BERRIEN SPRINGS — Contract details haven’t been finalized yet, but Berrien Springs Village Council members went on record Monday that they want to iron out an agreement with the Berrien Springs Boat Club to provide residents with kayak and canoe access to Lake Chapin.
The proposed contract would run for one year and calls for the village to pay the boat club $1,750 to cover items such as maintenance, signs and steps. The boat club leases land owned by American Electric Power at the end of South Mechanic Street in the village. Village officials have been meeting with them for several months.
The vote in favor of the proposed agreement came after comments and questions from boat club member Mary Hines of Berrien Township. Hines asked questions such as how access would be given to canoers and kayakers, and how club members’ rights will be protected.
Public properties and ordinance chairman Jesse Hibler said the village wants to see the two existing gates at the boat launch remain locked off, and that a small separate area be set aside where people can launch canoes and kayaks.
“Having a place where canoes and kayaks can get into the water has been in our master plan for years and we’ve been working to somehow get access to Lake Chapin,” Hibler said.
“We want the community to be more inviting so people will want to come here,” Trustee Lonna Johnson said.
Trustee Barry Gravitt said he’s always wanted to see the village take greater advantage of its water assets. “I’ve lived here more than 30 years and it’s always irked me that we don’t make use of our water assets,” he said. “I want to make this the first step to give people access to waterways, but we want to minimize any disturbance to the boat club.”
In the end, Village President Milt Richter was the only person voting no on pursuing a contract with the boat club. “I’m having a hard time visualizing how this benefits the village to pay out $1,750,” he said. “What does it give us? I’m not grasping it.”
“It’s going to help us,” Johnson said. “If it brings people to the village, what do we have to lose? It’s just one year.”
“We’re at the 1 yard line and we’re going to rip it away?” Hibler asked. “I have clients from all over the area who are excited about having access to the water. This is a no brainer for me. Let’s give village residents something.”
As outlined Monday, it appears that the village has agreed to several of the items the boat club wanted to see in the agreement. Those items include that the village reimburse them for the discount they’ll lose on their insurance by allowing public access, installing the pre-cast cement steps, paying $500 for signage and $750 for an annual fee.