Thursday, October 18, 2007

National Park Service Rejects Conversion Proposal for Jean Klock Park

October 17, 2007

Jean Klock Park supporters elated over decision that protects
historic park

For Immediate Release

(Benton Harbor, Mich. October 17, 2007)—The Friends of Jean Klock
Park and supporters applauded a decision by the National Park Service
today that rejected the conversion proposal submitted by the City of
Benton Harbor through the State of Michigan, to lease Jean Klock Park
to private interests to construct part of a golf course in the park.

Jean Klock Park, a pristine park with dunes and a half-mile of
lakefront on Lake Michigan, was deeded and gifted to Benton Harbor
residents 90 years ago. Residents won further protection for the park
in 2004 as a result of a lawsuit that allowed the carving out of some
acreage for a residential development with the stipulation that the
remaining acres of the park be kept as a public park.

The City of Benton Harbor received $1.74 million in federal and state
grants for the park over the years, including a grant from the
federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, administered by the
National Park Service which has strict guidelines against taking
public parkland away from the public.

Jean Klock Park also was developed using grants from the Michigan
Natural Resources Trust Fund, the Clean Michigan Initiative and other

In a letter to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the
National Park Service rejected the entire conversion proposal that
would give control of the entirety of Jean Klock Park to the private
organization Harbor Shores Community Redevelopment Incorporated and
its affiliates. One of the affiliates, Cornerstone Alliance, the
local economic development organization, also would have benefited
from the privatization plan.

The National Park Service called the proposed replacement lands for
the Jean Klock Park acreage that would be lost “insufficient in
magnitude, capacity, and viability to mitigate the subject 22.11 acre
or any larger conversion.”

“Justice has prevailed, the law was upheld and the clear intent of
Mr. and Mrs. Klock's gift will be protected,” said Carol Drake, of
Friends of Jean Klock Park and a plaintiff in the lawsuit a few years
ago to protect the park.

“The National Park Service correctly recognized the injustice that
was proposed for Jean Klock Park,” said LuAnne Kozma, Michigan
Director of Defense of Place, an organization that assisted the
Friends group with their fight. “This decision reaffirms that public
parks rightfully belong to the public."

The National Park Service soundly rejected the proposal on all
grounds including the lease agreement between the City and the

Emma Kinnard, a Benton Harbor resident who worked to save the park,
said, "It's a blessing the National Park Service could see to the
heart of residents' concerns and honored the fact that this park was
a gift to us to be here for our future generations. I was told over
and over again this was a done deal. This is proof that it wasn’t true."

Jean Klock Park was dedicated to the children of Benton Harbor and
future generations in large public ceremonies in the park’s dunes in
1917 when donors John and Carrie Klock gave the parkland as a
memorial to their deceased daughter Jean.