Access: open to the public
Acquisition:
Pilgrim Haven Natural Area was acquired in December 2011 through a bequest from the estate of Suzanne Upjohn DeLano Parish.
Acres:
26.5
County:
 Van Buren
Township:
 South Haven
Parking:
gravel lot
Trails: One-third mile of easy trail through woods and meadows that leads to Lake Michigan overlooks and barrier-free paved access to the beach.

Recreational features:

Talented videographer and SWMLC supporter Dick Brunvand has created a short, inspiring video called The Gift. It showcases the beauty of this lakeside gem, gives a bit of its unique history, and tells the story of the effort to make barrier-free access at Pilgrim Haven Natural Area a reality:


      


Southwest Michigan
Land Conservancy
8395 East Main St.
Galesburg, MI 49053


269-324-1600 conserveland@swmlc.org


Directions
Pilgrim Haven Natural Area is located just north of Van Buren State Park. From the Kalamazoo area, travel west on M-43 until you come to the intersection with CR 380 at Jericho Corners (look for a brown Van Buren State Park sign and a green airport sign.) Turn left at the intersection and continue on CR 380 (aka 20th Ave.) for approximately 4.5 miles. Turn right (north) onto Blue Star Highway, travel a short distance, then take the left fork at the intersection with 77th Street. Again, travel a short distance, then turn left (west) onto 18th Ave. Look for event signs and the preserve entrance on the right.

Story
Pilgrim Haven Natural Area was acquired by Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy in December 2011 through a bequest from the estate of Suzanne Upjohn DeLano Parish. The site is 27 acres, including a stretch of Dyckman Creek, and over 750 linear feet of beach along Lake Michigan. The property was utilized as a camp for over 70 years, where it eventually was named Pilgrim Haven, before it was sold to Mrs. Parish in 1985, who purchased the property to keep it from being intensively developed. As such, her gift was premised upon Pilgrim Haven remaining as open space to be shared with the greater South Haven community.

Last spring, SWMLC entered into an agreement with the South Haven Area Recreation Authority (SHARA) for the management of the preserve. SHARA is a partnership of the City of South Haven, South Haven Charter Township and South Haven Public Schools. Under the agreement, SHARA will be responsible for the general maintenance and management of the nature preserve, as well as implementation of the current public access improvements. SWMLC will continue to own the property and care for the natural areas and wildlife habitats onsite.

Over the past six years, community input has informed and defined the site’s original design.  SWMLC is grateful for the outpouring of interest and support for balancing the protection of critical natural resources with creation of public access to the lakeshore.

With the recent rise in lake levels — which has significantly altered the Lake Michigan shoreline and damaged structures near the water — we were forced to rethink the original plan for a wooden access ramp over the dune and down to the beach.  To ensure that Pilgrim Haven’s barrier-free access would survive all lake changes, the SWMLC/SHARA partnership modified the original design in alignment with the goals of Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Coastal Zone Management recommendations and developed a solution that will not only withstand Lake Michigan’s seasonal and cyclical changes, but will also serve to restore and stabilize a badly compromised dune.

This solution utilizes the existing pathway which caused erosion of the dune at the end of 18th Street as the access point. The new access is designed to barrier-free standards, and not only provides safer access to the beach for visitors, but also helps to funnel people into one defined access point which will eliminate the erosion damage caused by multiple footpaths over the dune and dune grasses. After installation of the barrier-free walkway, the dune will be restored and replanted with native grasses to increase erosion resistance and restore the native habitat. The sand removed from the pathway area is being used onsite to regrade and shape the adjacent uplands where a sea of invasive spotted knapweed will now be planted with native shoreline species.

The groundbreaking ceremony was held on October 31st, 2016, to acknowledge the six years of planning and design that has gone into creating public access and community use of this beautiful property, which was donated to the Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy (SWMLC) by Suzanne Upjohn Delano Parish in 2011.

In all, the Pilgrim Haven improvements will include a new parking lot, signage, lighting, a barrier-free concrete walk to the beach and a universally accessible “mobi‐mat” that will provide access for people of all abilities down to the water’s edge. This barrier-free walkway will also provide access for emergency vehicles to reach the beach, as well as access for the City’s beach cleaning equipment.

These improvements are scheduled to be completed in May of 2017, and were made possible through a combination of sources, including a grant from the Department of Natural Resources Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund, generous private donations from SWMLC members, and South Haven Township’s recent recreation millage.

The groundbreaking ceremony was held on October 31st, 2016, to acknowledge the six years of planning and design that has gone into creating public access and community use of this beautiful property, which was donated to the Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy (SWMLC) by Suzanne Upjohn Delano Parish in 2011.

From left to right: James Marcoux, South Haven Community Foundation & Friends of Pilgrim Haven; Ron Hartgerink, South Haven Area Resource Council & Friends of Pilgrim Haven; Janice Varney, Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy Vice Chair & Friends of Pilgrim Haven; Peter D. Ter Louw, Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy Executive Director; Ross Stein, South Haven Area Recreation Authority & South Haven Township Supervisor; Richard Brunvand, Friends of Pilgrim Haven; Brian Bosgraaf, Cottage Home & Friends of Pilgrim Haven.

Maiden voyage to the beach using the new barrier-free access at Pilgrim Haven Natural Area!