Several governmental agencies in South Haven are working together along with the South Haven/Van Buren County Convention and Visitors Bureau and South Haven Area Chamber of Commerce to increase outdoor recreational opportunities for local residents and visitors.
Officials from the visitors bureau plan to partner with the South Haven Area Recreational Authority to create a new kayak launch on the Bangor/South Haven Heritage Water Trail, while the bureau and chamber plan to work together to help create an 18-hole disc golf course at the SHARA park on 14th Avenue.
The Heritage Trail consists of a 20-mile stretch of the Black River between Bangor and South Haven. Canoes and kayaks can be launched into the river at Lions Park in Bangor and Black River Park in South Haven, but few exist along the trail for people who don’t want to canoe the entire length of the Heritage Trail.
While the launches in Bangor and South Haven are somewhat large, two other ones along the water trail are quite small with limited parking.
“The new kayak launch site is proposed on Phoenix Street, between 70th and 68th Streets, on the south side of the road,” South Haven City Manager Kate Hosier stated in a report to the city council.
The proposed $328,000 project, if built, will have a 9-space parking lot with loop drop-off area, 2 van-accessible ADA spaces, 6-foot wide accessible walkways, kayak rack storage, unisex ADA vault toilet, trash and recycle bin and an accessible picnic table.
“The launch will provide a 2-3 hour down-river paddle to South Haven where paddlers could exit the river at the ADA accessible launch at Black River Park,” Hosier said.
To help pay for the proposed launch, South Haven Area Recreational Authority plans to apply for a grant from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund, which if received would cover $246,200 of the expenses, with SHARA paying the remaining $82,100.
SHARA’s board consists of representatives from the City of South Haven, South Haven Township, South Haven Public Schools and most recently the Visitors Bureau, which has an at-large member.
Governmental units have approved letters of support for the launch project. South Haven City Council members gave their thumbs-up Monday for the application to proceed. The next step in the grant application process will come Thursday when SHARA holds a hearing to seek public comment. The meeting begins at 3:30 p.m. at South Haven Township Hall. After the hearing, the board is expected to decide whether to proceed with the the grant application process.
The board, also on Thursday, will consider the proposal for creation of an 18-hole golf disc course at SHARA’s recreational park on 14th Avenue.
Both boards of the chamber and visitors bureau think the course would provide one more, inexpensive recreational opportunity for people to enjoy the outdoors.
In a report to SHARA, the two groups referred to disc golf as one of the fastest growing outdoor recreational sports in the country.
“Many adult and school/youth disc golf clubs have been developed across the country and have proved to be extremely popular,” the visitors bureau and chamber’s proposal stated. “The disc courses can be used for most months of the year except in extreme winter or snow conditions.”
Jim Schultz, a nationally recognized disc golf course designer from Paw Paw, is set to design the course, which would be located away from the soccer fields currently being proposed for the SHARA recreational park.
To make the course a reality, the visitors bureau plans to commit up to $7,500 to fund the initial design. It also will purchase equipment, such as baskets, signage, benches and trash receptacles. For its part, the chamber will coordinate with local businesses to sponsor holes in exchange for signage and publicity. Those funds would then be used to maintain the course.