. coli. It’s a great addition to our community” said Erica Karr, a Covert mother of three. 

Added South Haven’s Amanda Johnson: “It will be such a relief to have a place to take the girls to play in the water where it is easier for me to keep an eye on them when I am by myself.”

In addition to providing a safe alternative to the lake, the splash pad project will provide other benefits to South Beach and nearby Riverfront Park, including added seating and tables near the beach, new handicap-accessible parking areas, expanded green space and additional landscaping along the riverfront.