Testimony Mixed at Jean Klock Park Hearing

Apr 18, 2008

Dozens of people testified in Benton Harbor last night (TH) at a packed city hearing on the future of the nearly 100-year old Jean Klock Park.

The number of people for and against the proposed Harbor Shores development was about even. The Whirlpool Corporation Foundation and some local non-profits are proposing to develop 22 acres in the middle of the park as part of a world-class golf course - part of a planned large-scale resort and recreation center. But they need public backing and National Park Service approval. Whirlpool spokesman Jeff Noel says the hearing was part of the process.

"Quite candidly the testimony that I've heard doesn't surprise me. And I think many of the comments, even those concerned about the park, while they don't understand all the commitments that have been made, at least they have a chance to express those views."

Opponents say the prime land with Lake Michigan beach frontage was donated with the intent it would remain a public park. Benton Harbor resident Hurley Wallace says the park was donated nearly 100 years ago with the intent it would stay a public park forever.

"I see it very inappropriate to be giving away a property that states forever' in a deed. That puts everybody that owns a home in jeopardy of losing their home. [That means] no one can have a deed that means anything," Wallace said.

The city is taking public comment for two more weeks before turning over the proposal to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. If they approve it the plan is then sent to the National Park Service to consider.