$1.2 M Russom Park taking shape in ’13Published 7:20pm Thursday, October 11, 2012
Silver Creek Township and Dowagiac have until Aug. 1, 2014, to complete grant-funded improvements for $1.25 million Russom Park.
“We can start working on it,” Supervisor Bill Saunders said Thursday.
Saunders said Silver Creek Oct. 10 received a full copy of the project, which was delayed by trust funds bottled up in the Legislature. Construction had been expected to start in July. Instead, they lost the 2012 building season.
Russom Park originated in 1969 when Keith and Betty Russom of Yaw Street let boys Little League baseball develop diamonds on their land at the corner of Yaw and Middle Crossing Road.
Today, there are five irrigated fields, scoreboards and a concession/restroom structure.
In addition to these improvements, two Challenger League fields were developed to accommodate handicapped participants. Boys baseball was joined by a girls softball program. More than 600 youth participate.
By 2005, the Russoms had passed away. Their sons, John and Tom, decided to sell the property.
From 2005 to 2007, Dowagiac and Silver Creek collaborated on acquiring not only the 18-acre baseball complex, but another 18 acres in the township to accommodate youth soccer, played in Northwest Park by the city fire station.
In 2007, the city and township both applied to the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund for $100,000 grants.
However, they would require a local match of almost $62,000 by Dowagiac and $48,000 by Silver Creek in addition to the donation by the Russom sons of land valued at $154,000.
By 2008, the city and township learned their applications were approved and the land acquired.
A Russom Park committee formed consisting of three representatives from each jurisdiction.
This committee met for more than a year, developing a master plan and eliciting public input.
The master plan includes a 325-vehicle parking lot for baseball on Middle Crossing; a 205-vehicle parking lot for soccer on Yaw Street; an eight-foot-wide, 1.25-mile, asphalt walking trail; a community playground, landscaping and improvements to the well and electrical service systems to accommodate future improvements.
Project Manager Gary Carlile said Midwest Energy Cooperative of Cassopolis is doing a lot of the underground work as a community donation.
In 2011, the city and township again applied separately, but with cooperative applications, to the trust fund. The city’s application was in excess of $398,000 and required more than $91,000 in match.
Silver Creek sought more than $388,000 and required $90,000 match.
“In all,” Carlile said, “when construction is completed in 2013, more than $1.25 million will have been invested in this project.”
Carlile said while waiting for the legislative logjam to resolve, they were able to go ahead with design and engineering so quickly turned around the plans. They are ready to go out for bids for spring. Soccer fields will be first, followed by the baseball side in July after the seasons finish.
Carlile and Saunders both praised the assistance of Jule Stafford, DNR grant coordinator.
The tri-county Southwest Michigan Planning Commission of Benton Harbor in 2009 celebrated their collaboration with the Graham Woodhouse Intergovernmental Cooperation Award named for Dowagiac’s former mayor.