Paw Paw River park opening today

Berrien County Board of Commissioners walk across the newly installed 90-foot bridge at the Paw Paw River County Park in Watervliet in August.

WATERVLIET — The long-awaited grand opening of the new Berrien County Paw Paw River Park along M-140 in Watervliet will take place 4-5 p.m. today.

This is the latest addition to the county’s array of outdoor attractions, which includes Silver Beach, Rocky Gap, Galien River, Love Creek and Madeline Bertrand, and the first park in the north section of the county. The 3.6-acre park was developed on the former site of a paper mill previously owned by the county Brownfield Authority.

The park, which connects to the Paw Paw River Water Trail, includes barrier-free kayak and canoe launches, an overlook deck for fishing, photography and other activities, and a bridge to an island in the river that offers more than a half-mile of hard-surface trails.

Planning began in 2014 and a $296,000 grant from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund was awarded in December 2016, after the initial request was turned down. Funding also included $300,000 in county money, and $25,000 from a private donation.

The Natural Resources Trust Fund comes from from royalties from the sale and lease of state-owned mineral rights and does not include tax dollars. 

Parks Director Brian Bailey said his staff will keep track of how many people flock to the location and decide what might be needed in a couple of years. 

For the east side of the Paw Paw River Park site, future projects include a restroom, additional parking, a bait/tackle concession, fish cleaning station, a water “sprayground,” a large playground, large group shelter, additional hard surface walking trails and additional river overlooks. The west side of the property has been turned over the city of Watervliet.

A fall disc golf derby will be at Madeline Bertrand Park near Buchanan on Saturday. The first Love Creek Biketoberfest at the park in Berrien Center will take place Oct. 21 with ride options, food and craft beer. Information is at www.lovebiketoberfest.com.

The entrance and parking lot of Galien River Park, along Red Arrow Highway in New Buffalo Township was recently paved with the support of the Pokagon Fund.

Information on all the county parks is at www.berriencounty.org/355/Parks.

Contact: jmatuszak@TheHP.com, 932-0360, Twitter: @HPMatuszak