Senate OKs Natural Resources Trust Fund projects in South Haven, St. Joseph and Niles

LANSING?The Senate on Thursday approved legislation allocating more than $23 million from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (NRTF) to natural resources improvement projects across the state, said Sen. John Proos, R-St. Joseph.

The NRTF is supported by annual revenues from the development of state-owned mineral resources, largely oil and gas, and is administered by the trust fund’s board of trustees and the grants management office of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

The constitutionally restricted funds provide financial assistance to local governments and the DNR to purchase land or rights in land for public recreation or protection of land because of its environmental importance or its scenic beauty. The funds also assist in the appropriate development of land for public outdoor recreation.

“The Natural Resources Trust Fund is dedicated to making Michigan a better place to live, work and raise a family. Enhancing our quality of life with vibrant parks and recreational resources helps make our state more attractive to job creators and top talent,” said Proos, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “This measure invests nearly $1.5 million to help fund four projects in Southwest Michigan, including improvements to the Indiana-Michigan River Valley Trail in Berrien County and the Van Buren Trail in South Haven.”

Proos said the projects in the 21st Senate District funded by the measure include:
• $286,000 toward an $842,000 development of the Indiana-Michigan River Valley Trail, including a 4-mile paved non-motorized trail from the state line to the Brandywine Creek Nature Preserve;
• $217,400 for a $362,400 expansion of the Van Buren Trail in South Haven;
• $665,000 toward a $950,000 acquisition to extend the South Beach Park in South Haven for the purpose of a recreational trail; and
• $300,000 toward $400,000 in improvements to the Silver Beach County Park in Berrien County, including a new beach shelter, pier trail and playground upgrades.

“The trust fund’s recommendation of funding for the Van Buren Trail connection advances the city council’s goal of creating bicycle and pedestrian paths to increase economic viability for our community,” said Robert Burr, mayor of South Haven. “This is one more step toward developing a healthy, vibrant, friendly environment throughout the city and surrounding townships.”

Senate Bill 233 authorizes the trust fund to spend $23.3 million in funds, constitutionally restricted for natural resource improvements and acquisitions, to support 22 land purchase projects and 54 development projects.

Brian Bailey, director of Berrien County parks, said: “This new investment of $400,000 in park improvements at Silver Beach County Park will enhance the quality of life for residents and visitors of Southwest Michigan. This is a true partnership of a $300,000 Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grant, $50,000 from Berrien County and $50,000 from an exclusive beverage agreement at the park with Pepsi.”