Garey touts proposal as 'investment rather than a cost'
By  Julie Swidwa, Staff Writer, The Herald-Palladium, 6/16/2021; Front Page Story
ST. JOSEPH — A Berrien County group dedicated to the construction and maintenance of walking, biking and waterway trails is asking communities and businesses to help pay for a master plan, and the St. Joseph City Commission has jumped on board.
The city will enter into an agreement with Friends of Berrien County Trails to prepare a Berrien County Trails Master Plan, while also paying $5,000 toward the $45,000 project.
Friends of Berrien County Trails is a citizen-based nonprofit organization working to connect trails in the county.
Gary Wood, a member of the organization, and Marcy Hamilton with the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission gave a presentation to city officials during a meeting Monday conducted by Zoom.
Mayor Mike Garey noted local paths and trails have been a high priority with city residents in both the city’s master plan and parks master plan.
“This is really an exciting proposal,” Garey said. “All our communities have a non-motorized trail system in their master plans. This will transform the Berrien County community. I look at this as an investment rather than a cost.”
Hamilton showed a map of Michigan with lines depicting trails connecting several communities throughout the state.
“We need more lines here (in Southwest Michigan),” Hamilton said.
The goal of the proposed Berrien County Trails Master Plan is to promote trail connectivity, alternative transportation, safety for users, recreational opportunities and economic development.
Promoters said having a county-wide plan would provide a resource for governments and agencies seeking grants.
“This is important for economic development, attracting talent to our area and promoting active exercise opportunities,” Wood said.
The plan, to be developed by Abonmarche, would address shared-use paths, paved shoulders/bike lanes, U.S. bike routes, county/local bike routes, water trails, parks with hiking trails, mountain biking trails, cross-country skiing trails and equestrian trails.
The planning process will include gathering input from county and local governments, community groups and citizens to develop a robust trail master plan that will connect cities, villages, townships, parks and major destinations throughout the county.
“We’re hopeful to be able to raise all the money we need in 30 to 60 days,” Wood said. “Your $5,000 will really help, and it makes a statement to others.”
City Attorney Laurie Schmidt said the city cannot donate taxpayers’ money, and the $5,000 is not a donation – but rather a payment for a service and the preparation of the trails master plan. The commission authorized Schmidt and City Manager John Hodgson to execute an agreement as such with the Friends of Berrien County Trails.
For more information about Friends of Berrien County Trails visit
Created on Thursday, June 17, 2021