Last updated on October 21st, 2015 at 08:10 pm

jean klock parkJean Klock Park is a 95-year-old public park, and is one of the oldest public parks in Michigan, predating the state park system. John and Carrie Klock gave the land to the City of Benton Harbor in 1917, just after the United States’ entry into World War I and at the exact time that Steven Mather, the first head of the National Park Service, was working to establish the Indiana Dunes as a national park.

Preservation of the dunes and the natural landscape was important to the Klocks, and they asked in the letter which accompanied the gift of the deed that the park be maintained in its natural state. In the mid-1970s when beach erosion was an all-too-common phenomenon on the eastern coast of Lake Michigan, and more and more lake frontage was being developed, the City applied for and received a grant from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) to replace the original bath house, which had been constructed in the 1920s. Along with the land underneath the bathhouse, the City designated the entire park—all of the Klock deed land ** and two smaller parcels which the city itself had acquired in the 1950s— to be covered by the protections afforded LWCF parks. Those protections include a prohibition against privatization or using the land for commercial development without adequate, appropriate mitigation of any land removed from that designated for protection. The mitigation for the acreage removed from Jean Klock Park for the golf course consists of seven scattered, contaminated or residually contaminated parcels, mainly wetlands. Five are regulated facilities, and one has partial closure from the US EPA.

** Acreage from the eastern part of Jean Klock Park was sold to the state in 1952 for a highway cloverleaf removed in 2002. The land was not returned to Jean Klock Park, however.