Friend of Klock Park Honored
By Jim Dalgleish, Herald-Palladium City Editor
BENTON HARBOR — It’s a bit disconcerting to get an individual award when you know you’re part of a team.
Such is the feeling of Carol Drake, the winner of a statewide award for her work to preserve Jean Klock Park in Benton Harbor.
“We’ve had so many people come on board, especially Benton Harbor residents” said the vice president of Friends of Jean Klock Park. “This is not a one-woman show.”
The Michigan Environmental Council announced late last week that Drake won its 2008 Petoskey Prize for grassroots environmental leadership. The council in its announcement cited Drake’s“deep commitment, tireless efforts and effective work to prevent development of Jean Klock Park’s stunning natural resources.”
Drake said she will pick up her award, a Petoskey stone plaque, at the Council’s Annual Environmental Celebration on May 28 in Ann Arbor.
The council will donate $5,000 to the environmental organization of her choice. Drake said she plans to direct the money to Friends of Jean Klock Park. Although part of
a team, the Sodus Township resident has been the park’s most vocal and public defender, speaking at local government meetings and writing letters to The Herald-Palladium editor.
Drake said the award validates her organization’s efforts. Furthermore, the award recognizes fellow “friends” such as Armin Schleiffarth of Niles and Julianne Weiss, the daughter of the late Benton Harbor city commissioner Norval Weiss.
Drake said Commissioner Weiss was an ardent Klock Park defender.
In addition, Drake said the award honors LuAnne Kozma of Novi, who is active in Defense of Place, a national organization to protect parks from development. Defense of Place supports Friends of Jean Klock Park.
The 74-acre park includes a Lake Michigan beach, dunes and wetlands.
Benton Harbor industrialist John Klock bequeathed the land to the city in 1917 in honor of his daughter Jean, who died in childhood.The deed mandated that the park remain in public use into perpetuity. However, developers were able to buy the four northernmost acres from the city in 2004 to host upscale housing, still in development.
Harbor Shores Redevelopment Inc. wants to lease 22.11 acres in the park for three holes in the planned Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course. The course would be the centerpiece of a 530-acre, $430 million housing and commercial project to revive Benton Harbor’s far northern side.
Drake and others are working to keep the park intact, arguing that Klock’s deed must be honored and the wildlife and habitat should be protected.
James Clift, the Environmental Council’s policy director, said the Alliance for the Great Lakes nominated Drake for the award. The award is named for the Petoskey stone, Michigan’s state stone.