Plans proceed for accessible Silver Beach playground

ST. JOSEPH, Mich. -- After three decades, Silver Beach will get a brand-new playground, this time, with new accessibility features.

“The current playground is over 30 years old, it’s showing a lot of wear and tear, and this new playground will address a lot of those issues, and one of the issues is more accessibility," said Jill Adams, director of the Berrien County Parks Department.

Adams said there will be revamped seating and shade next to the playground on the beach for adults watching over their kiddos.

“For the kids, we’ve got slides, we’ve got more and different kinds of swings. We’ve got some audio, visual and tactile elements,” Adams said.

The $1,250,000 project is funded largely from a grant from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. The rest will be funded by community donations.

Residents, particularly those who live near Silver Beach, used the project proposal to bring up traffic concerns to city and county leaders.

“I like the idea of the project. I like the idea that they’re making it more accessible for everybody, for all the children, and anyone that wants to play on it," said resident Kathy Ward. "I am concerned about the traffic because it’s been bad to begin with.”

“Our question was... this is possibly, I would hope that you would think that it would bring more visitors. How are we still going to handle the backup traffic that comes down to the beach?” said neighbor June Bowman.

Bowman is thrilled to see a new playground come to the beach, but said the traffic issues go back years.

"It can just be a real bottleneck," Bowman said.

“In the summertime, especially on the weekends, the traffic will be wrapped all around and going up the hill," Ward said.

After a three-week pause, County and city leaders came up with a compromise.

“Short term, we’re working to try a pay upon exit trial that would occur just during the weekends in the month of July, kind of the peak time," said County Administrator Brian Dissette.

This, he said, as well as working with consultants to find parking and traffic solutions.

Fundraising efforts are underway, and Adams said they are currently 74% to their goal.

You can donate through the Berrien County Community Foundation, which is matching donations up to $50,000.

The goal, Adams said, is to have the new playground ready to go for summer 2025.

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