Michigan Supreme Court will Hear Case to Determine if Public Park Can be sold

Michigan Supreme Court will Hear Case to Determine if Public Park Can be sold

In 1917, John and Carrie Klock deeded a half mile of lake Michigan frontage to the City of Benton Harbor Michigan in memory of their deceased daughter Jean. Their gift consisted of 90 acres of globally rare natural resources that included Great Lakes dunes and interdunal wetlands. The donated land was named Jean Klock Park and was dedicated for the children in perpetuity.

Through the years the park has been threatened with development proposals and has survived, but in 2003 came the beginning of a new, and at the time, unforeseen threat. The city announced an interest in selling a portion of the park’s property for a lake front residential development. A lawsuit took place that was settled out of court allowing the development in exchange for permanent protections of the remaining 73 acres of the park. The 17 acres was slated to become a golf course and second home community.

Over the past seven years, there have been several lawsuits against the City of Benton Harbor from Friends of Jean Klock Park and our partners Protect Jean Klock Park, asserting that this land should remain public as originally intended by the Klocks.

On September 15, the Michigan Supreme Court took a very hard look at this case and ordered that our Application for Leave to Appeal be considered by the court, finally showing that our case does in fact have merit.

At oral argument in December, the parties shall address whether the City of Benton Harbor may lease a portion of Jean Klock Park to a development company without violating: (1) the restriction set forth in the 1917 deed; or (2) a 2004 consent judgment in an earlier lawsuit. If the Michigan Supreme Court reverses the lower courts decisions, it will be provide a reassurance that people who make a gift, who leave a legacy like the Klocks, will know that their legacy will be protected in the future. It will help insure that dedicated public park land cannot be taken over for privately owned commercial purposes.

Check out www.savejeanklockpark.org for more information.

 

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Images courtesy of Steven Huyser-Honig,
West Grand Boulevard Collaborative, & Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve.