Protecting and preserving the natural environment is essential to the quality of life in every community, but it is especially important to Harbor Country®, a tourist and second home mecca. Efforts have also been supported in this funding focus area within Dowagiac and Hartford, Michigan as well as in South Bend, Indiana.
As the name implies, Harbor Country® is blessed with a harbor in the City of New Buffalo that contains hundreds of boat slips with access to Lake Michigan. The area boasts miles of pristine shoreline, two large public beaches, a number of local township beaches with several points of public access, numerous township parks, the 1,950 acre Warren Dunes State Park with magnificent dunes overlooking Lake Michigan and the breathtaking 86 acre Galien River County Park with its Canopy Walkway, Marsh Overlook Tower and Marsh Boardwalk Trails leading through the wetlands to the edge of the Galien River.
These resources constitute the heart and soul of Harbor Country® and The Pokagon Fund has done much to protect, preserve and enhance them for the benefit the area’s residents and visitors. Starting with its first year of awarding grants, the Fund has put the environment, preservation and parks at the top of its agenda as is seen from the following grants:
- Chikaming Open Lands (COL): In 2008, an award of $19,676 funded a COL project to identify properties that were considered critical to the local ecosystem and to develop a plan to conserve these properties. In 2009, an award of $100,000 to COL underwrote the cost of restoration of the Sima Great Lakes Marsh on the Galien River in New Buffalo. In 2011, COL was awarded a 2-1 challenge match grant for support of The Partners in Conservation Program of up to $300,000 per year for three years ($900,000 total). The match was met and the full amount of the award was paid. The award contributed to the creation of conservation easements, protection of wetlands, farmlands and woodlands and four nature preserves which are open to the public: Critter Haven Preserve, Flynn Woods Preserve, Jens Jensen Preserve, and The Woods Preserve. In 2012 award of $25,000 was provided in for the eradication of non-native plants. In 2014, COL was awarded $314,104 for the purchase of a new headquarters building.
- Chikaming Township Parks: In 2008, an award of $47,000 funded the expansion of the Harbert Park Playground which included new playground equipment and the addition of a climbing wall. In 2009, an award of $50,096 supported a Planting Fields project at the Chikaming Preserve on land donated by the Township. In 2012, Friends of Chikaming was awarded $118,022 to build a new playground at Chikaming Elementary School.
- City of New Buffalo Parks: In 2008, an award of $253,000 funded a new multi-use pavilion in Oselka Park with restrooms, concessions and a covered picnic area, as well as the reconstruction of a soccer field and a new Little League baseball field. In 2011 and 2012, an additional $1,000,000 was provided for Oselka Park enhancements.
- Galien River County Park: In 2008, an award of $15,000 to the Berrien County Parks Commissions underwrote the cost of a master plan for designing the park layout. In 2009, an award of $4,000 funded the creation of a presentation quality architectural scale model of the park. In 2010, $300,000 was pledged for Phase One of park construction which brought the Fund’s total support for the park to $319,000.
- New Buffalo Township Parks: In 2008, an award of $239,000 funded Memorial Park improvements to create a playground and splash pad, concrete walkways, trails, bridges, a basketball court and ice rink, sand volleyball court and more. In 2009, 2010 and 2011, awards totaling an additional $866,817 were provided for improvements and enhancements to the park. In 2014, $100,000 was awarded for Phase I of the Glassman Park Project.
- The Conservation Fund: In 2015, an award of $50,000 was provided to The Conservation Fund for Watershed Planning.
- Three Oaks Township Parks: From 2011 to 2016 awards totaling $128,590 were provided to fund a Community Garden and related educational programs and to conduct a Land Planning analysis, an environmental survey, a bird watching platform and conservation easement trails.
- Village of Grand Beach: In 2014, an award of $7,000 funded a five year Parks and Recreation Plan.
- Village of Michiana: From 2013 to 2016, four awards totaling $219,758 funded Village Beach Access Stops, Beach Access stairs and Village Park Land. In 2015, an award of $17,000 funded a Michiana Conservation Easement.
- Village of Three Oaks: In 2014, an award of $18,938 funded Dillard Park. In 2015, an award of $120,000 supported Carver Park Improvements.
- Hartford Council for Recreation: In 2008, $150,000 was awarded to the Hartford Council for Recreation to renovate the baseball fields including new fencing, lighting, grooming the baseball diamond and constructing ADA compliant restrooms.
- His Place: Hartford Community Center: In 2009, The Pokagon Fund, through a $150,000 grant, partnered with the Hartford Public Schools and the City of Hartford to construct a new, fully equipped fitness center and gymnasium.
- Dowagiac Conservation Club: In 2016, an award of $3,500 was made to support the connection of the Club’s sewer system to the Dowagiac Sanitary Sewer System in the hope of eliminating potential pollution into adjacent Cook Lake.
- Cass County Parks and Recreation: With a grant of $9,775 in 2013, the Arthur Dodd Memorial Park in Niles, MI was expanded to include an Open Spaces and Greenway plan as part of its Master Planning process