Madeline Bertrand County Park expansion moves forward

BERRIEN COUNTY – Madeline Bertrand County Park in Niles will soon gain 33 acres of land.

The Berrien County Commissioners voted on Thursday to accept a grant from the Michigan Department Natural Resources Trust Fund Grant. The grant is $300,000.

According to the resolution, Berrien County has budgeted an expense match of $110,800 to contribute to acquiring the land.

The park, 3038 Adams Road in Niles, currently occupies 120 acres of land bordering the Indiana state line and St. Patrick’s Park, and the St. Joseph River.

During the commissioners meeting on Thursday, Berrien County Parks Director Jill Adams spoke about the potential of the land the parks seek to acquire.

“We have hiked [the area] a number of times and viewed the various terrains: the prairie area, the forest area and the access to the river,” Adams said. “Some of the ideas that we have are to expand our hiking trails and cross-country ski trails, which are very popular currently.”

Other ideas the parks board has discussed is expanding its disc golf course by nine or even 18 holes.

“With the potential access to the river in this area, we could look at in the future putting a kayak launch and actually having direct access to the river,” Adams said.

While Madeline Bertrand Park borders the St. Joseph River, it has steep banks that make it impossible to provide easy access to the river.

“With the additional land to the north, the steepness of the bank is a little less,” Adams said. “There is more opportunity for us to possibly apply for a grant in the future to build some accessible stairs or ramps down to the river.”

With the acquisition and the latest master plan for Madeline Bertrand Park, Adams said adding camping to the list of offerings the park has is something she said the board would like to add.

“It’s something we can absolutely talk about as we grow this park and increase the recreational opportunities,” Adams said.

The park currently features an 18-hole disc golf course, an indoor lodge, covered shelters, hiking and bicycling trails, and cross-country skiing trails in the winter.

With the authorization from the county commissioners, the parks department will be able to move forward with finalizing the sale of the property.

In March 2020, the commissioners approved the Berrien County Parks Department to apply for the grant, and provide a match of $100,000 to acquire the additional acreage.

Adams said the Berrien County Parks Department will work with the current landowner and the state to finalize the purchase.  She said she hoped the sale on the acreage would close in the fall.

 

This story has been updated from its original publication to include developing information.

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