Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Full park access in Benton Harbor will now cost $75 By Eartha Jane Melzer 6/24/09 (emphasis added in several places)

Benton Harbor residents will need to pay $75 to view Lake Michigan from atop the dunes in the city’s lake front Jean Klock Park.
WSJM news reports that a panel that oversees policy at the Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course now partially built in the public park has approved a fee schedule for use of the nine-hole course.
The golf course is part of Harbor Shores, a 530 acre commercial and residential real estate development that has been billed as an attempt to alleviate poverty in economically devastated Benton Harbor.
Though the course is largely built, some locals are pursuing a federal case to reverse approvals for the privatization of the city park. These plaintiffs argue that regulators were wrong to permit the development, which never completed an Environmental Impact Statement, and that the project disadvantages a poor African American community by swapping pristine lake front property for contaminated inland parcels.
On Wednesday, the Department of Environmental Quality convened an environmental justice work group meeting in Benton Harbor.
Nicole Moon, one of the plaintiffs in the suit against the golf development, turned down an invitation to participate. She said that past experience of state involvement in Benton Harbor “leads me to believe our voices will once again be ignored and only our participation will be used as a statistic.”
In a letter to Department of Environmental Quality Director Stephen Chester, Moon noted that the environmental justice meeting in Benton Harbor was to be hosted by an organization involved with the Harbor Shores golf development and criticized DEQ for issuing a permit for the project.
“The residents of our city contacted several agencies on behalf of environmental justice.” Moon wrote “… Even as the MDEQ pretends to appear concerned over environmental justice, they’re manipulating the composition of the task force for reasons that may have little to do with improving the quality of environmental justice implementation in Michigan, and a lot to do with silencing opposition to the biggest environmental injustice — the privatization of Jean Klock Park.”

comment: Jean Klock PARK is a park, not just a beach. The beach is less than half of the entire park, which consisted of forested dunes, now wiped out, and wetlands. This is a PRIVATELY owned golf course on PUBLIC land not a public golf course. The remainder of the park will be within the boundaries of their golf course, including the observation tower. What the residents got in exchange for this pristine piece of lakefront are contaminated parcels scattered on the edges of their golf course. I would encourage those who have visited Jean Klock Park to visit what the developer has given the residents in exchange, but be sure to bring your hazmat suit.
They could have easily improved the beach area without taking the fragile ecosystem that is truly the only thing that sets this area apart from other parts of this country and it was to remain open to all forever per the Klock deed- not at 75.00 a round of 9 holes.