Construction set to begin on park and kayak launch in Hagar Township

NOW: Construction set to begin on park and kayak launch in Hagar Township

HAGAR TOWNSHIP, Mich. -- Paddlers in Berrien County will soon have a new place to launch their kayaks and canoes.

A project to develop a park and kayak launch on the Paw Paw River in Hagar Township just received final approval.

The 112 acre site, a former landfill which has been designated as a conservation district, sits off Coloma Road, just east of exit 4 of I-196. Township officials say the park and kayak launch will use approximately seven acres of the land. The township would like to develop other sections of the site in the near future.

Plans for the park and kayak launch started in June 2016, but a $300,000 grant recently awarded to the township from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources helped launch the project into the construction phase.

The township estimates total project costs around $500,000. The Riverside Downtown Development Authority pledged to pay the remaining balance.

“It should be a boost to tourism and also for our local merchants,” said Hagar Township Supervisor Izzy DiMaggio.

The project involves two levels. The upper level includes amenities like picnic tables, grilles, and a pavilion. The lower level features an 85-foot elevated boardwalk that leads to a floating dock and launch.

DiMaggio says a kayak trip of his own on the Paw Paw River convinced him this park would benefit the community.

“It was like you were in the Upper Peninsula of Lake Michigan,” said DiMaggio. “Never saw a house, never saw a car, never saw any type of civilization. It was beautiful, and so, that really excited me… To some people it’s a religion, paddling, so that’s why I think this will be a major, major boom to the tourism and kayak enthusiasts.”

DiMaggio says construction should start in June and finish sometime in the fall.

“We have a beautiful Paw Paw River, we’ve got a beautiful St. Joe River, and so you see these areas that are now putting in boat launches,” said DiMaggio. “Putting an access site here will be of tremendous importance to paddlers.”

“The Paw Paw river is certainly, you know, a nice character trait that we have here,” said Mark Lemoine.

Lemoine owns the Coloma-St. Joseph KOA Holiday Campground. It sits across the street from where the park and kayak launch would be built.

“Residents want this kind of recreational access, but we’re obviously a draw for, as a tourist destination for people all over Illinois, Indiana, northwest Ohio,” said DiMaggio. “It’s pretty exciting to be able to offer them convenient access where they can put in upstream as far east as Watervliet or Coloma and come out right across the campground.”

Lemoine says he currently sends campers who want to kayak or paddleboard to St. Joseph since it’s the closest access site.

He believes Hagar Township and his business will benefit from the park.

“The demand again for outdoor access to recreational opportunities has never been, never been higher,” said Lemoine. “To be able to provide that right here in our community and, you know, not only to my guests, but to our neighbors and friends that live in the area, I think is going to be wildly successful,” said Lemoine.

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