Monday, March 31, 2008

Hero for Benton Harbor

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.