Local governments urged to cooperate on project

Michigan’s Twin Cities Harbor could be a catalyst for growth over the next 20 years if the three municipalities involved in the planning can cooperate and reach consensus, according to a consultant working on the project.

The communities of Benton Harbor, St Joseph and St Joseph Township have spent the last 15 months developing The Twin Cities Harbor Sustainability Initiative, seeking public, private and government input on how to best utilise the waterfront asset. It is sponsored by a coalition that includes the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy’s Office of the Great Lakes in partnership with Michigan Sea Grant, Lawrence Technological University, the Harbor Conservancy and other groups.

“You have a tremendous resource right in your backyard,” commented Don Carpenter, with Drummond Carpenter, conducting the final community discussion on the harbor plans this week.

The harbor brings in some US$20m a year from recreational boating and generates another US$250m from commercial shipping of construction and road materials; both can and need to co-exist Carpenter said, according to The Herald-Palladium.

Sceptical residents cited “potential” as the operative word in the discussions and complained that the planning process has been “divided” and “disjointed”.

The study area took in 728 acres within a quarter-mile radius of the waterfront and harbors, that include the planning zones of Riverview Drive; Marina Island; Fisherman’s Wharf; the inner harbor on the south side of the river, near the Berrien County Courthouse; and the outer harbor, next to the LaFarge silos on the north side of the river.

The plans include open green space, public fishing areas and piers, walking trails, a Market Shed with business incubator and retail space for young entrepreneurs and locations for seasonal waterfront businesses, such as a kayak launch. Hotel and condominium development is also included in the recommendations.

The next step will be to present the finalised plan to those government leaders, who will then decide how to move forward. A price tag has yet to be associated with the potential development efforts.